TE E N A G E M U T A N T N I N J A T U R T L E S by XP-Dracon It was “o.k.” First and foremost, I was a HUGE Ninja Turtles fan (the show, comics, toys and video games) when I was a kid in the 80s / early 90s. I loved the first movie (and still enjoy it to this day), but felt the second one to be too much on the safe side in terms of violence, and was too cheesy (even to Ninja Turtle standards). It has been years since I have watched the show, but I still remember all of the characters and themes. When I heard that there was going to be another film, CGI not live-action, I thought that they may have a great opportunity to revive a great franchise and make it more loyal to the source material - dark, violent and humorous, with a great sense of brotherhood. This film got most of those theme RIGHT, but to very little extent. I went into this film with no excitement or any preconceptions. I didn’t even look to see who was doing the voices of the characters. My first impressions were a little mixed - near the end, I actually felt comfortable with the voices. So, here’s a quick step-by-step (semi-spoiler-free) of what I liked and disliked about the film, and you can take from it what you will. LIKES 1) MOST of the animation. There were some parts of the film where the CGI felt too “Monster House”-ish, and the animators seemed to be watching too many Michael Bay films to really focus on the action and not allow it to get too hectic to not be able to completely tell what is going on all the time. The “not being able to see things” only distracted me a few times, but there were times, especially in the main Showdown between Raphael and Leonardo, where the animators and the director really spent time to make it work. In that scene, it did. In the end battle sequence, it did not. During the turtle showdown, the animation, even while taking place at night, was awesome. The rain bouncing off of their textured green skin looked very realistic despite the director’s obvious cartoonish approach to the CGI material. 2) The voice acting. I did NOT know who did the voices, and for some reason the only one I could tell who it was right off the bat was Patrick Stewart as ‘villain’ Max Winters. I finally checked IMDB and noticed that all the voices were by ‘name’ actors, or at least people most of us have heard of or seen. Mako, may he rest in peace, was the only voice talent that took some getting used to (as Splinter). After a couple scenes, I grew into the character’s voice, but at first, I was distracted probably because I remember the voice of Splinter from the 1989 live-action film, and I was expecting it to sound more grainy and deep. Knowing now who voiced the characters actually makes me like the voice acting even more. 3) The SHOWDOWN. Having never seen any previews/coming attractions for the film, when the scene between Raphael and Leonardo began, I knew this scene was the scene that the film makers want you to drool over. And it WAS great - starts with a very determined seriousness in the character’s actions, all built-up well over the course of the first act between the two characters. The conclusion of the showdown is also very nicely done, displaying emotion and reactions through expression, not just words. 4) The music score. Klaus Badelt (“Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl”) did the score, and it totally works. It is dark, and drives the action in places where it sags a little in unoriginality and depth. No central theme (which kind of disappointed me), but a rollicking good action score to keep things moving. 5) There were quite a few things I did like about the movie, but they were little things, and unfortunately, they don’t outweigh the negative aspects. DISLIKES 1) The movie’s central conflict, to me, felt very out of place from what we may remember MOST about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle world. Thirteen abominations (monsters), stone immortals, and an opening that clearly paid homage / ripped off the beginning of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” with sonic wave taking out massive armies and all. I just didn’t like the film maker’s choice in “opening scene” for the movie. 2) Right off the bat, they tell you about the Turtles’ success over arch-nemesis The Shredder, expecting you to accept the story that is to follow. Unfortunately, with this new CGI film, I really WANTED to see Shredder again, and not some new bad guys for us to have to learn to hate. I wanted something from the past - Bebop, Rocksteady, or even Krang. None of these guys are even mentioned, and given that the core audience of the film is going to be guys who grew up with the original cartoon as kids, in my opinion the film makers really should have strived to bring something nostalgic for the Turtles to fight. 3) Under use / misusage of certain characters. Leonardo and Raphael are the most used and seen of the four Turtles; unfortunately, Donatello and Michelangelo are all but left in the background, or with only a couple standout scenes. The handling of the Turtles screen time and singular importance reminded me of the “Star Trek: Generations” syndrome, where the Trekkies in us were excited to see the “Next Generation”crew on the big screen for the first time but were ultimately disappointed by the lack of particular character’s involvement in the story. Casey Jones also was nothing like I remember. In the cartoon, he was a hard-ass who was always looking to “Break something!” In this movie, he is living with April O’Neill (who is no longer a reporter, which threw me off a little) and is a bit of a clumsy-looking and acting dufus. This is NOT the Casey Jones I like so much as a kid - the character in this film has some humorous moments, but overall just didn’t fit the context of the character. 4) Some of the humor and writing. Some of the humor worked, but most didn’t. This is a bit of a problem I have with non-Pixar animated films. The timing on many of the humorous lines is a bit off, and the writing felt a bit ‘thrown together’ at times, recycling cliched lines that we’ve heard in many movies before. The only real good dialogue existed between Raphael and Leonardo before the showdown, and between Raphael and Splinter after the fact. Overall, though, even the limited humor of the 1989 live-action film was a bit lost. A bit more humor and better timing / pacing wouldn’t have hurt the overall necessary dark tone of the film. 5) The ending. Because many of the bad guys are new, a lot of the story and background had to be rushed in the “Lord of the Rings”-like beginning, and the end just felt easily jumbled together, leaving nothing unexpected or unpredictable. At one point, the leader of the Foot Clan (voiced by Ziyi Zhang) announces that they will help the Turtles to defeat the stone immortals, but their help ends up not being needed and nothing shown for it. Too many loose ends in the story and the build up, and there were quite a few plot holes that were not tied together by the end. Even a promise by the Foot Leader that foes from the past will return did not spark any “oh my gosh” or any level of surprise. They needed to add something, and I expected them to hint at a “Shredder return.” Overall, the movie was “o.k.” even to my no-expectation preconception. I ran into a friend of mine after the screening, and he LOVED it, saying he gave it an 11 out of 10. So, that tells you that there may/will be a mixed series of reactions from fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.