TMNT is a disappointing return for what was once at the apex of pop culture hysteria. The brothers have all been broken down into caricatures of themselves and are no longer funny or appealing.
Let me start by confessing that from the age of eight to the age of 14, I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fanatic. For years, I watched reruns of the cartoon every morning before school. I was there every time the actress playing April O'Neil changed. The arcade games always kicked more ass than Mortal Kombat, and the action figures were an ode to simplicity in toy making. With such a strong history and affinity for world's most fearsome fighting team, it is with great sadness that I say TMNT is nowhere near as cowabungalicious as its predecessors.
The movie starts after Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) has been sent by Master Splinter (Mako, in his last role) to South America to train. While Leo is gone, the other brothers must find ways to occupy their time off. Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) and Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) take day jobs while Raphael (Nolan North) has continued to protect New York City as his alter ego, Night Watcher.
Leonardo returns to the city and his family, only to find that a batch of giant, evil creatures not of this world have started terrorizing the city. The Foot, under the command of their new leader Karai (Ziyi Zhang) has begun trying to capture the creatures. The Clan is now hired muscle for billionaire Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) who has a vested interest in seeing all of the creatures locked up.
Here's the good: the CGI is excellent and really adds to the excitement of the movie. Writer and director Kevin Munroe, a former video game creator, has utilized his experiences to create for the audience a whole new world for the Turtles, making the action sequences feel like a Playstation game on a giant screen. The animation also takes on a style similar to anime several times, adding to the Japanese influence of the Turtles mythology.
The bad: the plot is way too complex and involved for the age group the movie is aimed at, namely 6-10 year olds. The movie opens with a narrator (Laurence Fishburne) telling the story of a warrior king who lived 3000 years ago. This back story is incredibly intricate for this age group, making it hard for most to make the connection with the rest of the movie. There are also some strange character choices. Badass favorite Casey Jones (Chris Evans) has been reduced to a one-liner doofus, neither intimidating nor dangerous, and April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is no longer a journalist, but deals in rare collectibles.
TMNT is a disappointing return for what was once at the apex of pop culture hysteria. The brothers have all been broken down into caricatures of themselves and are no longer funny or appealing. Raphael and Leonardo have the same old fraternal rift, but there's nothing new to watch. Worst of all, Michelangelo is a watered-down version of his party dude self. The brothers of TMNT may still love being turtles, but I just love that the movie only has a 90-minute run time. | Matthew F. Newlin