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Review: TMNT

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posted on Apr, 12 2007 @ 10:40 AM

Review: TMNT

For my next review, I'm actually picking a movie that's still in theatres. TMNT, also known as "that new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie" or "Turtle Power 4". At the suggestion of BLUELol, I'm including a breakdown at the beginning of the review for those who just want the summary.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Action / Comic-to-Film
PLATFORM: All CGI Animation
STARS: (Voice Talents) Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne.
RE-WATCH FACTOR: Moderate (or Never Again)
LOVE IT: People familiar with TMNT, but not fans.
HATE IT: Die-hard TMNT fans.
ACTING: Good for a CGI movie based off a comic book.
MUSIC: Adequate for an Action flick.
WARNINGS: Mild violence, but no blood. Probably safe for just about any kid old enough to not get scared of bad guys in movies.
SCORE: 7.5/10 (for non-fans), or 3.75 (for fans of TMNT).
TEASER: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles re-unite to fight their greatest threat ever, after their leader, Michelangelo, has been away training in a remote location.

The Full Review

I feel the need to admit I'm not a big Ninja Turtles fan. Like most people, I never read the original comic, I was only exposed to the TV cartoon, which featured the lamest villain names since non-Flemming Bond films (Beebob? Rocksteady?). When the 1990 movie featured, brilliantly enough, Corey Feldman in an oversized rubber suit supposedly being a "ninja", I'd completely dismissed Turtle Power as being something for people who'd just never been properly introduced to a real anime. To be fair, it wasn't really Corey in the suit, just his voice, but still.

Then one day I met my wife, who was such a rabid Ninja Turtles fan, she has memorabilia and three equally smitten friends whom the quartet of which nicknamed themselves Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. Only they are the comic book fans, and they say this with a very challenging stare, as if to say "We dare you to mention the TV show." She's tried a few times to get me interested in the Turtles, and it's gone about as well as my attempt to get her into Dr. Who.

We finally get enough time to go out to see ONE movie. I'm eagerly anticipating watching 300, since everyone but me has seen it and raved about it. All week long, I'm saying "Hooray, my favorite historical battle meets my favorite American comic book artist!!!" I was so excited I nearly skipped through the door the night we were supposed to see the movie... and there's my wife, doe-eyed and blinking in that way that immediately tells me my evening is about to get a lot worse.

She'd seen the ad for TMNT, despite my best efforts, and she wanted to see that instead of "300". So that's why you're getting this review instead of 300...sigh.

Needless to say I walked into the theater with low expectations in the range of Uwe Boll and all the enthusiasm of going to the dentist. Still, it was only 2 hours of my life, for something my wife loved...and I could trade this later to make her re-watch Cabin Boy.

Come to find out, I was pleasantly surprised. There wasn't any one single shining element to this film. The big plot twist at the end can be figured out by the particularly astute in about the first 5 minutes of the film, the music is merely adequate (does anyone do high-calibre soundtracks anymore?), the animation isn't particularly amazing, and despite the fact there's some incredible voice talent in the film, you can't help but get the feeling these actors and actresses really just needed a paycheck they weren't completely ashamed of.

Even the fight scenes, which you'd expect to be the best part of an action movie, are mostly occurring off-camera. While there are one or two actual fight scenes you can watch, for the most part you only "hear" the battle while the camera stays static on a wall or something, or you see shadows, or the camera is pulled back so far you can't make out any real detail, or it moves too fast to pick up any actual moves. It was kind of like the director said "Well, we can't get Yuen Woo Ping, so we might as well not really bother on the fights."

But, to my complete surprise it works. In all honesty, the whole movie is greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, the faults I just named in the film, I can only name in retrospect, because the movie itself never lets on to the shortcomings while it's playing. I couldn't believe it, but I found myself genuinely enjoying the film in its entirety the entire way through.

I expected stupid 80's cheesey surfer lines like "Cowabunga Dude", "Don't have a cow man", and "Radical"... and while expressions like this did pop up on the rare occasion, they were either sidenotes or spoken with the same tired enthusiasm any of us would have trying to repeat popular phrases from our childhood. I honestly got the impression that these were the turtles, now disenfranchised, dispirited, and that they'd "moved on" from their super-hero days, a la "The Incredibles".

The animation on the turtles' faces was incredibly well done. Emotions were expressed and easily recognizable in ways that weren't the normal caricatures you get in "kid's movies", even subtle little glares in the background that are never acknowledged. This really helped the brother/brother power struggle between Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) and Raphael (Nolan North), and in some instances it even managed to hit home on some family drama.

Master Splinter was the worst animation in the entire film. His shading, texture, even the way the light reflected off of him seemed fake compared to the rest of the animation. His one action sequence looks like it was made in Logo. The voice talent (Mako), however, was extremely well done. You may remember Mako from such well known titles as "Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!" (no, that's not a joke), and Avatar: The Last Airbender", or perhaps the lesser known title "Memoirs of a Geisha"... point of fact, if you examine the biography of any one of TMNT's Cast, you'll find that just about every person who isn't a big name star was in one of those three titles.

The humans in the film, Casey Jones (Chris Evans - Human Torch in Fantastic Four) and April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar - Buffy, from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)"), really didn't need to be in it. Casey Jones starts off the movie as a jerk, and later turns into a useless sidekick. April somehow evolved into The Bride from Kill Bill, complete with yellow jumpsuit and authentic Japanese steel katana. Neither contributed much of anything, and their facial expressions were wooden (but not as bad as Splinter's).

The villains in the film were... well... confusing for an action flick. The vast majority of the film the villains are all fighting each other while the heroes are fighting each other. The fact that the twain ever meet up at all seems to happen only by one of the weakest and most predictable of coincidences. I kind of got the impression the villains just got in the way of the main plot more than actually posing any real threat to humanity. On the bright side, I give HUGE PROPS to the writers for NOT giving the lead villain Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) a plucky inept sidekick, but instead a very sexy and competant semi-evil female ninja named Karai (Ziyi Zhang).

Still, when the credits finally scrolled, having thoroughly enjoyed myself, I turned to my wife with a big smile and found her glowering almost as angrily as her fellow three turtle friends, whom immediately broke into an argument about how it screwed up almost everything from the comic book. I got to listen to this on the way home instead of NPR. Dutifully, I nodded through each explanation point and just as quickly forgot it as I began composing the review in my head.

Overall, I give the movie a 7.5 if you've heard of the Ninja Turtles but were never enough of a fan to even bother learning who wears what color headband. If you're a fan of the comic book, or the TV Show, you can cut that score in half, as your mind will apparently explode with inconsistancies that ruin the film for you. It's not a must-see, but you won't feel like your money was wasted, either.

I'd still have rather seen "300" though.

posted on Apr, 12 2007 @ 11:27 AM
Why does April have ninja skills now?

She looks like the damn bride from Kill Bill

posted on Apr, 21 2007 @ 08:23 PM
I saw TMNT with a friend I to was a fan of the TV series. I left disappointed the TMNT has lost it charm and political correctness has infected the film ( mention of eating a healthy breakfast. ) The whole film was pointless given that the plot was given away virtually straight away.

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