When I found out the Turtles was going to be getting a brand new movie in 2007 and it would be fully computer animated, I was so stoked. It had been probably fifteen years since I’d seen the Turtles. The Secret of the Ooze was the last movie I saw with them in it. So when TMNT came out, I couldn’t hide my excitement. I saw it in theaters and once it came out on home video, I watched it on my first date with the woman who would become my wife. Even if the movie had sucked, it would still be special to me, but I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that. Going through college for a computer animation degree when this movie came out, I was totally ready to ditch the suits and get to a CGI movie.
The designs of the Turtles themselves are a little weird for me, with their faces being flat, but the animation is pretty great. I’m glad they went the route of everything being animated instead of live-action with animated Turtles, like Transformers got the same year. Man, what a year with two of my favorite cartoons from my childhood getting big screen movies.
TMNT starts kinda where the 2003 series left off with Shredder defeated. Without a big enemy to focus on, the Turtles drift apart. Leonardo goes to Central America to finish his training, and Raphael patrols the city for criminals every night. Donnie and Mikey get actual jobs – Donnie’s in tech support and Mikey does birthday parties as “Cowabunga Carl.”
April is now living with Casey Jones and is an art dealer working for a billionaire named Max Winters. He sends her to collect a piece in South America and while there, she tries to convince Leonardo to return to his brothers. After saving two citizens from a militia attack, Leo takes April’s advice and goes back to New York. Mikey and Donnie are excited to go back to defending the city, but Leo’s immediately berated by Raph for leaving them. Splinter forbids them to fight until they can do so as a team, but Raph leaves anyway. Leo also finds out about the Nightwatcher, a vigilante who hunts criminals with extreme violence.
Meanwhile, on April’s side of the story, she brings Winters a statue, completing a set of 4 figures wearing animal-styled armor. Winter brings the statues to life, revealing that they were four generals that had been turned to stone, and he was their leader, the immortal warlord Yoatl. With their return, a portal opens that releases thirteen monsters into New York. His plan involves capturing the monsters and opening a new portal that would remove their immortality, as he resents his eternal life. The generals, having just returned to life, aren’t keen on his plan and plot against him.
So here we are with two huge different stories and you might say Winters’s part has nothing to do with anything in the Turtles’ history. There have never been South American demon generals or portals to any dimension besides X. And to be honest, I love it. We’re not rehashing previous stories here, but telling a new story that fits the Turtles well without conflicting with other stories. We still have the Foot Clan here, led by Shredder’s adoptive daughter, Karai, but instead of hunting the Turtles, they’re working with Winters to capture the beasts. And here’s where the Turtles come in – they’re finally allowed to go out and patrol the city and they find a Sasquatch fighting against the Foot. They’re still not supposed to fight, but Raph jumps in and the others follow. It’s a great fight scene, lots of action, and it’s cool seeing them kick ass against this giant monster.
Raph and Leo fight some more. Raph takes off and Leo goes out looking for him, but comes across the Nightwatcher. After watching him fight another one of the monsters, Leo confronts the Nightwatcher for his violent ways, revealing him to be Raph in a not-so-surprising twist. They have a brutal fight on the rooftop, which ends with Leo’s swords broken and Raph moments away from killing him.
Raph realizes what he’s doing and runs away, which gives the Generals the chance to capture Leo. They plan to use him in the place of the last monster to sabotage Winters’ plan. The rest of the Turtles go to rescue their brother, while April (who now knows ninjitsu as well, did I forget to mention that?) and Casey pair up with the Foot Clan to capture the last monster.
Overall, I think TMNT is fantastic. The animation is great, the action is fast-paced, and I’m glad they ramped up the schism between Raph and Leo to its natural conclusion. Originally, I wasn’t a fan of seeing them always fighting since seeing the first movie. But seeing this final battle between them was pretty satisfying. The voice cast is a mixed bag with some high points. Max Winters is played by Patrick Stewart, Chris Evans pre-Captain America is Casey Jones, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays April.
Established voice actors played the Turtles, with Nolan North as Raph being the biggest name. I’m really surprised they didn’t stunt cast the Turtles, but I’m glad they didn’t as their work was well done.
Kevin Smith plays a weird cameo that I still don’t understand the purpose of. It does bring up a point that the humor in TMNT is a little off. If you’re a fan of the Turtles, you owe it to yourself to watch TMNT. It’s the last good Turtles movie we got for a while. Even though it goes in a completely different direction than the Turtles’ have gone, I certainly prefer it to changing the stories we know like the next ones.
If you want to see more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle goodness, check out my blog, where I’m reviewing each cartoon series, from the original through Rise. If you want even more mutant mayhem, why not check out Old School Evil, my books inspired heavily by the original Turtles cartoon.