Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toppled the mighty Spartans in 300 at the box office, but does the latest “heroes in a half shell” installment really win the war at the multiplexes?
The target audience, young males, will definitely find some appealing action elements, but the meandering story lacks good humor – a staple in many of today’s animated features. Lots of loud fighting and posturing balanced with melodrama, lecturing, and some heavy-handed life lessons create a surprisingly serious story.
Producers assemble an amazing, experienced cast who create some memorable voice talent. The turtles, named after Renaissance masters, include the strong-willed Raphael, voiced by Nolan North, and their leader Leonardo, voiced by James Arnold Taylor. Michelangelo, voice by Mikey Kelley, fades into the background as comic relief and the tech-savvy Donatello, voiced by Mitchell Whitfield, solves problems just at the right time.
Some of the turtles develop beyond the sewers of New York into Central America while others resort to vigilante justice for training. April O'Neil, voiced by Sara Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), seems to have morphed into adventurer Lara Croft from her typical journalistic yellow jump suit. The mysterious Mr. Winters, voiced by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Next Generation) plays a rich tycoon who acts as the main catalyst of the story. His large plans, including acquiring special artifacts, help him cross paths with April and her friend Casey, voiced by Chris Evans (Cellular) to conveniently keep the story moving.
Another female character, Karai, voiced by Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, Memoirs of a Geisha) leads the turtles’ nemesis Foot Clan (no Shredder this time). Jon DiMaggio (voice of the robot Bender from Futurama) and Kevin Michael Richardson voice key military characters. Oscar-nominated actor Mako (The Sand Pebbles, Pearl Harbor) provides the voice of the Turtles’ martial arts master Splinter. Unfortunately, Mako died shortly after his voice work was completed.
Even Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), provides some beginning narration as the story describes “a greater evil” occurring 3000 years ago involving immortal warriors and 13 monsters. These monsters continue to cause havoc in our world. At first, you might think – wow! Is it Big Foot? The Loch Ness Monster? No — sadly, another missed opportunity.
These famous monsters might have stolen the show from the Turtles, but it could’ve made the story more interesting. The unoriginal monsters seem to appear at random and are all conveniently housed within New York City. The predictable round-up action sequences include a mildly entertaining fight with a funny little red monster.
When the last “monster” gets captured, the story makes a convenient plot twist instead of taking a different direction, which would’ve appealed to a wide audience. This unfortunate capture could have had a revenge motivation involving Karai, but apparently her animosity towards the Turtles is lightweight, just like the story.
Director/screenwriter Kevin Munroe provides plenty of eye candy in this visual spectacle, but too many roof top/cityscape camera shots. Cuts directly to the location and much more humor would’ve improved the overall one hour and thirty minute experience. Decent music soundtrack including artists P.O.D., Providence and Meg & Dia helps a bit.
Recommended with reservations and rated PG for action violence.