2007Director: Kevin Munroe
Cast: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart
he Ninja Turtles are very much a part of my past. I watched the cartoon, obsessively collected the toys (and, because I was a nerdy little gay child, wrote to the toy company to complain about how hard it was to find the April O’Neil action figure…and never did track her down, goddammit), peed myself with excitement over the first two movies (I was eleven by the time the third one came out, and far too old for such childish things). Hell, I even read some of the fracking books.
All of which is by way of saying, I refuse to believe that all of that was anywhere near as bad as the stinkfest I just sat through. I’m sure a lot of it was bad, but Jesus H. Christ. I experienced one whole hell of a lot of nostalgia as I headed into the movie and even that didn’t help.
Structurally, the whole thing was like an Elvis movie, simultaneously complicated beyond belief and unbearably simple; a lot of stuff happens while nothing at all happens. Like the worst of the Elvis movies, it was dreadfully boring. Unlike the Elvis movies (and, come to think of it, unlike the other Ninja Turtles movies), though, there weren’t even any musical numbers to relieve the boredom.
And so much of it just fundamentally confused me. Like…who is this Karai woman who’s like the not-Shredder Shredder, and why bother having her in the movie when she doesn’t even do anything worth mentioning? Why isn’t April a reporter anymore, and why is she so video game skinny? For that matter, while it’s nice to see her more empowered than she used to be, why did that empowerment have to take the form of her being yet another ridiculous superhero? Why does the movie seem to think that the Turtles know everything the audience does, even if they didn’t see what we did? Why do we need to have the back-story narrated to us three times? Why does Splinter sound like a drunken Guatemalan, even though a) he’s supposed to be Japanese, b) he’s supposed to be old and wise, not drunk, and c) Mako, that poor, great man who did his voice, actually is Japanese? How does one “discover” a frickin’ constellation, like Laurence Fishburne tells us Patrick Stewart’s character did? Why is Fishburne’s narration necessary? Why did he and awesome Patrick Stewart stoop to being in the movie, and why did they have Stewart voice a character who (I think) was supposed to be from some non-specific location in Central America?
And the biggest mystery of all: why does everything look so stupid? The thing about animation is, or rather should be, that theoretically it can look like anything. If you’re making a movie based on some Muppets based on a TV cartoon based on a comic book, why would you make the characters look like they were from an exceptionally cheesy video game? Every once in a while an image would look particularly like the old late-eighties-early-nineties cartoons, or particularly like a comic book, and I would get excited, but it would never last. Every time that happened, in fact, it ended up feeling like a mistake, and just added to the general feeling of inept execution I got from the whole thing. Sure, it’s flashy (there’s a sequence in the rain that you can just tell is only there so we can be impressed by the detail of the water effects), and sure, probably a lot of talent went into making it, but there’s absolutely no feeling. It’s yet another step in the eradication of quality animation.
The Ninja Turtles are potentially interesting. In his bewildered review of the Secret of the Ooze movie back in 1991, Roger Ebert said, “What kind of a superhero is a reptile who lives in sewers, is led by a rat, eats cold pizza, and is the product of radioactive waste…is it simply an emblem of our drab and dreary times?” Well, yes. And that’s one of the good things about them. Unfortunately, no one who’s ever been responsible for creating Ninja Turtles-related entertainment since the original books seems to realize how depressing they are. Also, relatedly, I think it’s weird that they still talk using the same slang they always did, now twenty years out of date. It’s not just that the creators of this movie don’t realize how interesting the characters they have could be, though that is certainly true; it’s that they simply aren’t interested in the characters at all, even to the point of making them currently relevant.
TMNT will be released on DVD next week.
By: Ethan Robinson
Published on: 2007-08-03