Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Way to keep the kids interested in a franchise that presumably died out entirely around 1995. Reports of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ death have been greatly exaggerated.

            Paying closer homage to the original Eastman/Laird comics than to the live-action early-‘90s films or any of the television incarnations, “TMNT” is a darker, grittier, more (cartoon) violent version of the martial artist reptiles than we (who are familiar with the turtles) are used to. Rather than be a goofy, ultra-marketed piece of fluff, “TMNT” goes so far as to be a character clash between Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor), the stalwart leader of the eponymous Turtles, and the feisty rebel, Raphael (Nolan North). The animation is impressive, and the screenplay wisely spends most of its time focusing on the two interesting turtles, rather than a) forcing into the prcedings the jokey surfer dude Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) and the hopeless techie dweeb Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) and b) dwelling too much on the overly complicated story of ancient stone warriors and monsters and stuff.


            The story: centuries ago, a power-hungry warrior opened a magical porthole to Another Realm. The porthole granted him immortality, but turned the rest of his cadre into stone, and also released a dozen giant monsters. Fast-forward to the present day: The ancient warrior is now Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) and he is trying to open the porthole again in order to undo the curse of immortality, recapture the beasties and trurn his stony friends back to flesh. He has enlisted the help of The Foot, a local ninja clan led by Karai (Zhang Ziyi). The Foot (no longer led by TMNT villain The Shredder) spends a lot of time wrangling the monsters. Where the monsters have been hiding out for the past couple hundred years is never really made clear, but they start running amok just in time for the movie.


            The turtles, meanwhile, are no longer a team. Leonardo has been hiding in the jungles of South America learning leadership skills (which seems like an odd way to go about it). Raphael has turned vigilante, taking to the streets at night in a superhero mask. Michelangelo has been working birthday parties, and Donatello is that annoyed guy you call to help with your computer. April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is now living with shiftless layabout Casey Jones (Chris Evans), and is no longer a mild-mannered reporter but a high-powered assistant to Winters and part-time ninja. Why does April get to suddenly be a ninja? So she can fight at the end of the movie with everyone else, of course.


            April retrieves Leonardo from the jungle, and the turtles have to learn to be a team again. Raphael resent Leonardo and vice versa. Their master, the mutant rat Splinter (Mako in one of his last roles) has many proverbs and admonitions for the bickering boys, but it’s not long before they get caught up in all that monster and ancient porthole rigmarole.

             A lot of story in not a lot of movie (86 minutes), I know, but it’s pretty easy to follow, kind of. The film, like I said, has the fortune of being about the two interesting turtles, and director Kevin Munroe uses them well. There’s also a spectacular rooftop-in-the-rain fight between the two that surpasses a lot of the action sequences I’ve seen in many recent films. Like “Batman Begins” or “Spider-Man 2,” “TMNT” takes a previously trifling mythology and finally takes it seriously. It’s still a little goofy (it is about mutant ninja turtles, after all) and a little ADD-addled, but it’s not the junk that it could have been.

Published in: on June 15, 2007 at 10:26 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Nice post, bookmark it

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