TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES early review round-up – What do the critics think of the reboot?

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Due to some unforeseen quirk of cosmic fate, it appears that we are not getting an advanced local press screening of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which means I can’t tell you beforehand whether with the movie is cowabunga or cow poo. The US film press did get to see the movie early though, and they’ve begun posting up their full reviews. And so far, the prognosis is not looking too good. Or too horrific either.

While there aren’t enough reviews out to get a Rotten Tomatoes consensus yet, it seems that the new TMNT is just the latest entry in the ever predictable Michael Bay genre: Looks good, has a few fun action moments, but lacks character or intelligence and makes some really tone-deaf choices that should upset some die-hard fans of the source material. Here is a selection of what some of the bigger publications thought of the movie.

HitFix’s Drew McWeeny was pretty positive on the film, saying that it was a fun ride that got the basic character points right and which his kids thoroughly enjoyed when they saw it, which is enough for him.

“There are three big action scenes where the film kicks into a higher degree of fun that, taken together, add up to just enough of a thrill for me to recommend the film… My kids had a great time with it, and since it feels to me like they are the exact target audience, I’ll call that a success.”

“This property has been through so many incarnations at this point that there is no single version. It all depends on how you experienced it the first time, and as someone who’s seen all of these various incarnations, this one seems to be respectful of the source material and the Turtles, and there’s not much more you can ask.”

SlashFilm were not as kind, saying that while the CG turtles are impressive and this is one of Megan Fox’s more engaging performances, everything else is pretty much forgettable.

“If the movie was silly and goofy, but entertaining and engaging even on the lowest level, it might be something worth talking about. But this movie is a cinematic flatline that shows rare blips of life only to crash back down again into nothing.”

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Variety thought that this was typical Bay fodder, which includes the bad and good aspects that go with that classification.

“…Producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman have delivered a back-to-basics origin saga that is neither a particularly good movie nor the pop-cultural travesty that some were dreading. Much slicker-looking but less endearing than its ’90s live-action predecessors, the film manifests all the usual attributes of a Bay production — chaotic action, crass side jokes, visual-effects overkill, Megan Fox — but is nowhere near “Transformers”-level off-putting. It should be a pretty easy shell to audiences worldwide.”

The Wrap were not as won over by all the Bayisms though, and found the film’s sometimes too-serious tone off-putting.

“While the director is Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle Los Angeles”), “Turtles” bears the stamp of producer Michael Bay, from an embarrassing performance by an Oscar winner (Whoopi Goldberg as April’s boss gets the honors) to a wildly incoherent action sequence (involving an 18-wheeler skidding down the snowy slopes of a mountain) to a climactic skyscraper battle that calls to mind the Chicago skirmishes of the last two “Transformers” movies. (Way to rain debris down on innocent bystanders in your kid movie, Mr. Bay.)”

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a movie that takes its characters and its premise seriously, until it doesn’t, and that operates at two speeds: tortoise (ponderous) and hare (head-spinning). Kids who love the characters and are jacked up on Orange Crush and Pizza Hut, both of which receive prominent placement in the film, may enjoy themselves, but some parents might find themselves rooting for Shredder and the endless array of Swiss Army Ginsu knives that pop out from his wrists every few minutes.

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THR finds the fact that the film’s narrative focuses so heavily on Megan Fox’s April O’Neil, to the point where it takes a while for the Turtles to show up, rather frustrating. However they do recognize director Jonathan Liebesman’ technical achievements.

“Screenwriters Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty devote a substantial amount of time setting up April’s investigation of the mystery vigilantes, which provokes a frustrating delay before the turtles finally appear onscreen. Extensive use of flashbacks and explanatory dialogue that reveal her lifelong connection with the mutants also have a dilatory effect (while laying groundwork for future sequels), but provide an authentic account of the turtles’ origins while keeping the humor pitched at an appropriately juvenile level.”

“Liebesman relies on his genre-film resume to keep events moving at a brisk clip and the motion-capture process employed to facilitate live-action integration with cutting-edge VFX looks superior onscreen, sharply and smoothly rendering some thrilling action scenes and delivering impactful 3D character detail.”

You may have noticed that “lifelong connection” nugget above, and that’s because in this new reboot, April O’Neil’s story is now intrinsically part of the Turtles and Master Splinter’s origin, with her apparently taking top billing in the story, often to the detriment of the Turtle’s screentime, much like the human characters have done in the Transformers movies.

Make of that what you will, but just don’t tell Ms. Fox about it as she is really not interested in hearing what you have to say. During a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles press conference held on Friday (via Cinema Blend), the panel – which included most of the film’s cast, director and writers – was asked a question on how they respond to the harsh backlash the film has received from fans on the internet. Fox, who has faced her fair share of ire during her tenure on the first two Transformers films, decided to field the question and gave it this very blunt response.

“Let me tell you something about those people. How much money did Transformers 4 make? Exactly. Those people can complain – they all go to the theater. They’re gonna love it – and if they don’t love it, they can fuck off, and that’s the end of that.”

Well, okay then.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens locally in 2D and 3D on September 19, 2014.

Last Updated: August 5, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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