TMNT marks the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, only this time, instead of comic book, cartoon or live-action format, they are in CGI. Without the limitations of live action or the childish appearance of a standard cartoon, TMNT had the ability to be a kick-ass homage to the comic books I never read. It doesn't quite live up to the hype, but is still a refreshing change of pace.
To jump right into the problems, TMNT decided to do away with its most quintessential villain The Shredder and instead give us a convoluted and rather cheesy plot about an ancient warrior who achieved immortality at the price of the rest of his warriors getting turned to stone. He also accidentally unleashes 12 monsters upon the world. Thousands of years later, all of the monsters mysteriously show up in New York City on the eve of a configuration of plants and stars that will re-open a portal from which they came - a perfect chance to send them back to Hell, or bring more of their buddies to Earth.
The decision to go sci-fi on the story was probably to allow the visual effects team more opportunities to show off their skills, but from a storytelling point of view, it just wasn't the way to go. Unlike the first couple of live-action movies, which in my view were relatively gritty and realistic aside from the fact that the movies starred mutated turtles and a rat, the portal-to-another-world slant just offered up too many bright lights and visual fireworks. The ending is especially disappointing, as the movie fails to show the turtles in full kung-fu action and instead has a lot of flashing lights and so on and so forth.
On top of that, the visual effects are a big question mark. At times, the visual effects are stunning, especially during a sequence where two of the turtles fight each other in the rain. The textures are amazing, and the rain sequence especially looks like it could have been filmed in the real world. At the same time, a lot of the visuals really aren't up to par with the best of the best, which is fine except that the darker nature of the movie almost calls for it. There are times when the fight sequences just look a bit too much like a cartoon to take seriously, and when all of the special effects kick into high gear, the movie really starts to look like a kid's movie.
Despite my complaints, TMNT still has a lot to offer, including some good action scenes and some decent character development. The quarrels between the turtles don't always click, but the movie is clearly trying to be more than a simple kid's movie, and for that I give it respect. The depiction of New York City is refreshingly dark and slightly gritty, and serves as a good setting for the action scenes to follow. The film also lays the groundwork for a potentially good sequel, as long as the producers look at the criticisms of the first film (especially mine) and take those into account.
TMNT is recommended for turtles fan and the younger generation who like harmless action movies. It isn't without its flaws, but certainly is entertaining enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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