Film Review: TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Film: TMNT [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]

Director: Kevin Munroe

Cast: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart, Kevin Smith, James Arnold Taylor, Mitchell Whitfield, Mikey Kelley, Nolan North, Kevin Michael Richardson.

Genre: Animation

Rating: 2.5/5

An animation film gives the director umpteen possibilities to manipulate the character to do things perhaps what actors physically can’t do. With TMNT the director has done no such thing, the film is just as good or bad as other mediocre animated flicks.

The plot is fairly simple, while the underlying contrive is that of good versus bad. The film also has a parallel plot of the unison of the Turtles to be the family they once were.

The crux of the story is as follows. Eons ago, a celestial alignment opens a portal, releasing 13 monsters from another dimension. The warriors combating it then are defeated and so is their army. Fast-forward a couple of hundred years; the Ninja Turtles are all busy doing their own thing. There is an unspoken discord between the three. The fourth one of those brothers, Leonardo (VO: James Arnold Taylor) is away in Central America to acquire special skills.

While all this is happening, there is danger lurking in the city. Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) is resurrecting the warriors to have the 13 monsters sent back to their dimension, until the warriors turn on him. What follows is the story of resurrecting family bonds and the victory of good over evil.

There is action, adventure, bouts of comedy and even a wee bit of drama; the film has so much to offer that you are left alone to sit back and enjoy the roller coaster ride.

The Ninja Turtles are a franchise and everyone from kids to adults alike have seen them grow from being little warriors to full fledged mutant turtles out to save the city. It is precisely the baggage that this sort of a film comes with, that one needs to exceed expectations while ensuring that what the audience perceives the turtles to be, is not lost. Keeping this sensibility in mind, somewhere there is an essence of it not being human enough. While the film is slick, detailed to the core and well edited, yet there is that carelessness of the human quality that is found missing.

The prime concern with this film is that the characters are so highly developed and animated to perfection that you just do not see the franchise of the four turtles you have grown up seeing. The relationships are complex, their action and attitudes have changed and that is a great worry, there is a sense of no longer knowing these characters. There is a set perception of each character and that aspect seemed to have been forgotten (maybe intentional, but the audience certainly appreciates it, knowing he still knows his characters).

No doubt, the animation is polished. The fight sequences, like the one on the rooftop or the climax scenes, are outstanding. Textures of each character are well created and the look is certainly commendable. However there is no feeling that the director has done something remarkable in utilizing this to deliver a better story or leverage this to his advantage. Like the climax scene where a storm is brewing, none of the characters seem wet or even affected by the environment. There is a lack of synchronization between the environment and the characters.

The dialogues were crisp and well written, however they too lacked the punch and the zing the turtle franchise has long provided. The bouts of humor are not very humorous either. Barring the scene of the 13th monster and Raphael’s interaction and a few witty dialogues there is nothing much that is humourous.

The voice of each character is great, each dialogue has been delivered with the right amount of emotion and restrain. However Aprils’ (Sarah Michelle Gellar) personality comes across as one being rather demure as compared to a strong and determined woman. Mako as Master Splinter was yet another voice that didn’t seem too convincing, though the purpose was achieved.

What is disappointing is the tangent the film takes, from being a hard-core action flick it turns to being one about family ties and long lasting bonds. The violence is kept to a minimum while the tangent plot is focused upon.

If you are looking for a rationale to every thing, you certainly are not going to find it (for heaven’s sake you are talking about a Mutant Turtle that can talk and kick butt). Having said that, there is a background, that each of the character has, which this film does not provide its first time viewers.

The film sadly just about meets the expectations of ardent fans (me included) but does nothing further. It seems like an exercise to keep the TMNT franchise going and cash in on all the revenue options there are to earn from.

This film has the advantage of securing a viewership from the existing fan base and the additional curious lot who will watch it for its legacy. It just might do a fair amount of business, for the lack of any other films. Furthermore, since it an animated film, the prime target would be children who invariably land up coming with their parents. The lack of marketing the film will be the only factor holding it back. What it can hope for is word of mouth publicty.

Sanjay Ram

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