With The Michael Bay Produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being released this weekend I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at the last TMNT film to hit theaters seven years earlier. Will the newest edition to the franchise be at least as good as the Turtles’ last flick?
In 2007 TMNT written and directed by Kevin Munroe was released. In a departure from the previous three entries this feature was an animated reboot, as well as a a film that clearly worked as a sequel to the previous and disappointing entry in 1993. Fourteen years is one hell of a buildup and I was eager to catch the new film opening weekend. I was not disappointed.
TMNT does many things well, despite the less than impressive title. The most important aspect of the Turtles is the dynamic between brothers. While Michelangelo and Donatello do take a back seat, the relationship between Raphael and Leonardo is better developed than in any previous film entry. Munroe’s script provides a reason for the tension between the two and examines the burdens that come with leadership, as well as what may push someone to be as angry as Raphael. This dynamic is carefully balanced, allowing the audience to side with either turtle in their conflict.
The relationship between Casey Jones and Raphael is well nuanced and allows Raphael to become an incredibly well developed character, while also allowing to pair to make a pretty good buddy team. The dialogue between the two is genuinely funny while allowing for introspection at Casey’s relationship with April.
The animation in TMNT is very fluid and while the character models weren’t perfect they were pretty damn impressive. The fight sequences were well developed and the showdown on the roof (I’m a sucker for this, nothing is more comic book than a roof battle) between Rafael and Leonardo has intensity in both the combat and the story elements behind it.
This reboot tried hard to please the old fans, as well as bring in some new young ones. From a fanboy perspective this film had a voice cast that included; Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang as well as the future Captain America and Laurence Fishburne as the narrator. Seriously he was only there so those of my ilk would go, “cool.” And it worked.
Patrick Stewart’s character Winters however is the film’s weak link. As an antagonist (you really can’t even call him a villain) there was no real threat to the Turtles beyond their internal politics. Hell, they even team up with the foot clan by the end of this flick. I find it odd that for all this flick does right, it fails in the villain department. The external threat to the Turtles is also far too big, further removing tension as it just can’t be taken seriously. The Turtles were so well grounded, and yet the film’s superhero plot is not.
TMNT had a budget of 34 million and brought in roughly 54 million without merchandise. This was apparently not enough to move further with another installment. I would have welcomed it as Munroe had promised a grittier flick. He had argued with the studio for the go ahead for a PG-13 flick and was optimistic his second installment would be.
Will 2014’s complete reboot/overhaul be better than the franchise’s last entry? Kevin Eastman has many encouraging things to say, but I’m skeptical. Especially since news of Michelangelo’s erection joke from the clip screened at comic con. Fun Final fact, Year of the Dragon a Micky Rourke film had the street sets re-used for the original TMNT in 1989. The same street sets were then tweaked and used for The Crow. As a Crow fan I find this pretty cool.