Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Blu-ray Review

'Such a big dumb action movie that it almost becomes a parody of big dumb action movies'.

It's very telling of the quality of Jonathan Liebesman's film that the best thing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is that it doesn't completely trample all over the childhood nostalgia felt by many towards its central foursome. This is an unabashed reboot of the franchise for the comic book era of blockbuster cinema - as well as marking a clear distinction from both the 1990s trilogy and the 2007 CGI effort - but there's enough here to ensure that Liebesman's version of the characters feels based in the series' original mythology, as opposed to some of the wilder departures producer Michael Bay worryingly suggested early on in the film's development.

To be fair, Liebesman's film isn't completely unwatchable either, offering some satisfactory action and fight sequences here and there. The film is undoubtedly an origin story too, and Liebesman (either by craft or by accident, it's not clear) avoids some of the pitfalls other origin stories have fallen into in the past, showing us enough of how the Turtles became teenage, mutant and ninja without having it take up the entirety of the film.

What Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, however, is totally and utterly unambitious. Everything Liebesman does here has been seen before, most of the time a lot better. The story - somewhat rejigged from previous incarnations - has several elements strongly reminiscent of the Spider-Man films, with much of what is seen in the final act lifted specifically from 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. Other influences and references include Batman (in particular Nolan's trilogy) and the X-Men, but Liebesman fails in making these come across as either respectful nods or wry humour, instead allowing his film to become a cheap knock-off of several other comic book franchises.

Other problems come across as distinctly Michael Bay-esque in their nature, in that they feel really, really dumb. Liebesman has to give Donatello (Jeremy Howard) thick-rimmed glasses and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) shades, just so we're clear that the former is the brainy nerd and the latter the cool, rebellious one of the group. And it goes on: conveniently placed buttons on computers; glass holding cells that are impenetrable one minute and shatter the next; and, in perhaps the most brainless moment of all, mutant rat Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub) becoming an expert in ninjitsu by teaching himself from an instruction manual he just happens to find in a New York City sewer.

Yes, this is such a big dumb action movie that it almost becomes a parody of big dumb action movies. But then Liebesman never feels as though he wants his film to be anything other than a big dumb action movie, which in a perverse manner manages to redeem the director ever so slightly. That said, this is still a lazy piece of filmmaking riddled with problems throughout; whilst Sam found little to like within the Turtles' 1990s big screen outings, I would recommend any of those three films above Liebesman's reboot every time.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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