Rebooting the popular franchise after Paramount acquired the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” rights, producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman have taken on a full recap of the turtle’s origin story and their epic conflict with the dastardly Foot Clan crime syndicate. As a late-summer entry, “Turtles” could see some moderately enthusiastic if somewhat unpredictable response from the film’s target audience, since many of the series’ fans may have moved on in the seven years since the last outing.
The newest addition to the series opens with New York City lifestyle TV reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) looking to get a lead on some hard news, but her boss Bernadette (Whoopi Goldberg) couldn’t be less interested and even her regular cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) isn’t sure she has what it takes. When April witnesses a stealth vigilante attacking Clan goons one dark night, she stumbles upon the story of her career, tracking down a quartet of 6-foot-tall, mutated talking turtles with lethal ninja fighting skills.
Named after four Renaissance artists, teenaged Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) make their home in the city’s sewer system with the sagacious rat known as Splinter (Danny Woodburn).
Technically still in training, the turtles are unprepared to take on the Foot Clan fighters and their fearsome leader Shredder, but their interference with his criminal network has made them targets.
Screenwriters Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty devote a substantial amount of time setting up April’s investigation, which provokes a frustrating delay before the turtles finally appear onscreen.
Extensive use of flashbacks that reveal her lifelong connection with the mutants also have a dilatory effect, but keep the humor pitched at an appropriately juvenile level.
Not much of that easygoing style rubs off on the human characters, but the cast members portraying Splinter and the turtles achieve a persuasive level of realism.
Liebesman relies on his genre-film resumé to keep events moving at a brisk clip, and the motion-capture process looks superior onscreen, sharply and smoothly rendering some thrilling action scenes and delivering impactful 3D character detail. However, the drawn-out 101-minute running time and the nonstop cartoonish violence may deter some would-be fans.