“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a completely passable and forgettable late summer CGI action film. It has a couple of nice moments and a couple laughs, but you won’t remember much of what you saw an hour after you leave the theater.
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Let’s be honest: you can only maintain certain expectations when you’re talking about a movie centered around a group of 6-foot animated turtles. Yet this one definitely feels like everyone’s going through the motions.
The good news is that in spite of having Michael Bay on its producer list, “TMNT” manages to bypass most of the infamous director’s more tedious habits. There’s not a single slow-motion, low-angle tracking shot of someone getting out of a car in the whole film.
But even if Bay’s distinctive style is absent, director Jonathan Liebesman hasn’t done much to put his own signature on the film (or the franchise, which saw multiple installments back in the ’90s). “TMNT” shows some early promise, as a darkened subway battle suggests this re-boot might be using a little suspense and mystery to tell the now-familiar story. But the floodlights of exposition come on soon after, and what might have been an interesting take on the “heroes in a half-shell” becomes a routine exercise in good-guys-fight-the-bad-guys filmmaking.
“TMNT” starts things off from the perspective of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a frustrated TV journalist in New York City who is getting tired of doing puff pieces. She’s been digging up information on a local crime syndicate called the Foot Clan and the mysterious vigilantes who seem to be frustrating their efforts.
Her search eventually leads her to our title heroes, a quartet of mutated turtles living in the New York sewers who have been trained as crime-fighting martial arts experts by a mutated rat (insert NYC sewer joke here) named Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub). They’re also named after Italian Renaissance artists.
We soon learn that O’Neil has a history with these chaps, along with an entrepreneur named Eric Sacks (a traditionally slimy William Fichtner), who used to work with her father. Sacks also happens to be connected to the head of the Foot Clan, a dark martial arts master named Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), who looks like the chromed-out genetic offspring of Darth Vader and Edward Scissorhands. Sacks and Shredder are conspiring to take over the city through the use of a biotoxin derived from the same formula that mutated the turtles.
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