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 more familiar lighter toned cartoon. The result is a set of fluid moving turtles, whose acrobatic set is a joy to watch. They bend, they fold, and they ensure the world is such that anything can happen through their movement alone.
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 (or anywhere else for that matter). Alternate dimensions and cheap monsters were a trademark of the Turtles in the ’90s, and there’s barely a true villain for the film to focus on. Granted, it’s nice to see something else rather than trademark nemesis Shredder, but this new set of foes doesn’t make much of an impact. Shredder always did, his cool steel threatening and imposing. These new critters are forgotten the second the credits roll.
TMNT is not a film about fighting evil primarily though. The focus here 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 (the same frustration expressed by Raph in Turtles III). Raphael and Leonardo lead the film, leaving Donatello and Michelangelo to take background roles, the growing distance between their brothers the character focus.
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, hearkening back to the first 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 and more of a standalone effort, 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 poorly put together at times.
Warner releases the Blu-ray edition with the same VC-1 encode as its HD DVD counterpart. In other words, it’s perfect. Every bit of detail in the texture work is visible, whether the shot is a close up or a long one of the city. The skin texture of the Turtles is regularly visible, a testament to the animation itself and this encode. Splinter’s fur is incredible, and the rock texture of certain creatures is mesmerizing.
Colors are perfectly saturated as the distinctive headbands of the Turtles leap from the screen. Neon lights are outstanding in their saturation. Black levels create a stunning contrast that makes for a 3-D effect without any glasses. The silhouette that dominates certain city shots are rich, deep, and full. The downpouring rain, clashing swords, and neon lights of the rooftop Leo/Raph fight is the demo material you’ve been looking for. It’s even more impressive considering the amount of water being splashed and swinging weapons that there is no break-up or unsightly compression. A hint of banding can be seen in certain skylines, an issue that is quick to pass.
The TrueHD mix is flawless all around, much like the video. This is amazing sound design, excelling in both subtle atmosphere and high-end surround use. Positional audio hits every speaker, the precise placement impressive and distinct. The subwoofer receives a workout, richly hitting the low-end during any heavy action. Battle scenes are obviously a highlight, but it’s those little sounds when the Turtles are in their sewer lair that tend to get overlooked, water dripping and echoes easy highlights. This disc doesn’t miss anything.
Extras are equal across all formats. 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, appropriate given what’s coming next.
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. 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.