Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) - Did we need another TMNT film? (Dude... yeah!) - 2.25 stars

Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello's story seems to be a perfect fit for today's CGI. The challenge will be finding a story that measures up to the special effects?  

Walking into the cinema...
Growing up with TMNTs, this rendition brings a certain amount of excitement and some trepidation. What will they do with this beloved foursome? Will a new generation catch the 'Cow-a-bunga' Fever? 

Cinematic value: 2 stars
When Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello were introduced as a parody of many of the comics on the market in 1984, who would have known that they would lead to a franchise of comic books, games, cartoons and now, five feature films. Due to their contrarian roots, levity always managed to balance their amazing strength and ninja skills. The story of the turtles and their rat leader/father, Splinter, mutating due to a science experiment is told with a new spin for modern audiences. The enemies on the streets of New York continue to be Shredder and his Foot Clan. April O'Neil () is the fledgling reporter who manages to witness the turtles during one of their vigilante events and becomes their primary human contact. As part of the storyline, she also has a historical connection with the title teenagers and a familial history with the new villain. The modern twist to this reptilian tale is the historical and subversive role of the multimillionaire, Eric Sacks (). With the combination of Sacks and Shredder, the mutant teens have an arsenal of enemies to battle under and above the streets of New York. After an arduous development of their back story, the pizza eating teens must defend their friends and the people of the city from the release of a deadly toxin over New York. 

With the advancements in CGI, it is amazing this version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has not been brought to the big screen sooner. The timing is right for a new generation of comic-inspired story fans and can still be remembered by many of the original fans of the heroes in a half shell. It is worth being reminded that the original concept was not meant to be taken too seriously, but needs to be handled with a certain level of respect. All that being said, this instalment makes it half way there. Considering the glass half full or the 'shell half full', this film was fun. When the Turtles were on the screen, their lines and action sequences made it worth coming out to the cinema.  (Battle Los Angeles) honoured the source material and made the heroes strong, heroic, but with a certain level of teenage cheekiness. Staying loyal to their specific personalities and their youthful attitudes, they make the film entertaining for the younger and older fans. The snow mountain scene was an unbelievable action sequence that stunts and dialogue were beautifully choreographed. The action and dialogue amongst the heroic teens were the highlight of the film and deserving of the next chapter in this potential franchise. Even with Liebesman's direction, one cannot miss the influence of Michael Bay (Transformers). This maybe considered positive and negative but as the producer, his fingerprints are all over this film with product placement and the heavy reliance on effects minus any concern for storyline. 

The 'shell half empty' component of the film fell into two areas: the human story and the pseudo-villains. The dialogue and thespian prowess of the human actors were lacking throughout the film. For all of the effort that Liebesman put into the CGI, he must have not considered the story or acting for the human characters. 

"Their turtles, their mutants, their ninjas and... well, and their teenagers." - April O'Neil

This is the type of dialogue that fills the storyline of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and much of it is left to Megan Fox. She has proven to be window dressing in most of her films and lacks screen presence in this outing. She does not have the ability to carry a major motion picture, much less a new franchise.  (Arrested Development, Lego Movie) seems to be wasted on the screen and seems to be faking his Lego-Batman voice. With his proven comedic credentials, the majority of his dialogue misses the mark. The writing for both lead characters seems elementary and lacks the timing for witty humour you might expect in a TMNT film. The second difficulty of this film and many of the other comic-inspired films of 2014 would be the villain. Many writers seem to have forgotten that a good hero is better when put up against a truly evil villain. The villain duties are split in this film between Sacks and Shedder.  failed as the villain in The Lone Ranger and he fails here, too. He does not convey true cinematic villainy, even when he is controlled by his dark shadows mentor, Shedder (). The original villain to the Teens, Shedder is left with reliance on cool gadgetry, but lacks any level of intelligence to be considered a villainous mastermind. He has a great suit, but no soul. Yet, even with these difficulties, like this years Godzilla, the salvation of the film was found in the Turtles. 

Family value: 2.75 stars
The number of children attending this film was surprising with a PG-13 rating, but the overall the film was pretty tame. The violence level was similar to most of the cartoons on the Cartoon Network and the language was mild. There were minimal illusions of innuendo, beyond a teenage crush on April O'Neil by two characters. The key warning for this film would be to turn to not think too hard about the storyline and enjoy a fun film. 

Leaving the cinema: 
Thankfully the writers did not take themselves too seriously and made fun of many of the cliches of TMNTs. All attempts in the previous attempts to bring these heroes to the big screen failed. With this version they did get the effects and action right and there is hope that they will invest in a script and a better April O'Neil for the upcoming sequels.  

Overall Rating:  2.25 stars

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What is the value of mentorships?  ( Exodus 17:9, Take time today to read any Gospel of Jesus and his relationship with his disciples)
2. What is Biblical justice? (Romans 12:19, Micah 6:8)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews