Friday, March 30, 2007

Heroes on a Half Shell, Indeed

Jon and I caught TMNT this week, and though I’m a week late (I apologize for nothing!) I thought I’d post my thoughts.

First off, I went into the movie with low expectations. I read the comic before ever seeing the cheesy cartoon. While the comic was intended as a satire of then-popular teenage super hero comics, it was done in a seriously adult manner. Shredder gets his in the first issue. The cartoon was somewhat of a disappointment, but still entertaining in some ways. When the first movie came out, it brought back memories of the original gritty black and white. Even Splinter had the right origin story (pet rat mutated by the ooze, not a martial arts master mutated into a rat like in the cartoon.)

I was naturally disappointed by the second and third installments of the franchise, since they just upped the cheese factor to cartoon levels. When I found out this latest installment, TMNT, was to be a sequel, I was wary. Still, the trailers showed off some beautiful animation and triggered the same old nostalgia. Armed with the knowledge that the actual movie would probably suck, Jon and I caught the matinee on Tuesday.

It did not suck. It did, in fact, rock to some degree. The animation was even better than in the trailer. There was one sequence in particular on the rooftops in the rain that blew me away. So I picked myself up off the soda-stained floor and enjoyed the rest of the movie. Some of the art style’s quirks, like April’s extreme skinniness (though she did look hot in ninja gear, rawr,) and Max Winter’s extreme chinniness (did his chin continue growing all 3000 years of his life?) were a little distracting, (much like the structure of this sentence,) none of them were deal-breakers.

The cast was filled with uninspired voice over artist defaults, like that one voice you hear in every single WB/Disney animation project, Kevin Michael Richardson. You would recognize the voice if you heard it. However, the star talents, Sarah Michelle Gellar as April, Patrick Stewart as Max Winter, Mako as Splinter, and Ziyi Zhang as karai, with a little Laurence Fishburne action in the narration, made it all better. The turtles were voiced well, I didn’t recognize any of the voices or their names, which in this case was a good thing.

The story was as good as it should have been. How good can you expect a plot involving turtles transformed into pizza-loving ninja masters to be? I got the impression that the plot was merely a backdrop to tell the story of one family’s reconciliation and another’s disintegration. Nothing too cerebral, though. It was also backdrop to some sweet ninja turtle fights. Some of the twists and turns the movie takes to get to the resolution were good as well. Others broadcast the villains intent a little too loudly, making one particular twist a little too obvious by the time it came.

I give TMNT three and a half out of four half shells in a scale that I just made up. If your thing is seeing ninja turtles kick monsters, Foot Clan, and each other’s heads in a beautifully rendered urban roofscape, then check it out. If not, then I just wasted the last few minutes of your time. BWAH HAH HAH!