Friday, March 23, 2007

Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.

It's fitting that the 900th post on this blog should be dedicated to a movie review of one of the most enjoyable films I've seen this year. TMNT was everything I wanted out of a turtles cartoon and more. And with one small exception, I think this was a phenomenal treatment of the Turtles.

Let me first disclaim, however, that I am a huge fan of the Turtles.

I was there in the front row at Kevin Munroe's turtles panel at Comic-Con last summer (read about that here) and since then, I've been stoked beyond all reason to see this film. In fact, as soon as I got home, I had to write a script for an issue of Turtles to put on my short story blog (seriously, you should read that here). Now if I could just get a kick-ass artist to draw it, I might write the next part to it. I've written other posts about the Turtles too (click here) and if one thing is certain that I'm a fan.

So, going into this film, I had high expectations and I must say that they were delivered. The backdrop of the film, the "story" as it were was as comic-book as you could get, but the great part about it was that it was just a backdrop. And it was this backdrop that Munroe was able to tell an interesting, engaging and fascinating story of sibling rivalry. He hit upon the perfect relationship between the four brothers and really ran with it and at times it brought smiles to face and shivers down my spine.

Face it, there have been numerous incarnations of the Ninja Turtles, from their mildly satirical but dark beginnings at Mirage, to the cartoon and Archie books, the Image series, the movies and so on. A lot of people have had input in the way the four Turtles interact with each other and how people respond to them in the popular culture and I think the strained sibling rivalries of the early comics, the first movie, the Image series and now Munroe's wonderful animated feature, bring out the best of what comic and cartoon story-telling can do to reveal things about sorts of relationships people have with themselves and each other. And it wasn't just limited to immediate familial relationships, either, there was a lot of good work done on Raph and Casey's relationship too. At one point, I had to wonder if the film was written to exactly my sensibilities of what the Turtles world should be. If you watch the film and read that comic script I linked to above, I think you'll see what I mean.

It was also very interesting to see some very good writing. I'll offer two examples of many I could choose from:

1) None of the Turtles sounded the same. Each had a distinct style of speaking and talking (I'm not just talking voices and accents, either) and vocabulary. They truly were separate and distinct characters.

2) Some of the conflicts with Raph and Leo are sort of mirrored in the group dynamic of the villains. It seems a little hard to explain, but when you watch the film, you'll get exactly what I mean.

Now, I mentioned one exception to the greatness of this film and it was minor, but in my opinion an odd choice. In this film, it seems as though April O'Neil is now a ninja version of Indiana Jones. I'm not sure why because it would have been easy enough for her to still be a reporter, or even just an archaeologist, but the ninja thing? come on. But even that wasn't enough to drag down the enjoyment of this film for me. And thinking about it, there was one other weird thing and that was the Matrix narration at the beginning, but, like I said, I just don't care. (No really, the Matrix, it's Laurence Fishburne....Serious.)

The animation is very good (there's a couple of times where the lip-sync gets a little rubbery, but other than that...) the lighting is great, the voice and foley work was great and the action sequences... The action sequences really go out of their way to show you how much shell the Turtles can kick. They're fast paced, tightly choreographed, well-animated and each Turtle seemed to have his own version of ninjitsu. And it was quite a special treat to finally see Master Splinter kicking ass and taking names.

This is what it's like when someone who understands the spirit of a franchise gets to take it over and step into role of shepherd and produce an amazing piece of art that is both respectful of the source material and knowledgeable about the way films work. It makes me excited to take my kids to see it, to experience it with them through their eyes and it also makes me excited that I get to take my kids to go see a movie over and over and over again that kicks ass for a change.

So, to the guys at Imagi: good work, I hope to see more (and if you ever need someone to work on some writing, consider that comic I wrote and linked to above a spec... ;)


Unknown said...

Bryan, I hope you'll check out the Mirage-published prequel comics to this movie. The first two are out, and the remaining three will be out in acouple weeks...I wrote two of 'em. :-)

John said...

Bryan, did you manage to catch the turtles when they were on their "Coming out of our shells" tour. That was the moment when I realized that glam rock was dead. Great songs tho. "pizza power...flying saucer food delight!"

Unknown said...

No. Thank christ, even as a 10 year old I had the wherewithal to realize that the coming out of their shells tour was complete and utter bullshit.

Although I did see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles in Time (is that really what it's called?) on opening day.