Why? Why as this summer is drawing into its waning tide, must audiences be driven through the sludge of completely jejune dung heaps of films? If there were anything that could be learned from a wise old rat like Splinter, can it not be that some things may in fact be better left in the past?
It's not as though the original 1990 film incarnation of the keister-kickin' Chelonia was some sort of masterpiece adaptation of the Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird comic book kicked off in 1984 (which in itself is no Dickens novel). But the rubber-suited, late '80s/early '90s kitsch found in that film at least was actually fun! Produced by megalomaniac Michael Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman, this latest incarnation of the sewer-dwelling vigilantes is in no uncertain terms: not fun.
In this age of extreme nostalgia in films, erstwhile teenage boys are in the movie-making power positions to live out their comic book and superhero fantasies, and frankly, it's getting old. This film, substituting the web-slinger for reptiles, is thematically an almost exact retelling of 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, which is an exact reboot of the (superior) 2002 film, Spider-Man, and on down the line (or up the line, rather, or is it backward upon? Depends on how one views the time/space continuum...). This movie is just the latest in contrived and/or rehashed plots, thrown together haphazardly and whitewashed with millions of dollars in special effects that somehow end up making the movie look cheap and overly digitized. For those debating paying the upcharged ticket price, the 3-D viewing experience added absolutely no value either. Where another box office draw may actually take the time to utilize technology well in enhancing its story (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, for instance), here, all the effects are ineffectual in more fully realizing the story being told; most disturbingly, the turtles themselves appear simultanously inorganic yet hyper-realistic and creepy, like the stuff of one's digital, slimy, sarcastic-but-painfully-unfunny nightmares.
The story is basic: April O'Neil (Megan Fox) has a scientist father, who, with his friend-gone-bad business partner, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), bred four turtles with a chemical mutations. They were believed to be lost in a fire, but years later, it turns out Sacks murdered Dr. O'Neil, and where the film finds these humanoids, is in their teen years, fighting crime on the city streets with the ninjutsu skills learned from their man-sized, humanoid rat sensei, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who traditionally is told to have learned his own skills from a former master, Hamato Yoshi, but herein describes his origin as merely his own development of skill in raising the four youngsters in the sewers. Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo, named after Renaissance painters, generally annoy their way through the film with un-witty banter, as they fight to protect the general populace from the evil baddie, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his band of minions, known as the Foot Clan. Shredder's boomerang blade throwing fighting techniques are something directly out of an old video game like Street Fighter, and look nothing remotely close to any semblance of realism or non-digital reality. The whole movie feels like a video game, and not the overwhelmingly vast, far-reaching kind one wishes to be immersed in, like Uncharted or the Final Fantasy series, but rather more like one of the cheap, uncreative knockoffs that litter the discount bins at Walmarts everywhere.
Megan Fox truly ought to be (solely) a model; there is no question she is beautiful. But acting does not come naturally to her, and watching her thud around the screen and attempt the craft is physically taxing, as one cannot help but wish for a fast-forward button in the theatre. There have been times in her career, where there could be shreds of potential light at the end of the doe-eyed tunnel, (Friends With Kids comes to mind), but overall, it's clear that this is one person whose beauty has led her into a position that she does not have the acting chops to maintain. That is not an insult to her, and who knows, maybe a role will come along for her where she shall surprise us all, but at this point in time, given the saliently lackluster performances she has given us thus far, (particularly in the outrageous and outrageously bad Transformers films—based on another series (predominantly) made for adult (straight) males desperately clinging to their childhood), it would appear indubitably doubtful. Her turn here attempting the role of the impavid reporter, April O'Neil, seeking to find a story like that of the heroic ninja turtles', to land her face in the high-profile news, brings O'Neil to the screen not only as no Lois Lane; she could hardly even be Cat Grant material—oops! Wrong comic! Apologies!
An almost always game and likeable Will Arnett shows up in the film, as O'Neil's dubious cameraman, Vernon Fenwick. Following her around, Fenwick never believes her stories about the turtles until finally seeing them for himself. What is much more intriguing than caring about whether or not he or others in the story believe her (like her boss at the news station, Bernadette Thompson, played laughably by the gifted Whoopi Goldberg, who herein looks completely out of place and altogether misshapen: c'mon, hair/wardrobe departments! Do you want to make Goldberg look bad, or are you just lazy?), is why Arnett is in the film at all. His usual charm is worn away completely by the insipid dialogue and completely dry, humorless jokes. Same goes for Goldberg...the woman has an Oscar, for goodness' sake. Why she signed on to be part of this nonsense is a total mystery; either she owed someone a favor or those checks from The View ain't big enough—and let's be real, it could not possibly be the latter.
The whole affair is one half-baked, half-shell mess. If you know what's best for you and what remains of your childhood memories, or you are a child and wish to make new ones, skip this monstrosity of a movie and just enjoy the bedsheets or lunchbox you have decorated with your favorite Renaissance-monikered reptiles. Too bad no one thought of making them grow up, as maybe that could have added an interesting new element to the thinly stretched, simplistic tale, but then, I suppose their age is dictated in their name. Regardless, this celluloid slime has mutated the fun right out of what could have potentially been a midsummer amusement for the young and young at heart.