'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
(Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Johnny Knoxville, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, et al / PG-13 / 201 mins)
Overview: The sinister Shredder has seized control of New York City's police and politicians, leaving his ruthless Foot Clan to spread chaos in the streets. With no prospects for salvation in sight, mutant crime-fighters Raphael, Leonardo , Donatello, and Michaelangelo leap into action.
Verdict: By chance or by choice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been a reflection of its time. The 1990s live-action trilogy was an amalgam of Jim Henson puppetry, bad perms, and Vanilla Ice. The most recent Nickelodeon cartoon series is a blend of colorful 3D animation with stylish 2D interstitials and characters with large, anime-inspired expressions.
The new Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is also a time capsule, in a sense — a film you could watch decades from now and know, definitively, what action films were like in 2014: flashy, frenetic, and fraught with explosions. The movie is far from perfect (“generic” is perhaps the most appropriate term), but it’s exactly what a Turtles film has always been: silly fun.
The stars, of course, are the turtles themselves. There was a lot of outrage on the internet when the new, more human-like faces debuted. It’s certainly different but not jarringly so. Whereas the old quartet differed only by bandana color and choice of weapon, the new turtles have distinctive bodies and fashion choices that match their personality (Raphael the most muscular, Donatello the nerdiest) without being too exaggerated. Their voices, like the animation, work surprisingly well — the characters interact with the world in a natural way without any noticeable technical glitches. (The one exception being Tony Shalhoub as the voice of Splinter, which never quite matches the character model.)
But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has never been about a complicated story — it’s always served to set up crazy fights. Pretty much all the tropes of today's action films are represented: heavy use of shaky camera during fights (e.g., Bourne), quick jump cuts that do away with the pesky gaps between punches, and a few exploding set pieces that probably weren’t flammable in the first place. The kicks punctuate, the environment is resoundingly smashed to bits, and in several scenes there’s a distinct and deliberate grinding metal sound that evokes the new Godzilla or a J.J. Abrams production. Michael Bay's influence here, by the way, is extremely apparent.
That's basically the entire movie in a half shell. Don't think, just enjoy.