PG. It's pretty violent for a PG film, but also its animated. Man, animation can literally get away with (showing) murder. I mean, THE "N" STANDS FOR "NINJA". Yeah, the turtles don't kill. But there are some deaths in here. Admittedly, the deaths often surround practically immortal beings, but there is death nevertheless. Also, there are lots of goofy monsters. I mean, there's a lot of monsters in this movie. That's fine. Peril is part of the course. But also, there's a lot of infighting. I don't know if you've heard this, but Raphael? He STILL HAS AN ATTITUDE!. PG.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Munroe
I'm in a pickle with this one. This is the second time I've technically seen this movie. I know at least one person who has this movie on a Top 5 or 10 list, so I'm going to be really delicate about how much of a bad person I am. I watched this one back in the halcyon Thomas Video days, simply because I could. I remember not paying too much attention to it at the time. It didn't grab me for some reason, mainly because it felt like not a real movie. (I'm a judgmental jerk.) When my son picked it as his family movie night choice, I kinda / sorta was doing the dishes at the time. I mean, I was facing the television while doing said dishes, but I wasn't really invested. By the time I sat down from doing the dishes, a lot of the movie had passed and I had to play a bit of catch up on Wikipedia during a pause break. Can I really analyze this movie? I don't know. I will say that if I watch this a third time and give it the time of day a movie deserves, I will either rewrite this or write a whole separate entry that gives more insight into the film.
I was a big advocate of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. That movie showed that a licensed property can find legs in a computer generated world, despite the fact that previous entries in the franchise were live action. That movie was 2018. TMNT, unfortunately, has 2007 to contend with. I didn't realize that this movie was supposed to be in the same world as the live-action movies. The Wikipedia article was very helpful on that front. But a lot of this movie didn't feel really cinematic. It honestly felt like I was watching the film spin-off of a television show. The turtles themselves have some basic rules. I say this from reading the Eastman and Laird comics during the '90s. I also remember my animated Turtles from my childhood and the live action movies. Despite the fact that the comics were heavily influenced by Frank Miller, the character models were roughly the same. Well, except for Michelangelo. He became way more of a party dude later. The reason I could follow what was going on is that the characters are fundamentally the same characters. Leonardo is still serious and intense. Donatello might be the relatable one, despite the fact that he's the Reed Richards of the group. Michelangelo is the comic relief. Raphael is a hot head. Raphael and Leonardo are still Wolverine and Cyclops. Cool. I get it. Splinter is Mr. Miyagi. All of the character archetypes are there. But the movie doesn't really push anything beyond that moment. There's never a sense of grandeur to this film, despite having a heavy fantasy element to the film.
Much of the movie is spent neutering the Turtles. (I don't know why I feel I should capitalize "turtles", but I'm going to keep doing it. I apologize right now.) When a film franchise has been missing for a while, we tend to get the story of "moving on." Rather than being a the height of their game, there's a decision to make these characters abandon what defined them before. It happened in Ghostbusters 2, which wasn't that long after the first film, but still happened. Wolverine is constantly leaving the X-Men. Jake has to get the band back together in Blues Brothers 2000. Part of that comes from the idea that these movies act as soft reboots of the original. I'm going to jump into the fact that the villain doesn't matter later, but these movies act as second origin stories. I feel comfortable lumping the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the superhero camp. They, after all, were made by winking at the Daredevil origins, so I'm allowing them to be superheroes. (If Batman can be a superhero, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles definitely can be superheroes.) I love superhero origins, but the villain is usually wasted in the superhero origin. I was really bummed when the Green Goblin was burned off in the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film because he's such a cool and complex character. But much of an origin is intentionally holding back characters from doing amazing things so when they actually do amazing things, it is super impressive. It's that learning curve that people need. It's the reason that people get so mad at Rey in The Force Awakens.
What ends up happening is that we know these characters can kick butt. Raph in his actual superhero disguise is good, but we have also seen him fail when he goes out on his own. Part of what makes the Turtles work is the harmony between the characters. Munroe kind of gets that and really stresses that as the underlying theme of the film. (This is all coming from a guy who was doing dishes at the time.) The heroes and the villains have a parallel arc. Winters and his generals are largely successful for the majority of the movie. Their morally ambiguous plan goes well because they display a unified front. However, while the generals have their stuff together, the Turtles are all over the place. This is a theme throughout the film, but it also has been done before. If this technically is a sequel to the original live-action Ninja Turtles film, that separation has happened before. And we're back to what I keep talking about in the problem with sequels. In TMNT, Raph learns his lesson about family and valiantly rallies the Turtles to save Leo. Cool. The thing is, the inverse happened before and also because of Raph. Raph as a loose cannon has gotten himself into trouble before and it's taken the combined might of the Ninja Turtles to save him. We aren't really treading new ground. TMNT also takes a secondary hit in the sense that Shredder and the Foot Clan were actually pretty scary. The abuse that Raph takes in that original film is personal and a threat to the team as a whole. There's genuine concern that the boys won't be able to get it together in time to fix what needed to be fixed. But Winters has no personal connection with the Turtles. Given time, we actually discover that Winters is less of a villain and more a guy stuck with a bad set of circumstances.
I normally like morally complex antagonists. There's something sympathetic about characters who are compelled do do something questionable because all of the options have been made known to them. But, again, this movie acts as a second origin for the Turtles. I imagine it is to reintroduce these characters whose popularity was waning in 2007. But that leaves a villain that we don't care about. For once, I would have actually liked to have Shredder for a villain in this movie. Remember how I whined about having the big bad in the origin movie? The good news is that Shredder doesn't really need to have an epic origin in a movie that's intended to be a soft reboot. I imagine the temptation to do that would be there, but Shredder acts as an amazing short hand for a movie that is trying to juggle too much already. An origin story takes up a lot of cinematic real estate. We're so concerned with stretching out character development that the movie ends up suffering in the long run. Introducing Winters, especially when he's played by Patrick Stewart, seems like such a waste of an opportunity. Could Winters be compelling? Maybe. I still think his story is a weird choice in the whole rigmarole of what is happening in the film, but there's probably something there. Again, he feels like an episodic villain for a TV show, but I get that you don't want to go to the Shredder well over and over again. But if you are introducing all this stuff, I would love to have a movie where the bad guy is just evil for evil's sake. All of his character development happened in the first two films, so you don't need to be wasting your time in the soft reboot version of the movie.
Come on, this wasn't terrible for having such a low vestige in the movie. Yeah, I will say that I probably didn't give it a fair shake because I was bored pretty silly. If I was in a room with a TV and no distractions, I might have something really positive to say about this movie. But it just felt cheap and empty. Again, like what you like. This one isn't for me.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.