The fads of the eighties are back with a vengeance this year with Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both returning to the big screen, and rumour has it GI Joe and He-Man may also return to the spotlight. The Turtles struck first with TMNT, and I was there to witness the carnage. And watch the movie. I mentioned in an earlier post about how the old turtles cartoon stank like damp garbage. Fortunately, this latest incarnation is way better.
TMNT is a CGI animated kids film that adult fans of the original can enjoy (I'm not convinced newbies will give a damn). It picks up the Turtle saga in a time when the evil Shredder has been vanquished. Leonardo has been sent off somewhere into the jungles of South America to improve his leadership skills, and the turtle team has fallen apart in his absence, with Raphael taking on the mantle of a vigilante while Donatello and Michelangelo work demeaning day jobs. The team are soon re-united with Leonardo and forced to take on a pack of mythical beasts who are being brought together by an immortal villain and his stone warriors to perform a ritual of sorts that can only happen when the stars are aligned in a certain way etc... Add to that derivative storyline a more compelling one about the animosity between Leonardo and Raphael and how the Turtles struggle to function as a unit, the involvement of the evil Foot Clan, April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and Splinter and the end result is a movie that meets Turtle expectations. Cowabunga, dude!
While the script is uninspired, the story fairly derivative, and the humour hit and miss, TMNT still works as a light piece of entertainment. The voice acting is pretty good, with some star power courtesy of Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans, Laurence Fishburne, and Zhang Ziyi. The best selling points of the film (besides the appeal of the brand, I suppose) are the animation and the action sequences. The animation is at times quite stunning, and overall is consistently good throughout and full of detail and character. The action sequences are also very good - energetic and larger than life (well, they'd have to be when they feature giant mutant turtles), they make full use of the liberties offered by the medium. The best of these is the battle between Raphael and Leonardo, who come to blows when they fail to resolve their differences amicably.
It's a fun film that's mostly forgettable, but registers enough to make me willing to see the inevitable sequel. I only hope they actually give some screentime for Michelangelo and Donatello (the geek!) in the sequel; the two of them barely make a contribution in this one.