'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles': A gen-X tale retold, reinterpreted
Hans David Tampubolon
The Jakarta Post
If you grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) cartoon series in the 1990s and expect to experience some nostalgia by watching the franchise's latest live action installment, then prepare to be disappointed.
The reboot of the franchise is meant to introduce a new generation of kids to the intelligent bipedal turtles trained in the art of ninjutsu.Jonathan Liebesman's adaptation is not really as bad as most movie critics and reviewers have perceived.
Most critics and reviewers have been slaying the 2014 TMNT live-action movie, simply because it has 'deviated' from its original classic tale.
For instance, it is easy to see why most fans of the old series have gone berserk, as in this version, Splinter is merely a mutated lab rat, whereas in the original tale, he is the pet of a ninjutsu master named Hamato Yoshi who mutates into an intelligent human-sized rat and ninjutsu master.
Another aspect that has raised the eyebrows of old fans is how in the new version, reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is somehow connected to the mutation of Splinter and the four turtles, while in the original series, she became acquainted with the mutated beings after they help her after getting ambushed by the Foot Clan, a gang of thugs roaming the city of New York under the leadership of evil ninja master Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).
Liebesman also made the four turtles named after renaissance artists ' Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo ' bigger than in the original series. All of them stand at least 243 centimeters, far taller and more muscular than the 152 cm and muscularly slim versions of the original series.
But other than those slight deviations and Fox's horrifically boring acting, Liebesman's effort to retell the TMNT tale to a new generation deserves more credit than it is getting. Besides, what is the point of retelling a classic tale just to keep it the same as the original?
At the very least, Liebesman shows he is still committed to maintaining other important elements of the TMNT tale and, in most cases, he makes them even better.
For example, Liebesman depicts the brotherly relationships and dynamics between the turtles even better than the original 1990 live-action movie or cartoon series. The turtles, despite their daunting looks, still maintain humorous interactions among each other and during action sequences.
Liebesman also maintains the turtles' different personalities just like in the original version -- the katana-wielding Leonardo is still the charismatic leader; Donatello is still the brain of the four with his nerdy character and inventions;
Raphael is the hothead and easily loses his temper and Michelangelo is the clown.
In spite of the different personalities, all of them share the same affection toward eating pizzas and yes, at some point in the movie they will all utter the word 'cowabunga' ,which has become some sort of a timeless tagline among TMNT fans.
The movie also shows more appreciation toward Splinter. The master is given more minutes to show off his fighting skills compared to the franchise's previous installments.
The fighting and action sequences also stick to the franchise's original style. Enemies are being beaten by fast-paced kinetic fighting and in one of the movie's most exciting action sequences, the turtles use their shells to gain an advantage over their adversaries, just like in the old school cartoon series.
In terms of storyline, TMNT is like any other summer action movie blockbuster. The storyline is straight forward; New York is haunted by the Foot Clan led by Shredder, who conspires with billionaire Eric Sachs (William Fichtner), who happens to be a student of the evil ninja master and the turtles came to save the day.
Coincidences take place throughout the film and somehow connect the dots between Shredder, Sachs, April and the turtles. Plot twists are definitely not the strong point of this movie; action is.
Character-wise, the most interesting characters are the turtles, especially Raphael and Michelangelo.
The human actors are completely boring, especially Fox. The only decent human actor who brings their character to life is Will Arnett, who plays Vernon Fenwick, a cameraman who gets friend-zoned by April.
It was a shame really that Liebesman cast Fox as April, an important figure in all versions of TMNT. Fox's tendency to show off her lipstick-stained lips in most scenes has truly ruined her every effort to represent April as a relentless journalist.
Overall, if you are an old-school TMNT fan, you need to know the movie's latest installment, now in Jakarta's theaters, might not offer the nostalgic feeling you are looking for. It is a reinterpretation of the old tale aimed at today's kids. Put that into consideration and you might just be able to enjoy it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Paramount Pictures (101 minutes)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Megan Fox, Johnny Knoxville, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Alan Ritchson, Danny Woodburn, Tony Shalhoub, William Fichtner, and Will Arnett.
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