Caught Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) last night, and went in with no assumptions or predictions or opinions whatsoever, aside from loving the cartoons and movies as a kid. And call me a massive, nostalgic, forgiving nerd, but… and whisper it… I loved it.
Take the film totally for what it is, and for what it is most not supposed to be. It is supposed to be a fun romp through much-loved territory, not courting cinematic mastery and Oscar attention. On this front, it succeeds completely.
It’s not perfect, but what are you expecting?! This is the story of mutant turtles living in the sewers under New York, who just happen to be outrageously good at Ninjitsu, and are somehow humanoid and in their teens. I think suspension of believe, and forgiving a bit of fantasy, is a given on even contemplating watching this film.
Critics have argued that there is no soul there. I would disagree – the soul of the 1987 cartoons is completely there, not to mention careful nods and homages to the cinematic and comic book incarnations in, around and since that time. The film is funny, and action packed – while maintaining a sense of brotherhood. Yes, the four turtles behave like brothers, and have a bond that reflects that. It worked for me.
The effects… I don’t know what will impress critics anymore. They were amazing. I didn’t feel like I was watching a video game, nor did I feel that I was constantly aware a lot of stuff must have been CG. It’s photorealistic so much of the time, that I was immersed and sold. The turtles design has irked some, as has the tweaking of the origin story, but… come on. Isn’t interpretation, in light of what we can achieve these days with effects, allowed? Aren’t the greatest things we can achieve based on taking what others have done and moving forward with advanced iterations of it, learning, testing and tweaking? So what if there are changes? It never stopped it feeling like a ninja turtles movie for me.
Like I said, it is not without flaws. Splinter might as well have been called Sensei Exposition, for all the explaining he has to do. April O’Neill could have done with being fleshed out a bit more. And the motivations of The Shredder were extremely sketchy and fudged to say the least.
But… I don’t care. I really enjoyed it. It ticked a lot of boxes for me in terms of spectacle and excitement, and was a breath of fresh air in the world of dark, stuffy, gritty reboots. I can’t wait to show my little one.
PS Massive special mention for this film including Careless Whisper by George Michael. I was always going to like it the minute you see Will Arnett preparing a sandwich with that on in the background.