Spectacular, fast paced, and uneven throughout, the latest outing for the Ninja Turtles is a wonderfully realized animated adventure that strives to appeal to all fans of the early ‘90s pop-culture icons. Some rough plot points, rather generic villains, and a direct focus on only two of the Turtles are its downfall. However, there’s enough meat here to make this new vision a solid entry for the franchise.
It’s immediately apparent that this is a stunning film to look at. Animation studio Imagi has brilliantly crafted this TMNT film to mix the original comic-book stylings and a more familiar lighter toned cartoon. The result is a set of fluid moving turtles, whose acrobatic set is a joy to watch.
The story is a disappointment, as the film focuses on rather generic monsters that supposedly walked the Earth for 3,000 years without anyone noticing them in the middle of New York. Alternate dimensions and cheap monsters were a trademark of the early cartoon series, and there’s barely a true villain for the film to focus on. Granted, it’s nice to see something else other than trademark nemesis Shredder, but this new set of foes doesn’t make much of an impact.
TMNT is not a film about fighting evil though. Its focus is on brotherhood, and the Turtles struggle to find a reason for their existence without anyone threatening their home since the defeat of the Foot Clan. Raphael and Leonardo lead the film for the majority of the running time, leaving Donatello and Michelangelo to take background roles to the growing distance between their brothers.
This does lead to one of the most memorable and spectacular animated sequences in all of animated films. Raph and Leo clash in a rooftop battle in a massive downpour that is simply unmatched in visual splendor. It’s also an emotional sequence, harkening back to the first (and darker) Turtles effort in 1990.
Countless references to the entire series of films are prevalent. Certain shots are direct lifts in cartoon form, dialogue spoken word for word, and visual cues inserted to provide a stronger link. This becomes an issue for the story, as this is apparently attempting to link a prior adventure, though which is never specified. If this is a sequel to the film series, April O’Neal has changed her career and become a ninja. If this isn’t a sequel, then countless unanswered questions remain.
For kids, this is a dark film, set almost entirely at night. Certain plot subjects may be lost on them, and opening is definitely a lot for the under-10 audience. Immortality, resurrection, planet alignment, and the eventual resolution are definitely confusing. Adult fans that grew up with the characters will find this wider reaching, just generic.
At a brisk 90 minutes, this is a great family film, even though the youngest may need some help to get them through. It’s more than worthy to bear the Turtles name, and the set up for a sequel leaves the audience waiting for more. TMNT is sharp and energetic, if not poorly put together at times.
This is a stunning, crisp DVD transfer, ranking up there with the best the format has to offer. Colors are brilliant when the film is going through its lighthearted moments. Black levels are stunning during the nighttime moments. It’s easy to appreciate the amount of detail in the environments, and compression stays out of the picture.
This standard 5.1 disc uses its audio impact beautifully. Surround use is constant, both subtle and forceful. The same goes for a powerful bass track. Michelangelo’s skateboarding sequence is one of the best examples in the film, with a flawlessly recreated echo and immersive surround work.
A director’s commentary with Kevin Munroe focuses on the animation process and little touches the audience might miss. There’s plenty of talk on deleted scenes as well.
Numerous deleted scenes (including an alternate opening and fleshed-out ending) fill the special features menu separately instead of being contained in their own section. They’re in various forms of completion and sound great. Oddly, there’s no option to view them without a Munroe offering a commentary over them. He discusses the dialogue, and you can’t even hear it.
Monsters Come Alive is a storyboard comparison from one of the monster attacks, and again, has full commentary with no option to view the piece with it turned off. Donny’s Digital Data Files discusses the animation process in a brief two-minute piece. TMNT: Voice Talent is, obviously, a look at the actors taking on the roles and their feelings on the characters. At five minutes, there’s not much to see. Finally, an internet reel is a teaser trailer narrated by Laurence Fishburne.
Coming on a double-sided disc, the full screen side is truly a downer. It looks like a true hack job, ruining many memorable moments to the point of making things unwatchable. If you’re still holding out on widescreen, do a quick comparison here to convince yourself of the benefits.