Film review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D (12A, 101 mins)

Heroes in a half shell? Cowabungled

Sunday, 19th October 2014, 6:00 pm
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Left to right: Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Left to right: Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise.

Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It’s no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters’ back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it.

His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades.

Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don’t nick flesh.

Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City.

They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.

During one of the turtles’ sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair.

“It’s our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier’s Academy,” whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.

Once April learns of the turtles’ noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era.

Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: “Maybe she’s a Jedi,” whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter’s name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn’t stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox’s plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair.

Believe that and you’ll lap up this bland turtle soup.