Based on a comic that first appeared in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) had a successful movie franchise in the 1990s, and has been revived in director Jonathan Liebesman’s (Wrath of the Titans, Battle Los Angeles) 2014 live action film, a film that is neither a follow-up to, nor a re-imagining of, the earlier movies but a franchise reboot aimed at modern audiences expecting the latest in digital awesomeness. The idea isn’t a bad one, but given the involvement of producer Michael Bay, it’s no surprise that the film favors style over substance.
Tired of endless lifestyle, and tabloid stories, TV news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is determined to find one story that will make people take her seriously as a journalist. Her cameraman and chauffeur Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) just wants to take her out to dinner. April does some after-hours snooping to get the scoop on the violent Foot Clan and their leader Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), bent on terrorizing New York City. April’s determination grows when she witnesses a vigilante stop a robbery. She soon learns he’s not working alone, and that she, and her late father have ties to this hero that go back to 1999. As a result, much of the first half of TMNT is devoted to establishing April’s relationship to the Ninja Turtles. The gang is made up of Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), firebrand Raphael (Alan Ritchson), goofball Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), and geek Donatello (Jeremy Howard). The turtles are lead by their mentor, a giant talking rat named Splinter (voice of Tony Shalhoub). While corporate head Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) poses as a man of the people, but really wants to use the turtles for his benefit, April and the turtles must unravel a sinister plan by the Foot Clan that if accomplished, would spell the end for them, New York City, and its residents.
Megan Fox spends the entire film with a blank stare on her face. Whether she’s supposed to be in fear for her life, or trying to make an important decision, that blank stare remains in place. Frankly though, I imagine it wasn’t too different from the look I had on my face, as TMNT was one of the most pointless, clearly commercial films I’ve seen this year. Since the film made a very solid $477.2 million at the box office, it’s probably safe to assume that a lot of merchandise tied into the film made its way off store shelves.
Admittedly, it’s not all bad. The turtles look pretty impressive. They appear alive, muscular, and believable. They are certainly large enough to be capable of pulling off various heroic feats. They work well together, and are clearly better as a group than apart. The filmmakers obviously familiarized themselves with turtle history, as they managed to recreate the core personalities, and manners of each pf the characters. While veteran actor is slightly over-the top as the corporate villain here, he still gets the job done, perhaps delivering the best performance of the film. From a technical standpoint, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earns very high marks; substantively, not so much.
Done in post-production, the 3D elements here never really excite. There’s some extra depth in overhead cityscapes, lengthy sewer tunnels, and a high-rise rooftop, but generally it doesn’t really pop. There are a few examples of objects appearing to extend beyond the screen’s confines, particularly during fight sequences, but otherwise its fairly standard stuff. The traditional 1080p attributes are fantastic. The image is clear, and colors are vibrant throughout. Details are extraordinary, and fleshtones appear normal. For me, subsequent viewings will likely come via the included 2D-only disc.
The disc features the new Dolby Atmos presentation, though for this review I used the more ‘traditional’ Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless presentation, and it was stunning. Spacing is excellent, fidelity top-notch. The experience is an enveloping one, with the front end dominating, but the surrounds pitching in nicely. Ambient effects are satisfying throughout, and music is full without ever dominating the proceedings. Dialogue is center focused, clear, and precise.
English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Digital Reality (HD, 17:56) A look at the turtle characters in the film, the use of previsualization, the blend of performance capture and digital characters, technical details behind the performance capture, fight choreography, etc.
- In Your Face! The Turtles in 3D (HD, 4:23) A closer look at the technical aspects of the 3D shoot. This piece is available in both 2D and 3D, the latter, of course, available only on compatible players and televisions.
- It Ain’t Easy Being Green (HD, 6:47) The cast shares memories of the franchise and discusses playing the roles, shooting in New York, the set, and cast camaraderie.
- Evolutionary Mash-Up (HD, 14:59) A real-life scientific history and biology of turtles. The piece also looks at ninjas and the integration of the turtle and the ninja.
- Turtle Rock (HD, 5:37) Composer Brian Tyler discusses how his score fits into the film.
- Extended Ending (HD, 0:46).
- Music Video (HD, 3:27) “Shell Shocked” by Juicy J, Moxie, Ty dolla $ign, and Wiz Khalifa.
- Making of “Shell Shocked” (HD, 1:31) Wiz Khalifa in the recording studio, discussing his collaboration on the film, intercut with clips from the film.
- Blu-ray copy of the film.
- DVD copy of the film.
- UV / iTunes Digital Copy of the film.