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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Year: 2014
Studio: Paramount
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Producer: Michael Bay
Writer: Josh Appelbaum/André Nemec/Evan Daugherty
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fitchner, Johnny Knoxville

When I first saw the trailer I thought this would be a disaster. I love the 1990 live action film and the CGI turtles – even without the wrong-shaped heads – just seemed off.

The more trailers I saw, the more convinced I became, and while it doesn't have the loving, hand-tooled quality of the Steve Barron version, it was really enjoyable.

It helped that I was such a fan of the franchise anyway – I really wanted to love it. And director Jonathan Liebesman (who I last saw behind Wrath of the Titans and Battle: Los Angeles) captures the excitement, action and humour perfectly well with Michael Bay's clout behind him.

There are a couple of sequences – particularly in the design of Splinter – where it doesn't look very realistic, but the CGI that brings the turtles to life is great. It gives them real weight and presence in their environment and even though computers still can't beat the charm of the Jim Henson's Creature Shop effects, it's no big stretch for software engineers to wring emotion out of pixels very successfully nowadays.

It's essentially the origin story again, albeit with some story tweaks. April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is a fluff piece reporter who wants to tackle big stories, and she's pursuing the criminal activities of the Foot clan with dogged determination that's bound to get her in trouble.

When she witnesses a robbery at the New York docks that's interrupted by a cadre of unseen attackers who see the robbers off, April knows she's onto the story that will make her career – a vigilante group fighting back.

When she finds herself a hostage in the Foot's plan to flush the vigilantes out, the unseen protectors again come to the rescue, and April manages to follow them and learn the truth about who they really are.

Meanwhile, industrialist Sacks (Fitchner) seems to be saving the city from crime while he's actually in cahoots with the leader of the Foot clan – The Shredder - in a plan that will hand control of the city to them (come on, you know he's crooked – what rich business leader in a movie in the last three decades isn't?).

Aside from just being a cool and funny action movie, it does several things right. First, it plays a variation of the Jaws trick by not showing the turtles very clearly for a decent amount of time. It adds to their mystique both in the story and your own curiosity about how the CGI effects will look and gives the first half hour a nice sense of build-up.

Secondly, it pokes fun in the essentially ridiculous nature of the franchise itself. At one point a character suggests; 'so they're mutant turtle ninja teenagers?' Another asks if they're aliens, to which O'Neil says 'no, that's stupid. They're turtles', no doubt in response to the outcry that followed an early story leak that the turtles were actually going to be aliens.

And in classic Michael Bay fashion, even though it's a story about ninjas, it doesn't end with a climactic fight scene but with the spire of a skyscraper falling over, explosions billowing across New York.

Don't take it too seriously. The jokes are mostly funny, it looks good, the action set pieces are big enough and full enough of movement and it tells a cool story with just enough new additions. What's not to like, and what the hell did everyone expect? I wonder if the critical response has just been the same tired hatred directed at Michael Bay.

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