A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

TMNT (2007)

June 7, 2010


We don’t own the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early nineties – the ones with the great animatronic turtles created by the Jim Henson Workshop – so tonight we’re watching the computer animated movie from 2007. I’m pretty sure that this was intended to be a reboot for the Turtles franchise. There was bid media push to coincide with the theatrical release of this movie and of course videogame tie-ins. I’m not sure the franchise has been rebooted (I don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons any more, so for all I know there are new cartoons being broadcast now, but I don’t think so.) But it is a fun little movie, and maybe a little nostalgic as well.

At the start of the movie the turtles have gone their separate ways, somewhat like the start of Ghostbusters II (Indeed in what is probably a deliberate reference to Ghostbusters II Michelangelo has a job entertaining at childrens’ birthday parties.) Donatello is working on a phone in tech support line. Raphael is secretly the iron suited vigilante Nightwatcher. And Leonardo is away training to be a better leader in South America. So the movie has a sort of “getting the band back together” vibe for part of it. But that’s really only the b-plot. The A plot introduces a whole mess of new stuff to the Turtles universe.

The story goes like this: “Thousands of years ago…” there was a great leader fighting an unstoppable horde of foes. To defeat them he opens a dimensional portal – which has two unintended side effects. First it turns all his generals to stone. And second it unleashes thirteen monsters upon the world. Oh, and it makes the great leader immortal too. So three thousand years later in the present day the immortal guy has hired the Turtles’ old friend April to gather the ancient stone statues (his generals) and has hired the Foot Clan ninjas to help gather the thirteen monsters.

It might sound confusing in my summary there, but in the movie it’s very carefully laid out so that nobody gets lost. There’s a long opening monologue that lays out the events of three thousand years ago. Then in case you forgot that bit or went out to get popcorn or something, there’s a pointer scene about halfway through that goes over the same info again. The stone generals revolt, wanting to maintain their immortality, and try to trick Winter (the immortal leader) by substituting Leo for one of the thirteen monsters. And everything ends with a big climactic fight as the dimensional portal re-opens. Either the turtles win, banishing the monsters and stone generals to another plain of existence, or the stone generals win, releasing untold numbers of monsters on the earth and destroying all life as we know it. I’ll leave you in suspense as to which alternative comes to pass.

Overall it is a pretty simple movie, drawn in broad and simple strokes. Which is not surprising since it’s intended for the entertainment of a much younger audience than we. But what keeps it from being just another Saturday morning cartoon is the absolutely stellar animation. Not only is the animation in this movie very stylish (in particular the Turtles themselves have a lot of moments when their exaggerated poses and squinty eyes, with their masks flowing in the breeze behind them, look just like something out of the old black & white indie comic that is where they were truly born) but also there is a lot of technical wizardry as well. In particular there is a big fight scene between Don and Raph on a rooftop in the rain which involves some pretty impressive effects. And the very quick battle between the Turtles and the Foot Clan, although it has barely any screen time, is very cleverly put together with a single long sweeping, swooping, tracking shot. Of course in an animated film such a tracking shot is not so difficult because you can precisely dictate where every person is at every moment, but it must have been a challenge to storyboard an entire fight sequence that features a moment for each of the three Turtles in the battle as well as Splinter, Casey and April, all in one shot.

So, yeah, it’s extremely well animated, but fairly shallow childrens’ film. I might wish it were a little darker or involved some established characters from the comic (Kang, for example was never in any of the other three Turtles movies) but still I had fun seeing the Turtles in action again. Someday soon I’ll have to buy the first three movies so we can review those ones as well.

June 7, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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