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HD DVD Review: TMNT

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Note: This is a second, more critical look at the film. For initial impressions, see this review.

When it comes to TMNT, its success will be measured by how well it can stand up to repeat viewings. For fans of the original 1990 live action feature, it’s undoubtedly a movie that comes close to capturing the comic while keeping the lighter tone of the cartoon. TMNT has trouble, stuck with trying to explain connections to prior feature length adaptations while simultaneously crafting its own style. This is why TMNT won’t have the lasting impact.

It must be said that TMNT is hardly a bad film. It’s more than acceptable, capturing the essence of each Turtle and their personalities. Animation is spectacular, and a rooftop, rain-drenched fight between Raphael and Leonardo is a masterpiece of the format. It should be held in high regard amongst those in the animation community for its achievements.

While it continues the personalities built over the course of three movies, countless comics, and 10 seasons worth of a TV series, it fails to bridge the gap between the formats. Notes, in-jokes, and dialogue reference these earlier efforts without explaining why everything has changed over the course of 15 years since the last theatrical release.

There are no references to April being a reporter. True to the comics, she has become a fighter able to hold her own when in combat. It’s a complete turn-around from the helpless April seen previously. Other characters retain their traits, including Casey Jones as a hard-edged vigilante, further confusing the canon.

The Turtles retain their proper personalities, and the focus is clearly on Raphael and Leonardo. Michaelangelo and Donatello are little more than background characters or comic relief. It’s an odd choice on the part of the writers, given the focus on team and brotherhood.

As for the core story arc, this proves disinteresting. Monsters roam the streets, and this leads to a few decent fight sequences if nothing else. The villain doesn’t present a significant threat like the Shredder of old, and the generic monsters are then likewise a lost cause. The interaction between the brothers as they try and put things back together would make for far more interesting cinema, but it’s understandable that kids would never touch the toy line if they didn’t have something to hold their interest.

For all of its stunning technical artistry, there’s still that special “something” about the animatronic live action suits designed by the Jim Henson Creature Shop that could never be duplicated here. This is not a complaint against the CG artists who have truly created fantastic designs for the characters, but more of a dissection of the format. TMNT couldn’t have been in live action, and yet you have to consider if the unlimited options are necessarily a benefit.

It’s logical that this digital transfer will be phenomenal to view, and it lives up to that expectation. It’s a presentation such as this that actually enhances the viewing experience, letting the viewer truly appreciate the texture work on the characters. Sharpness is amazing, ranking high and on par with other showcase discs like Happy Feet. Compression is unseen, and the clarity in long shots is a definite improvement over the SD DVD edition.

Dolby True HD leads the way for audio enthusiasts. Filled with brilliant highs and subtle lows, TMNT is an audio tour de force. Bass is rich and room filling. The surrounds are brilliantly mixed with the front channels to create the immersive experience necessary to involve you in the action. The soundtrack is wonderful alongside the fight scenes, with credit due to both the sound engineers and the hi-def audio format.

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 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.

If this does become its own franchise, there is a desperate need to fill in the blanks. The Turtles themselves are fine, and they’re now fully established in terms of their personalities. A prequel would be wonderful, picking up after the third film (though while ignoring it as much as possible) dealing with the Turtles fight to keep the city clean from the remaining Shredder loyalists, or better yet, remaining mutants.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.