21 October 2014


It's never wise to deal in absolutes, because you never know when something will surprise you. However, I can't think of any good argument to let a misanthrope like Michael Bay near children's movies. Transformers: Age Of Extinction is still the worst movie of the year so far, (I'll review it when the DVD comes out, but I'm still too sad to talk about it) but Pain & Gain was actually decently indecent.

Similarly, when his production company, Platinum Dunes makes The Purge movies, his people-hating tendencies are well used, but when they make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's no better than you would expect. As in his Transformers movies, a human supporting character takes the lead, with TV newsroom intern April O'Neil desperate to graduate from puff-pieces to serious journalism about the paramilitary Foot Clan soldiers who terrorise New York City. Her big break is within reach when she discovers four enormous amphibian dudes are fighting back against the clan and their mysterious leader, the Shredder.

Of all the Transformers movies, the first one is widely accepted as the best, or least bad. But Transformers had Steven Spielberg working behind the scenes as an executive producer- that's not to say that he ameliorated Michael Bay's style, just that he probably gave us his trademark "boy and his alien" angle that the sequels discarded. With Bay sitting behind director Jonathan Liebesmann in the producer's chair, (but in front of him on all the trailers) we get another flat, homogenised origin story packed with obnoxious comedy, pseudo-pornographic product placement and another convoluted plot with a McGuffin that neither makes sense, nor makes us care about the characters.

But of course our heroes, as envisioned by these filmmakers, are more like bros than brothers. They're CGI monsters, in the worst way- rather than merely being strange and icky, (with the same fascination with the grotesque as The Boxtrolls and basically anything by Laika) they're hulking six-foot-tall Turtle-brahs who gurn their way through the film's risible comedy beats. Plus, while it's notoriously difficult to act alongside CG-creatures, appearing alongside performance-captured characters does Megan Fox absolutely no favours and her promotion to the plum lead role here is no less sneery than anything else about the film.

You could let the meta-referencing to how her character is tired of being viewed as eye candy and wants to be taken seriously slide, (cue shot of her bouncing on a trampoline in a low-cut top- seriously) except that it's obviously something that's been built in on-purpose, as well as references to a derided earlier version of the script. If they're at least that self-aware, then there's no excuse for how staid and boring this origin story turns out to be, and how it's completely bereft of any of the pulp value that should come from a story about turtles living in the sewers.

Speaking of flat homogeny, the dastardly plot also cribs from The Amazing Spider-Man, as the previous low bar for this kind of reboot. Similarities range from a handy satchel full of evidence that intertwines the destiny of April and the Turtles, to the villain's endgame, which involves blanketing New York in a chemical compound, (once again, because reasons.) It's also plain incoherent, with William Fichtner, at his most Christopher Walken-y, wasted as a second string villain after what looks like an obvious reduction of his character's role in the course of an eleventh-hour re-edit, or last minute lobotomy.

Surprisingly, there are bright spots once the fighting starts. Naturally, the scenes of mass destruction are as weightless as ever, with some hideously misjudged 9/11 imagery as debris falls onto hapless civilians in the streets of New York, but the actual hand-to-hand stuff gets pretty thrilling at times. It's hardly The Raid, but the closest I ever came to giving a shit about the Turtle-brahs was during their confrontations with Shredder, here re-imagined as a mech-suited meanie. He may look like a Transformer, but his fight scenes are a far cry from the incomprehensible giant robot slap-fights to which we've become accustomed.

In short, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is another Michael Bay joint. If you can overlook the incoherence of the plot, the even worse cribs from other weak movies and the trifling matter of Bay's ugly, barely veiled contempt for anyone who hasn't left their brain at the door, you might get some larfs out of it, but its biggest sin is that it's just plain dull. The sequel is already scheduled for release in 2016, but it's still worth staying at home if you don't want us to be in the same place watching Biker Mice From Mars in a few years' time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now showing in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D nationwide.
If you've seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, why not share your comments below? Let me know if you think there has been a worse scene in a movie this year than the sub-Wayne's World advert for Pizza Hut that happens in the middle.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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