Since defeating their nemesis Shredder, the Turtles have largely given up fighting crime. Only Raphael continues the well-meant vigilantism, until a mysterious businessman starts taking an interest in ancient statues...
In their comic-book origins, the Turtles were a dark-tinged creation. Those shadows were brightened first for the cartoon TV series, then made positively cute and family-friendly for the live-action movies. TMNT promised to bring some of the edginess back. Does writer/director Kevin Munroe succeed? Not really — it’s still very kiddie-centric (although, to their credit, there’s barely a pre-pubescent on screen), but that’s the least of its worries.
Screenwriting rule number one: no matter what age your audience, the story needs some internal logic. Munroe fails here from the outset, with a baddie backstory that doesn’t make sense — some gubbins about an ancient warrior achieving immortality while releasing 13 monsters into the world (who’ve been keeping a decidedly low and unmonsterly profile in Manhattan for the last 3,000 years). Even more painful are the excruciating attempts at explaining this for the sake of the kids/getting to the action quickly. Far more interesting is the friction that has developed between the four heroes, particularly Raphael and Leonardo, which provides some character meat. But unforgiveably, the Turtles themselves get too little screentime, so convoluted are the plots of the various bad guys.
On the technical side, CGI easily proves the most comfortable format for the franchise yet. As long as there’s an action sequence in progress, TMNT sails along with some of the best choreography this side of Pixar. A particular rooftop fight in the rain (also the most genuinely absorbing scene in the film) and a lighter, Jackie Chan-esque skirmish in the kitchen of a diner also prove a great fit of format to content.
Unfortunately, virtually any time the film slows beneath a breakneck pace you’ll notice appalling lip-synching, poor rendering of anything organic, and insultingly thin (in every respect) female characters. Oh, and while we’re mentioning Pixar — why does the sinister Max Winters look like someone has ‘borrowed’ the base programme for Mr. Incredible? It all adds up to a big disappointment, an effort that occasionally reveals much promise but proves to be another missed opportunity for the franchise.
If more effort had been taken to smooth over TMNTs rough edges, this could have been a great movie. As it stands, theres just enough to keep littluns and hardcore fans of the phibian foursome amused.