Writer: Pairamaporn Buranakol Writer Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I, II & III", "Surf Ninjas"
I remember growing up with the Ninja Turtles in the '80s and the early '90s. Well, I didn't have the Ninja Turtle backpack, or convinced my parents to get me the Ninja Turtle lunchbox, but I knew each one of the Turtle brothers by their bandanna colour, and knew every punch line to their jokes. I figured that if they could live on pizza, so could I. Thankfully, we all grew up at some stage; and that's what director Kevin Munroe's animated version of the Ninja Turtles has shown.
No longer a B-grade action film, with stuffed oversized puppets as the Ninja Turtles from the past three Turtle movies, the 2007 animated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" - or as it is fondly called, "TMNT" - has brought a somewhat darker look to the franchise. Reviving the original look of the comic series when it first exploded onto the scene, Munroe may have done some small justice to the film for all Turtle fans out there, but not completely.
It has been more than a year since the Turtles defeated Shredder in the second film ("The Secret of the Ooze"). We discover that Leonardo (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) has been training in Central America, hoping to become a better leader to his band of Turtle brothers. The rest of the Turtles are in New York, and have settled into a somewhat routine lifestyle, no longer functioning as a team like they used to. Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) runs an IT support helpline from their home and Michaelangelo (Mikey Kelley) performs as "Cowabunga Carl" a masked turtle mascot, at children's parties. To them, Raphael (Nolan North) is the one who doesn't pull his weight at the home, sleeping all day while they bring in the money. However, unknown to them, he moonlights as the Nightwatcher, a masked vigilante who cleans up the streets at night, keeping crooks at bay. The only other person who knows of the Nightwatcher's real identity is their friend, Casey Jones (Chris Evans), and Casey wants to be Raphael's crime-fighting sidekick.
Ex-reporter April (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who is now an archaeologist, urges Leonardo to return to the city to unite his brothers. Back home, however, he finds Raphael disobeying his orders to avoid fighting in the city, and questioning his leadership skills - citing himself to be the better leader while Leonardo was away. Raphael's quick temper costs them dearly as they find themselves pit against strange monsters and mysterious stone warriors that disappear into the night.
The antagonist isn't Shredder this time around (he was killed in the second live-action movie), but tech-industrialist Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), who is also a collector of antique artifacts and statues. The Foot Clan Ninjas who were once loyal to the Turtles' arch-enemy, Shredder, are now working for Winters under their leader, Karai (Zhang Ziyi). Winters has brought to life the legendary Stone Generals, which ancient myths depicted them as real generals from another dimension, who were turned into stone when their leader opened the portal to a new world to achieve immortality.
During this supposed encounter, 13 monsters were released into the new world along with the Generals and their leader. It is only when the nine planets in the solar system are aligned that the portal be re-opened for them to return to their own dimension.
Together with their sensei
, Master Splinter (the late Mako Iwamatsu), the brothers are forced to put aside their differences and work together to save the world from destruction.
The selection of the voice actors of the supporting characters leaves much to be desired. Although hearing Laurence Fishburne ("The Matrix") as the narrator and Patrick Stewart ("X-Men") voicing for Winters would be a huge thrill for fans. However, Karai, which Zhang Ziyi voices, ends up sounding like a bad version of a geisha, instead of doing justice to the character's original dangerous and deadly personality.
The film lacks the kind of grittiness needed for the growned-up fans. It has been toned down immensely to appeal to the little kids - seemingly a way to make money off this franchise. The first thing we notice is that the graphics are half-decent and nothing fantastic. 3-D animation has come a long way since the original live-action films, yet the feel of the animated feature seems unfinished and unrealistic. A closer look at the human characters in the movie will remind you of Disney's "The Incredibles". A second look at the monsters brings to mind "Monsters, Inc.". These aren't evil, frothing creatures set to destroy the world. These are just a bunch of fluffy toys for the little kids - and it's hard to picture the Turtles laying their punches and kicks at them.
The music is something to look forward to. Instead of the all-too-familiar song from the animated series, we have a selection of rock, hip-hop and metallic songs, such as the Jet's Rip It Up and Gym Class Heroes' Shell Shock, the latter played in the closing credits of the movie.
One of the most anticipated fight scenes in Turtle history sticks in mind, and fans would not be disappointed with this. No spoilers here, but you'll definitely feel the thrill watching Raphael pitted against Leonardo in a showdown. This is something that couldn't be pulled off in the older movies, and is definitely worth the wait all these years. The camerawork is smooth, enhancing the fight sequences.
However, there is a lack of character development and involvement in the plot. Donatello and Michaelangelo are used as a comic relief. Although that was how they used to be portrayed in the live-action movies, it would have been better to step away from that and bring these two brothers out instead of sticking them in the background. In the animated film, Michaelangelo becomes the idiot, and Donatello is portrayed as a wimp.
The film is peppered with the most cliched quotes on family unity and brotherhood from Master Splinter, and the plot is at most, mediocre. At the end of the day, "TMNT" is more of a fan film than a film for the critical movie-goer. It's like taking a short trip down memory lane again, except that this ride has more steel and smooth curves. You'll always be fond of the older one.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008