Saturday, October 18, 2014

TMNT (2007)

Last weekend I got to be the cool uncle and watch my nephew for the night. Besides playing a ton of Minecraft on Xbox 360 with the five year old, I decided to throw in an animated movie for the little guy. I only own a handful of them, and well, I already covered Batman: Mask of the Phantasm last month, and there is no way I am going to let him watch South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, so that left us with 2007's CG animated TMNT(trailer) by default, and luckily it is in the backlog box!

I get a lot of odd looks from friends and peers when I tell them I do not own or care to go out of my way to watch the latest Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks animated films. The handful of those I have seen after my childhood years are well crafted pieces of cinema, but usually they do not scream 'must see' at me and only seem appropriate to watch at outings with the family. I am a huge fan of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that dominated the late 80s and early 90s. That and GI Joe were probably the first two cartoons I remember getting addicted to. I know there were several iterations of the cartoon since on various networks, and have seen a few episodes of the various incarnations, including a couple episodes of the current CG series on Nickelodeon that seemed like a perfect evolution of the cartoon for a new generation of kids.

Flashback to 2007, and not earlier this year with the new live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that was very disappointing, and if not for Will Arnette's superb performance, it would have been an outright catastrophe! Back on track, I have no idea where 2007's TMNT takes place in the official canon of television shows and whatnot, but there are a few subtle nods to the old live action trilogy of films in the early 90s. It also seems to have the same spirit of the classic Saturday morning cartoon, and it makes reference to Shredder no longer being around.

In TMNT, the turtles are no longer the feared group they once were, for whatever reason Splinter (Mako Iwamatsu) sent the leader of the group Leonardo off to Central America on a spirit quest of sorts in order to become a better leader. April 'O Neil (Sarah Michelle Geller) tracks him down over a year later to tell him the rest of the turtles have fallen apart without him. Splinter put a ban on their crime fighting ways, so Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) and Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) got day jobs doing birthday parties and IT support, respectively. Raphael (Nolan North), ever the rebel, takes up the vigilante moniker of 'The Nightwatcher' and finds his own ways to stop crime until Leo returns to reunite the group.

Naturally, the turtles got to have a antagonist, and this time a man cursed with immortality (Patrick Stewart) is trying to recapture 13 monsters he unwillingly unleashed into the wild. His plan to do so backfires, throw the foot clan into the mix and you got a party the turtles need to stop. Sometimes the plot does get a bit much to follow, even with this being a kids film because of a lot of constant changing alliances. That is the only real hang up I have with TMNT. I do like the new portrayal of April O' Neil and Casey Jones (Chris Evans) being an item and both now participating in kicking butt with the turtles in the final act's big showdown sequence. The CG looks fantastic, and holds up nicely seven years later. It looks very similar to how the animated series is on Nickelodeon, so if you are familiar with that animated series you will be right at home with TMNT. I own the DVD of this, so I can only imagine how awesome the BluRay looks.

Upon further research on the ever reliable Wikipedia, series co-creator Peter Laird assisted in production of the film and stated that this film existed in its own universe separate from past media endeavors, but gave it his endorsement as a spiritual successor to the aforementioned animated series and films. And that is what I constantly thought as I watched this too, as it seemed to treat the cartoons I grew up with from the 80s and early 90s with respect and this is how the Ninja Turtles would have evolved into today. Watching it again, I am relieved that director Kevin Munroe did not go with so many cheap and easy laughs like the new Ninja Turtles film from earlier this year. TMNT did not come up with the crap that Ninja Turtles did such as countless terrible jokes and puns, atrocious product placement, and a horrible origin story of a child April 'O Neil rescuing the turtles from a lab fire and dropping them off into a sewer for refuge where Splinter taught them karate from a random how to learn karate manual he found lying around in the sewers.

There is a decent collection of extra features on the DVD release. There are a ton of deleted and alternate scenes, with commentary from Kevin Munroe. Some of the scenes vary in quality from early animated storyboards to cinema quality CG, and Munroe justifies each cut made. Munroe also has a commentary by his lonesome, and I listened to the first half hour of it and he sounds very grateful for the opportunity to do the franchise justice. He provides pretty good insight, but it would have been awesome if Laird or another cast or crew member would have joined him to bounce off of. I will also give Warner Bros. props as this being the first and only DVD I can recall to offer captions for the commentary itself, which I took advantage of as sometimes the audio levels in some commentaries occasionally blend together with the film's audio track.

Both the 2007 and 2014 turtles movies did well at the box office, both also did not perform well on Rotten Tomatoes with TMNT getting the nudging win at 34% compared to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sitting with 22%. If you want to spit in the face of the canon of the Ninja Turtles and consume an all around terrible film while you are at it, then by all means rush out and see Michael Bay's version of it instead. I will admit TMNT is not a grand epic Ninja Turtles film by any means, but this is far better than a 34% aggregate, and it is still enjoyable today and I had a blast watching it again with my nephew.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

21 Jump Street
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Field of Dreams
The Fighter
Good Will Hunting
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Veronica Mars

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