Dave Green (USA, 2016)
I do kinda like the Turtles. I’ve always been into the idea of them, and the comics. I’ll go into length at some point in the future about how much I love 80s alternative/independent culture, from bands like the Minutemen and Hüsker Dü to the Garbage Pail Kids, Troma Films and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. And obviously, given the ease of producing them, comics figure into that in a large way.
TMNT comic started in… 1984? …and it was cool, DIY and pretty dark in its content. One thing I didn’t pick up on when I was watching the cartoon as a kid (I wasn’t cool enough to buy the indie comics as a toddler) was that the evil Foot clan was a parody of the Hand from the Marvel comics. I mainly know the Hand from Daredevil, but I think they also bothered Wolverine:
I’ve not watched the first film in this series, but this sequel popped up on Channel 4, so I figured why not. Plus, I don’t much care for an origin story: to me they’re anthropomorphic turtles living in the sewers of New York City, and that’s all I need. I don’t want to think of them as men, which might be an issue, as their desire to retrieve their humanity seems to be a major subtext here.
From what I can tell, the first film must have detailed how they became what they are, they had a fight with Shredder, and he went to jail. And apparently, Will Arnett had something to do with it. So we join them with Shredder wanting to get busted out of jail, and Will Arnett being a local celebrity, which they communicate to us using a Knicks game, shot from a fun perspective (the Turtles are up in the rafters). For those who love origin stories, this instalment at least tells us the tale of how Bebop and Rocksteady came to be.
We also seem to get introduced to Krang (for those who don’t know, he’s an interdimensional supervillain, somewhere between MODOK and Thanos), when he pulls an escaping Shredder into his realm for the standard “do my bidding and I’ll give you more power” speech. We also get ice hockey-obsessed vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). Now I thought Casey always had more of a basic mask, and that this one looked more like Gladiator (which I was happy with, because then it reminds me of MF Doom), but on further inspection, it’s actually pretty accurate.
So if all of these standard characters are being introduced in this one, who was in the first film? No Krang, Casey Jones, Bebop or Rocksteady. That must have been quite something…
I like the little touches in this film. Rocksteady is played by Sheamus from WWE. Which is great, because Kevin Nash played Super Shredder in… I want to say the second Turtles movie in the 90s. Way to keep the wrestling link going. And also, Sheamus uses the phrase “twisting my melon, man”, which must be lost on 90% of the audience, a fact that makes me enjoy it even more.
Some of the big touches are fun, too. There was an excellent mid-air mission, seeing the boys go from (their) plane to (baddies’) plane, with the sense of height and speed quite well communicated. As both planes inevitably became history, and the Turtles, Bebop and Rocksteady plunged into the Amazon, we got the best image of the film: Rocksteady sailing in a tank down the Amazon, taking pot shots at the Turtles. Amazing.
Admittedly, this trailer gives you everything you need, with the possible exception of Megan Fox playing a nerd.
So there you go.
In terms of flaws… Well, I don’t like the “cool” renaming of the Turtles from the Renaissance artists to merely Raph, Lio, Donnie and Mickie. I mean, come on. I also don’t know why the professor guy wanted to help Shredder in the first place. Maybe I missed some exposition, but he seemed to me that he just was. And that the Turtles just knew about it. Also, Casey Jones spends too little time dressed up as Casey Jones and too much time looking like A Random Guy. Like, the default setting when you’re creating a character in a video game. Almost featureless.
I also don’t know why damaging the warp machine that allows Krang to bring his Technodrome into our dimension deconstructs said Technodrome rather than just closing the wormhole. But I’m not an astrophysicist, and trying anything less convenient would have added an hour to the running time. Plus, we now know what will happen if there is a Turtles 3!
But yeah, it was a fun ride overall, with some amusing bits and good set pieces. I’d not heard of director Dave Green before now, but he did well with $100m+ dollars, no doubt assisted by crafty blockbuster veteran (and producer of this) Michael Bay.