Expertly balancing the turtles banter and exuberance against youth crime and murder, the first Ninja Turtles movie is one of my favourite films. The second and third entries became more and more childish whilst the appearance of the turtles themselves worsened.
A fully CGI fourth movie made for a change in direction after a 14 year gap. But is it a change for the better?
I’d not seen TMNT since its cinematic release back in 2007, but after spotting it for sale on a weekly shop my wife picked it up for me. She knows me well.
The first thing I noticed was the cast. It’s bloody impressive. Picard, Captain America and Buffy get top billing but even supporting roles are filled with plenty of actors you’ll recognise. Though none of them do a bad job I found it quite tricky to invest as I know their voices so well from their more famous roles. More a hindrance than helpful.
No such worries with the turtles however. Their voices may not be my personal favourites but they are all suitable and fit the character designs well. I would have liked bigger differences in the turtle’s heights and builds, though Mikey’s face in particular was amusingly expressive, and his wider, flatter face worked well.
The move to CGI has enabled the turtles to move far more fluidly, doing far more than they could in the live action films. The camera follows our heroes tightly as they somersault and spin their way across the New York skyline. Though animated films of this variety have come a long way I don’t think that this one ages that badly, with only the human characters giving away its age. The level of detail is great, with an impressive rooftop fight in the rain the technical highlight.
The problems come along when we get to the villains and the story.
It does take a while to get the story really moving. Starting off with the brothers apart and using their individual skill sets to get on in life, we could do with them getting back into the game a bit quicker. We all know the origin by now. There is the usual confrontation being Raphael and Leonardo (which I’m sure to disagree with people on) whilst Michaelangelo and Donatello get unfairly pushed to the back. It’s the obvious team/family dynamic to focus on, but we don’t need it so often. We’re hit over the head with the message of family, yet the film doesn’t make the best use of its time to show everyone equally.
In a world populated with mutated animals and ninjas, the villains (original creations not pulled from any other area of the franchise as far as I know) are surprisingly nonsensical. Their back story makes zero sense. A mix of mythology, magic and astronomy is clumsily bashed together. Younger viewers won’t be bothered by this, but for fans like myself who have grown up with these characters and their strong gallery of villains it’s a disappointing misstep that drags the films down.
If you don’t think about the glaring plot holes and just enjoy it, then TMNT makes for a decent little film. Whilst it balances light and dark decently it doesn’t include a compelling enough villain or a young Sam Rockwell. Or even Tatsu.