Monday, September 17, 2018

SepTMNTber - TMNT (2007)

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 or so years since I'd seen the Turtles - the original cartoon had finished its run after 9 seasons (of which I think I only watched about 5) and the Secret of the Ooze was the last movie I watched.  Keep in mind, I was clueless about the 2003 series.

So when this movie came out, I was so excited.  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 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 an animated movie. 

The designs of the Turtles themselves are a little weird for me, with their faces being somehow flat, but the animation is pretty great.  I'm glad they decided to go 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.

The movie starts kinda where the 2003 series left off with Shredder defeated.  Without a big enemy to focus on, the Turtles start to drift apart.  Leonardo goes to Central America to finish his training, Raphael goes to patrolling the city for criminals every night, while Donnie and Mikey get actual jobs - Donnie's in tech support and Mikey does birthday parties as "Cowabunga Carl."

April, who is now living with Casey Jones and is an art dealer working for a billionaire named Max Winters, goes to collect a piece and 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 in 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 is opened 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 start to 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's 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, 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 violence ways, revealing him to be Raph in a not so amazing 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 lets the Generals capture Leo, planning to use him in the place of the last monster and sabotaging Winters's 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 this movie 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 going back to the first movie, if not the comic, but I've accepted it, so to see 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.  For the longest time, I thought it was Freddie Prinze Jr as Casey, the couple playing together like in Scooby Doo.  The Turtles themselves are played by established voice actors, with Nolan North being the biggest name as Raph.  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 the movie is a little off.

If you're a fan of the Turtles, you owe it to yourself to watch this.  It's the last good Turtles movie we got, far superior to the newest movies.  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 Bay produced ones.

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