Who reading this review remembers 1989? Not too many I guess, but those that do… We all remember Turtlemania right? You literally couldn’t move, and I mean that literally, for merchandise once these heroes in a half shell exploded onto television screens across the world. We had toys, lunchboxes, skateboards… Even chocolate and marshmallow pizzas! I remember the hype surrounding the film set for release the following year, growing to a feverish frenzy, not much known about it. Unlike today we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, blog after blog, website after website, we had rumours (usually coming from a friend’s, uncle’s, mate down the pub), maybe the odd picture once every few months in the tabloids. It was amazing when the film was finally released, a box office smash, the titular characters coming to life in a way my friends and I thought impossible (Stan Winston was ahead of all this with Predator I know, but I was eight years old, so cut me some slack). The prosthetics and latex suits were cutting edge technology at the time believe it or not, actors buried underneath, no doubt losing pound after pound as they worked under the heavy studio lighting, performing all manner of martial arts. I remember every kid in the playground, or at least the boys, having their particular favourite turtle (Donatello for me btw), and god forbid somebody else wanted to be ‘your turtle’! I remember queuing outside the Odeon in town with my uncle, the long line of faces disappearing down the street and round the corner, there was no online booking or calling ahead in those days, you literally showed up and prayed there were enough tickets left.
I’m showing my age now, I realise that and thank you for keeping with this ‘review’ so far. (There is a review, I promise.) But I wanted to cast an insight, offer a vision of just how big a deal these guys were back in ‘the day’, the original film spawning two live action sequels, plus the more recent CGI effort. The reason I do this is because I can’t help but feel this reboot has sneaked in, floating under the radar, almost as silently as a ninja funnily enough. I’ve not heard, or seen much of it apart from the trailer, which I made an effort to search for myself, and to be honest that’s a shame…
Because it’s pretty damn good!
It’s present day, and New York City is pretty much under siege from a criminal outfit known as ‘The Foot’, so called because they apparently trample any form of resistance underfoot as they wreak havoc across the city. Enter a young journalist that goes by the name of April O’Neill, desperately clawing at the big time as she follows the reports of this shady underworld outfit. It’s not long before she lands in trouble and as expected, our heroes call by and save the day, only for April to follow them, setting off a chain of events that pretty much explode across screen, right up to the end. Brought up to date with a sprinkling of CGI, a fresh take on what ever resembled a narrative and a sturdy cast, this film surprised me as I nestled into my seat and prepared for the worst, most reboots/remakes only serving to hammer the nail even further into the coffin of the near dead franchise. How wrong could I be? Not everybody will feel the same, and I can see why, but if you’re looking for a solid blast of non-stop action, delivered with explosions (Michael Bay was behind this, so yeah… Explosions) and well choreographed fight sequences then this should suit you down to the ground. Purists may gripe about the turtles looking different, more mature, more realistic, which to me only served to make this film better. The way they moved, acted with one another, the way they spoke making them come alive just as much as the computers working tirelessly behind the scenes. Alright, so the script isn’t gonna be pulling up any trees, in fact its poor. Clunky, and often a mess at times, throwing in the odd line in a tribute to the early days only heightening the corniness of it. Also, the plot is as far from ground breaking as you can get, borrowing heavily (in my opinion) from the two Amazing Spiderman movies with both April O’Neill’s backstory (she’s basically a female Peter Parker, without superpowers) and the villain’s ingenious, grand scheme playing out as the films reaches its climax. There’s cliché after cliché, as each scene plays out, but although we’ve seen it all before, it never gets boring, which says a tremendous amount about the way Jonathan Liebesman approached his directorial responsibilities. The film flows pretty well and gives us an enjoyable ride, as we follow the reptile brothers, hidden from the world and trained by their master, the ever present Splinter. Of all the voices, this was the only one that didn’t sit right with me. Splinter just sounded a touch weird, I can’t put my hand on it, but he seemed far from the character I grew up with. The four turtles on the other hand couldn’t have come across any better, Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher providing pretty sturdy vocals for Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo respectively. In fact, if there’s one that steal the show, it has to be Michelangelo.
“Have you seen the video of the cat, playing chopsticks… With chopsticks?”
Trust me, you’ll crack up, I did and so did my six year old son, who funnily enough, loved the rougher, more aggressive Turtles gracing the screen as they kicked Foot soldier after Foot soldier’s backside.
As for the human cast, I’ve not seen too much of Megan Fox outside of the slow-mo shots Michael Bay insisted on scattering throughout her Transformers appearances, but she does well. She’s a believable April, her only downfall being the ludicrous back story the writers saddled her with. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed a little too convenient, like it had been slipped in, just to tie everything up last minute. But yeah, she does a decent job, especially considering she’s working with an imaginary, seven foot Turtle, and her double teaming with Will Arnett is funny too. Make no mistake though, the comedy comes from Arnett, his lowly cameraman going above and beyond to help his attractive colleague, and constantly ending up no better off for it.
Of course, no Turtle film would be complete without the appearance of legendary villain, and thorn in the brothers’ side, Shredder. Although he’s had somewhat of an overhaul, his once tinny, let’s be honest very pathetic costume now a thing of the past as he eventually reveals himself during his confrontation with Splinter. Nothing that will scare the kids, but once you get to see what he has at his disposal you’ll kinda feel sorry for whoever he comes across later in the film.
So that’s that.
If you want to take the kids to see a funny, explosive, energetic, although darker and grittier than the normal kids film (hence the 12A rating) this could be just what you’re after. If you can get them to see past the clunky, corny script, abomination of a back story for April O’Neill and the ‘seen it all before’ plot.
But that shouldn’t be too hard, because they’ll probably love it!
By Simon Gray