Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Are Back And Rockin' The House!
The Turtles have been around in one incarnation or another for more than a generation now. They started out as a black-and-white comic by Eastman and Laird, who have gone on to other things but have never grown beyond this one HUGE splash they made in comics and kids cartoons.
The original Turtles weren't for kids. The action in the comics was gritty and bloody. They originally didn't sell well. In their first incarnation, they were like a parody of the white-hot X-Men at the time.
Then someone out in television production land looked at the idea and thought the Turtles would be an excellent addition to the kids market that the X-Men cartoons had opened up. And we soon had Turtles everywhere. Cartoons, comics, movies, and action figures soon blossomed everywhere.
Now we have TMNT, which is most likely the relaunch of the movie franchise. Thankfully we're not treated to a rehash of Turtle history and the origin story. Unless you've been living in some far-off shell, you know the story of the four turtles and the rat that were exposed to radioactive slime and became Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Master Splinter. April O'Neil and Casey Jones are also up to bat in this one (sorry, I couldn't resist).
The plot centers around a billionaire CEO named Max Winters who's been alive for 3000 years thanks to a spell that introduced 13 monsters into the world. The planets only line up in a certain way every 3000 years to provide the energy to open a doorway to another world (you'd think they'd find a better power source!). Winters also had four generals who served him that were turned to stone. They've recently returned to life and are now looking for the 13 monsters to power up the sorcerous spell again. Mix in the Foot Clan who are working for Winters and you've got a return to greatness.
The characterizations for the Turtles, Splinter, April O'Neil (voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller), and Casey Jones are spot-on. April comes across a little to Tomb Raiderish for me, but it works overall.
However, Leonardo has been gone from the group for the last year and doesn't really want to return. When he does, it's just in time and there's a world to save and a family to reclaim.
TMNT is beautifully rendered in computer generated artwork. Although it does admittedly look like a cartoon and you're never really pulled into the this-is-real mindset even the three live-action movies of the 1980s achieved to a somewhat limited dgeree, the world is big and vibrant. The musical score compliments the action and the moods really well. The fight between Raphael and one of the demons to the rollicking licks of "Black Betty" have to be seen to be believed.
My nine-year-old was in heaven. There were plenty of funny bits, actions as well as one-liners, that kept him in stitches. Even though some of the movie is predicatable for the adult mind, I still had a blast and found myself chuckling along with my kid. Even my 17-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter, who I thought would never want to see this movie, had a great time when they decided to join us.
The martial arts moves, the mad dashes across the rooftops, and the larger-than-life creatures in combat on the screen looked terrific. You're not going to get this kind of experience in live-action, and the cartoons simply don't have this kind of budget for CGI.
The movie treks along familiar themes and doesn't really go anywhere new, but it is a fantastic treatment of material that has become part of a generation's heritage. Hopefully there will be more new movies. We'll be looking forward to them.