Thursday, July 24, 2014

Half-Shell Retrospective: TMNT (2007)

Director: Kevin Munroe
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans, Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang, Mako, Kevin Michael Richardson, Kevin Smith and narration by Laurence Fishburne

This night just keeps getting better.

The fact that I had to dig for a quote for this movie and that's the best I could come up with for a one-liner should tell you how far along in terms of maturity this series went in 14 years.  This 4th Turtle film first had its roots in 2000 when a full CGI feature was announced with director John Woo.  That fell apart at some point and this film resurrected the idea around 2005 with director Kevin Munroe.  This was his first foray from art into directing.  His only other film credit would come after this with the critically reviled and financially devastating Dylan Dog: The Edge Of Night.  Let's just keep it to this Turtle movie when talking about good 'ol Kev, shall we? 
What I like about this Turtle film is that it could stand on its own or if you really want, you could finaggle it to be the 4th film to the first 3 live action movies.  While both Kevin Eastman and Kevin Munroe champion this as its own thing and a fresh start, I kind of wonder if that's completely true.  There are hints, trinkets, things that seem like call backs and plenty of easter eggs in this movie that make me believe it truly is the fourth film.  If it isn't, then I mean c'mon, when we see the Shredder's helmet at the end of the movie, why the hell is it in almost exact detail the same as the mask from the first two movies.  If you want to be your own, then make a more distinct helmet that looks nothing like that mask that will remind people.  Anywho, no matter, this film does feel like a good fresh start or restart. 
The story very much takes the sort of Watchmen-style approach where are our heroes have drifted apart and don't really fight crime anymore.  They do their own thing and the times of partoling the streets of New York seem to be over.  Except for Raphael who very much takes on the Roarshach role in the film.  April has also been updated as an artifact collector, which you could say was hinted at in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, so it feels a progression.  Once again, I don't know why there's so much to tie this film to the original series if you're wanting to separate yourself from it.  The foot clan also reappear with what seems to be a new leader in  Karai (a character adapted from the comics).  There's a whole new villain and ancient evil that takes full advantage of this being a completely CGI animated film.
I really like the look of this film a lot.  The creators intended to make it look like the pages of a comic book come to life and that's exactly what we're given here.  I find it funny that New York seems pretty empty most of the movie, but oh well.  The detail and life-like appearance are that of a real cartoon.  And the action is pretty awesome.  The Turtles get in some good fights and the camera angles they cut back and forth from and use are pretty complimentary.  Creatures and characters are all designed with plenty of creativity and not worried about "grounding it in reality" so it comes of off as a very fun movie with its big scale creatures and action.
While I have fun with this film, its not in that goofy Turtle senese.  Gone are all the silly one-liners and goofy gag scenes that always were out of place in the original trilogy.  While its fully animated, this is probably the opposite of getting Secret Of The Ooze, where the tone and dialogue is more appealing to the adults than it is the kids this time.  Luckily there's a sense of fun with the animation and plenty of monsters and action to keep the kids entertained, but in terms of fun with the dialogue, I'm not sure this would be the kiddos favorite as the Turtles aren't constantly doing crazy things.  It was at the discretion of its creators though as they wanted a more serious approach.
TMNT was a moderate hit domestically, and I thought we might get more along the lines of this film, but apparenlty this "one-off" was it.  When I first saw it, I enjoyed it and then kinda moved on.  I appreciated it after the third one and felt it was a good movie.  It just wasn't a spectacular one.  And it wasn't one that came screaming out of the gates that the Turtles were back.  It was just this solid movie that came and went.  Maybe Warner Bros realized that and decided to just stop while they were ahead.  And it'd just be a few years later and the Turtles would return to television for another series. 
And now we're entering an honest to god, fresh and clean reboot.  What are my expectations?  I dunno, I don't think it looks as horrible as some seem to think it does.  And I really think some people need realize before going in that the characters aren't called the Adult Mutant Ninja Turtles, they're the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And they're teenagers in a sense that its 2014.  So, if their one liners are "WTF" its probably more ME than it is them because I'm 32 years old and they're teenagers.  I wouldn't get to worked up about that stuff.  Plus, the Turtles are goofballs that crack jokes and act like smart-alecs when doing kung fu, that's always been the one constant. 

NEXT TIME: We put the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on hold until the new film and move on to another retrospective that features teenagers with sweet moves and one-liners.  Two retros at the same time, I spoil you a-holes!

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