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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 87 Minutes
• Commentary by writer/director Kevin Monroe
• Alternate Opening and Ending
• Deleted Scene
• Interviews with voice talent and filmmakers
“It’s time for a hip, new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! How hip and new, you ask? We’ve now abbreviated their whole fucking name, that’s how!”
Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang, Lawrence Fishburne
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are in shambles. Michelangelo and Donatello are relegated to menial 9-to-5 jobs, Raphael’s moonlighting as a masked avenger, and Leonardo’s fighting guerilla warriors in South America (I am not fucking making this last part up). However, a mysterious tycoon and some ancient monsters reunite our heroes and threaten to destroy the whole world as we know it.
This is progress?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or, TMNT, as Warner Bros’ lawyers are insisting we call it, is really not made for you. The CHUD reader. I realize I’m making a pretty broad generalization here, and I’m sure some of you will take umbrage to that, but I think it’s the truth. If you’ve any interest in this one, I’m guessing you’re after some combination of these two things:
1. Nostalgia fix, spurred on by a love of the old cartoons.
2. You’re a fan of the Original comic books, and you’re still holding out hope that this will be a faithful adaptation of them.
You will find neither of these here. The original comic books have about as much a chance of being adapted faithfully as Weapon X does; they’re far too dark and bloody. In a perfect world, maybe, but unless your carnage is being meted out by 300 Spartans, most studios are pretty squeamish about Big-Budget gore fests, especially when said gore is spilt by turtles of the teenage mutant variety. You’re better off checking out old Lone Wolf and Cub flicks (I’m not knocking doing this; now that I’ve mentioned it, I’m kinda jonesing to do so myself. Buy Part One here).
And nostalgia-wise, I’m afraid you’re going to come up a little short. The old cartoons, primitive in animation as they were, are still pretty entertaining. Despite being half-hour toy commercials, they showcased the personalities of each of the Turtles well. The camaraderie of the group is what worked, even more so than the hacking and slashing against the latest Shredder-related menace. That’s what made the show fun.
The movie lacks this. My main complaint is its insistence on action over character. In the show, all the fighting looked the same because it didn’t really matter. It was, for the most part, kept simple—ninja battles. You knew the Turtles would win; you just needed an enemy as an excuse to give the guys something to banter about. But watching the movie, it feels like everyone involved was going for something far more epic. We don’t even get a Shredder or any significant ninja action. You got ancient prophecies, monster from alternate dimensions, a plot to destroy the world, yadda yadda yadda. Even the opening flashback (narrated by fucking Larry Fishburne, just in case you doubted the gravity of the situation) looks like outtakes from 300, and it’s just too much. What I found funny was that despite how epic this flick wants to be, when compared to other recent CGI flicks (see: anything done by Pixar recently) it just looks sorta cheap. This is the only animated flick I can think of where even the CGI New York City looks like Toronto.
The problem with this busyness? Character gets the shaft. Compared to the cartoons, the Turtles are woefully lacking in personality. Leonardo and Raphael get the most significant screentime, and they’re the two least interesting ones. Leo’s your cut-rate angst-y leader, and Raph’s the hothead nipping at his heels. How original. Meanwhile, Donatello has almost no personality (and nothing to do), and though this flick’s Michelangelo is the closest to the loveable goofball from the show, he doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting, plotly-speaking. I think Casey Jones and April O’Neil get more facetime, and I’m sorry, but I could give a shit about their relationship troubles. I want more Turtle Power, goddammit!
No, this Turtle flick is for your kids (or, you’re my age and have half a brain, your little cousins and such). And truth be told, seen through that filter, it’s not half bad. It’s short, it’s loud (without being too scary or violent), a lot happens on screen at all times, and it does have some nice things to say about teamwork and honor. The big Raphael/Leonardo fight is pretty exciting, as well. There’s nothing offensive here for a kid to see, which is admirable, I guess. It’s definitely worth renting for them when all the copies of Millions or Time Bandits are taken out at Blockbuster.
But us big kids? We’re gonna need a little bit more.
The animation may look cheap, but the disc looks sharp as all get-up. I think the sound comes off even better—it’s got to handle the chaos of the fight scenes and the bombast of the kiddie-alt-rock soundtrack, both of which it does admirably. The box art is fine; it Dutch angles the Turtles in action, but it promises a whole lot more fun than the movie actually provides.
I liked the special features more than the flick. The commentary’s very interesting; I think director Kevin Munroe took the wrong approach in his adaptation, but his reasonings are interesting, and he provides good info into this rebooting of the Turtles franchise. The deleted stuff was not spectacular—a useless little Splinter scene, an exposition-heavy opener, and a trite April and Casey ending—but Munroe’s commentary on each was highly appreciated. I dug the side-by-side comparisons too, especially when we got to look at the rougher CGI work done. The disc finishes off with a healthy amount of interviews, and only the Patrick Stewart ones come off as particularly silly—after this and Star Trek: Nemesis, he’s lost the ability to discern between legit “mythology” and “franchise-building.”
Though I’m not wild about the flick, I think its target audience (kids) will eat it up. The disc looks and sounds great, and the features are all pretty informative. It’s not my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but then again: what is?