TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Footage Review: It’s Action with Far More Comedy Than You Might Expect

     July 15, 2014


Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is only a little over three weeks away, but we haven’t seen a single full clip from the film yet.  There have been a few trailers and a couple of TV spots, all of which offer up a nice chunk of action, humor and some very detailed shots of the turtles, but it’s still tough to get a good handle on the tone and overall potential of the project through the montage format.

However, next week, Paramount Pictures will be at San Diego Comic-Con for a Hall H panel and they’re bringing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with them.  The Comic-Con crowd will have to wait until Thursday, July 24th for the studio’s 3:00 to 4:00pm slot to check out what they’ve got, but we were lucky enough to get an early look at some material this afternoon in New York.  Hit the jump for our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles footage review.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-footageIn an effort to steer clear of spoilers, we’re going to keep this description a bit vague.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producer Andrew Form was on hand to introduce the material, which was actually being fed in from LA as he spoke.  He prefaced:

“The movie comes out three weeks from Thursday. We’re still working like crazy right now to get it done.”

And it’s no wonder they’re still working at it; this movie has a total of six CG characters – Splinter, Shredder and the four turtles.  Right now, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VFX crew is working away up at ILM in San Francisco, readying the film for its August 8th debut, however, what we saw today still looked pretty good.

We began with an eight-minute chunk of footage that’ll pop up towards the beginning of the film.  Form offered this as background:

“It’s 2014, it’s New York City, there’s a lot of crime in the city and Shredder, the leader of the Foot Clan, they are responsible for all the crime.  The movie opens, Megan Fox who plays April O’Neil, she is investigating a crime that has happened at the docks at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and you think she’s this, you know, journalist and then you see the trail who is her cameraman and he yells at her and says, ‘April, we’ve gotta go.  We’ve gotta get to work!’  And then you cut and you realize that April O’Neil is a lifestyle reporter who wants to be a journalist.”

“She is covering a gala that we shot – you guys are all from New York so we can say our locations, at Cipriani’s – and Eric Sachs who’s played by William Fichtner is giving this big speech, and Eric Sachs and April O’Neil’s father worked together 15 years ago.”

“This is the scene right after the speech Eric Sachs has given that really inspires April to really try and work harder at her reporting because she just doesn’t want to do the lifestyle stuff.  She really wants to be a journalist.”

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-megan-foxAgain, we’re not going to give you a play-by-play, but you know the fight scene that goes down on the subway platform from the trailer?  We saw that full battle plus some of what comes before and after it.

There were two standout elements of this portion of the presentation – the humor and the incredible detail on the turtles.  It isn’t just about having a certain color mask and a particular weapon anymore.  As you’ve seen in the character posters, these guys are loaded with personality-appropriate accessories, and not just items that you get a quick look at and think, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ and forget about.  Sure, we only saw a fraction of the full feature, but every single second the turtles were on screen, they were downright fascinating to look at.  It never got old.

The Ninja Turtles franchise always had humor, but the extent Liebesman takes it to here came as a nice surprise.  Yes, we had that scene in the trailer with Michelangelo teasing April with his mask and the other where she tries to explain to Whoopi Goldberg’s character that the guys are both turtles and ninjas, but seeing the jokes in context, right alongside a major action scene, really shows how far that humor goes – and how successful it is, too.  Noel Fisher, in particular, is priceless as Michelangelo.  The way he moves, his facial expressions and the intonation of his dialogue makes his material remarkably natural and truly laugh-out-loud worthy.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-noel-fisherIn between clips, Form told us about the one thing that really shocked him about the final design of the turtles:

“Now that you guys see the turtles, if you looked at the actors, like if you took a picture of each actor, like Noel Fisher who plays Michelangelo, you put him next to his turtle, like, I see Noel.  Like, literally.  It’s him.  He comes through that turtle.  It’s crazy how much the guys come through in the turtles if you do side-by-side.  And I don’t think any of us expected that, that you’d really see their faces inside these turtles.”

From there it was on to another scene that you probably caught in the film’s promotional campaign, something Form dubbed “the snow chase sequence.”  Admittedly, I’ve picked on this material quite a bit when assessing the Ninja Turtles trailers, not because it doesn’t look good, but rather because, out of context, what they’re doing doesn’t make much sense and that takes the thrill out of it.  However, that’s certainly not the case when you watch the whole thing through.

There is a lot going on in this sequence, but it’s actually really easy to keep track of everyone because the turtles are so strong on an individual level.  In addition to different posture, shell sizes and accessories, the turtles also have very different attitudes and those attitudes are impressively well woven into all the combat.  And the same goes for the humor here as well.  The laughs aren’t relegated to quieter, talk-driven moments.  This is a full-blown race down a mountain yet the turtles are constantly dishing out zingers, and that’s a big part of the reason the material is fun to watch.

Really, that’s probably the biggest takeaway from this presentation.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t just another combat-driven, CGI-heavy hero film.  It’s a true action comedy, and that lighter tone could wind up being what makes it stand out.


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