Sunday, March 24, 2013

This Month In... 2007: "TMNT"

It's not quite all that and a bag of chips, bra.


      The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the best example of the "You can make a good idea out of anything" style of filmmaking. With a title that always sounded like a writer picked four random words out of a hat and created a comic book series off of them, the success of the series is a surprise. Obviously the turtles are most known for their 90's animated cartoon series and line of action figures, but they also had three successful live-action films as well. Well, two successful films. Now, after 14 years without a theatrical outing, the turtles are back and ready to kick some shell. TMNT follows Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Raphael (Nolan North, Uncharted), Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield, My Cousin Vinny) and Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley, The Super Hero Squad Show), four teenage mutant turtle brothers, trained to be ninjas by mutated rat Splinter (Mako, Avatar: The Last Airbender), who have all gone there separate ways. However, when mysterious businessman Winters (Patrick Stewart, X-Men) threatens New York City, the turtles reunited with fellow crimefighters April (Sarah Michelle Geller, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Casey (Chris Evans, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) to stop an ancient evil.

Buy your action figure now.

      I haven't actually had that much exposure to the Turtles before now. I have seen some of the original TV episodes and I haven't seen the original films, even though I do own the trilogy of Blu-Ray. So, basically going into the films as an outsider, I'm not quite sure the film was really meant for me. The film boils down the turtles backstory into a minutes worth of narration. Overall, the film mostly seems to be playing as both for 10 year-old boys who thinks the idea of ninja turtles is awesome and the original, now nostalgic fans of the originals who have come to see more turtle action. For everyone else, though, the film isn't completely out there. The animation is usually very nice though every now and again a scene looks like it could have used a bit more touching up. The voice actors all do very good jobs and as such the characters, even though we are meant to know them mostly from the other films, are all immediately likable and fun to watch. The translates well with the film's action scenes, which are all done very well. The final climatic battle sees the turtles, Splinter, April and Casey fighting off an actual army of Foot Clan soldiers and is a scene you'd wish was a bit longer because of how awesome it is, even though it's ultimately hollow feeling.


      That said though, the characters and action still have to work around an unfortunately bad story. The reason the final climax is empty feeling is because Winters and his story of 13 ancient monsters never is given a chance to really flesh itself out, which is a complaint that can be lobbed at almost any part of this movie. The movie is the shortest in the Turtles series, clocking in at one hour and 27 minutes long and the film definitely feels like a lot of that runtime was cut out. The villain's plot never feels like it's all that dramatic or world-ending because it doesn't become what the film is "about" until the final 20 minutes of the film. Instead, most of the movie revolves around Leo and Raph's arguments after being apart for so long. The fighting feels rather one-sided, because Raph is never able to full flesh out his side of the story. The film never takes more than a first glance at the subject, despite it being a major of the film's story, and as a result, Raph comes off as a whiny brat. Worse still, the amount of time the film takes up telling their story leads to a subplot about April and Casey going largely nowhere, with that storyline's payoff being left in the "Alternate Ending" part of the DVD. Even worse than that though is Mikey and Donny, who are basically there because they have to be and never get anything to do in the entire film's runtime.

He has a stone to pick with you.
The Verdict

      If you are part of the audience that TMNT is gunning for, then I honestly do think you would like it. Fans of the series will probably enjoy the return to the movies and kids will love the cartoon action and humor. For everyone else, the film is largely harmless. The animation and voice acting are great. Combine that with cool action scenes and the likable characters and TMNT is a pleasant enough film to sit through. That said, the story is hugely underdeveloped with an intriguing villain being left to rush his evil plot through as the characters either deal with emotional problems that either are barely explored or never really resolved. Though it's not as bad as it is for some characters, who go largely unnoticed for the film's short runtime. TMNT is good harmless fun, but it doesn't live up to it's potential. TMNT gets 4 stars out of 6. Check back next week, as we meet the Kids of the Future. Whoa!

Bonus Trivia

- Keep an eye out as one of the final scenes in the movie takes place in Splinter's trophy room. The room contains several easter eggs from the other films.

- Originally, in the ending, Raphael was going to be killed in battle, only to be revived after using one of Winters's ancient artifacts. The filmmakers cut out the idea after they decided they didn't want to even "fake kill" one of the characters.

- Also, the resolution of April and Casey's relationship was supposed to be Casey proposing to April with April saying "Yes", however this too was cut out in order to keep the film's focus on the Turtles. This scene can be found on the DVD of the film.


  1. I only made it through a few minutes of this one. As a "Turtle" fan, it was somewhat painful. You should watch the first of the original live-action films. It's MUCH better.

    I will have to watch this one through soon, if only to write a review.

    1. Yeah, I heard that either TMNT fans really like this movie, or, like you, really hate this movie. Seeing as how I have the Blu-Rays, I'll finnally give them a watch later and say my thoughts. Thanks for the comment.