Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [2007 & before] Review

Watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (screw that TMNT abbreviation bullshit) [2007] was surprisingly uncomfortable. Not because it was actually bad or anything, because it wasn’t. It just forced me to relive my prejudices. I really, really, hate cgi. John K’s recent post about cgi creatures being extremely expensive puppets got to me, and realized how much I truly miss real—and cool-- giant puppets like the kind Jim Henson use to make. This includes the ones used in the first three Turtles film. If I had the power, I would send animation back to the shorts days (ala the Fleischers) and have any real need for fantasy in live films done with sets and puppets (like John Carpenters’ The Thing).

But despite my perhaps irrational, certainly impossible, feelings, the new cgi Turtles film isn’t all bad. In fact, a good deal of the time it’s quite good, particularly the animation (I’ll get to these scenes shortly). But in the other—and major—parts of the film they just look really, really bad, like Barbie plastic. Its kind of hard to get involved with characters you think would used by a dog as a chew toy. This is especially true concerning April. In other media, April looked strong and independent, or at least appealing. But in this film her stylized design is turgid, and the lack of flowing, regal hair makes her screen clutter. This could be absolved if she had any real character, but she doesn’t and nether does any of the other non-Turtles (including Splinter, who sounds god-awful most of the time).

However, when we get to the Turtles, the film truly shines. Scenes like Michelangelo skateboarding and Raphael and Leonardo fighting look good. Damn good. In fact all the action scenes are pretty first rate, and at least do things one couldn’t do in live action. The problem is, there just aren’t enough of them sustain a full feature. This makes me sad; wouldn’t it be awesome if the Turtles had a series of seven minute shorts, which are as surreal and violent as the old Popeye’s? The Turtles seem born for the short generation. Imagine something like the original Aeon Flux, actions short that parody bad action films and their cliches. This would certainly be a great twist on the original, and quite bloody, Eastman and Laird Turtles (who were created as a parody of Daredevil and X-men). Alas, it will probably never be so, and the best we will get is the greatly inconsistent film before us.

Film overall: 63.5(out of 100).
Story: Pretty standard stuff
Music: Obnoxious as hell. Especially that Black Betty scene.
Better than the first three: Hmm. Easily surpassing part III, that’s for sure.
So did you or didn’t you like the film: Well, the Turtles looked good when fighting, but pretty bad when emoting. Too many animation clichés. Everyone else was worse.
What the hell are you talking about: See this
[April 5,2007 especially]

+What Else:
The Turtles weren't that funny, in the original live action film they balanced out their action scenes with some great jokes, some of which involved War and Peace and Grapes of Wrath.

+Really: Oh yeah, and some damn funny Rocky imitations.

+So I should check out that movie: I guess. I must agree with Leonard Maltin again; “The [Turtles] should have inspired a much better movie"(same for this one too really).

+Are there any Turtles screen versions you like: Yes, season one's five part saga was highly enjoyable.

+Was this movie made to sell toys: Has there been any animated movie since An American Tail made bank in 1986 that has not been created with this intent, in one way or another? Even a personnel one like Lilo and Stitch isn’t above the influence.

+Good point: Thank you.

+Any parting thoughts: Apparently this movie was censored a bit. People have been talking about extensions like when Mike is at the birthday party he gets kicked in the crotch. Be sure to look out for the DVD. It’s not really worth seeing in theaters anyway. And the cgi will probably look better on the small screen.

The En . . .

Oh wait:
There is one scene that is so mind numbingly bad I have to describe it. Ok, in this film there are thirteen monsters, and four general chasing them. The Turtles often get in the way (now this story would have been perfect for the short format, devote one episode to fighting each side in a bloody battle. Like The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. Except way better).

So, we see one big fight for the first monster, and then a lame montage of the next eleven getting captured. The generals discuss how they must not really capture the thirteenth one; else they will be come mortal (don’t ask). So when they spot the last one, a little red one, they let it go. However they notice Leonardo’s post-fight and unconscious and take him back instead. Following me? They never captured the thirteen one. And yet, when the monsters are going back into the hole, what creature do we see being sucked in first? The red one. What the fuck? And then the Turtles have to capture the another one to undo the curse. So there are fourteen monsters now? Stupid, Stupid

The End.