In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I am reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.
Some time after defeating the Shredder and their trip back in time to feudal Japan, the turtles have gone their separate ways: Leonardo is training in Central America to be a better leader, Michelangelo runs his own kids party company, Donatello works as an IT specialist, and Raphael fights crime as the vigilante Nightwatcher.
April O’Neil and Casey Jones are dating, and April has left her job as a news reporter to run her own consulting company. She’s been hired by Max Winters to track down four statues. As Leonardo returns, the turtles discover a cosmic event that happens every 3000 years, and Winters, the fifth general cursed to live forever, is trying to set things right.
After the disaster that was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, it would be fourteen years before another film was released. In that time, there were a few television programs with the turtles, but for the most part the franchise had faded from its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s. When I originally heard that they were making this movie back in 2007, I was highly skeptical.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film when it came out. Though it’s certainly not the greatest film of the franchise, it was a small step up from Turtles III. The switch to full CGI for this film works given the cost and return of using live action animatronics like the original films. However, the complete CGI use made this film feel more like a glorified TV episode, maybe a 3 or 4 episode mini series.
One of the things that made the original films great was the character interaction and snarky wit. This film missed that by a wide margin. If there was one thing Turtles III did better than TMNT, this was it. Some of the character interactions such as Casey and April in the Turtle Van seemed more fit for TV rather than a movie. I don’t want to call it too juvenile since that age and under are the target audience, but that balance of being juvenile and witty to older audiences just wasn’t there.
Plus most of the funny dialogue was given to Michelangelo and Donatello, a pair of comedians, but it could have been spread out with the rest of the cast. Splinter has a couple of funny lines, but overall it just didn’t stack up.
Mako voiced Splinter in this movie, which ended up being his last as he died before the film was completed. While it was nice to see him back in a more fatherly mentoring form instead of the useless semi-comedian he was in Turtles III, he seemed both dark and cold for most of the film. Perhaps this was another problem with the movie in general as a lot of superhero type films have gone the route of the darker, gritty tone (thank you Christopher Nolan). The turtles are competent ninjas, but they are fun at their core.
The turtles are moving forward with their lives. Having defeated the Shredder and keeping the city pretty safe, it makes sense for the turtles to be in a rut at this point. Unfortunately for the replacement villains, Winters and the four generals, run into the same problem Walker had in Turtles III: they’re not the Shredder.
Though I was initially impressed with this film, TMNT has lost some of its appeal for me in the sense that it seems more suited for TV than the big screen. The jokes are semi-funny at times, but nowhere near the original trilogy. I’d recommend this for Turtles diehards, and suggest going in with very low expectations.
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.