Warner Bros. // 2007 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // August 30th, 2007
Heroes in a half shell.
Of all the films rehashing things from the '80s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the near the bottom of the list. Shortened to a 21st century title in TMNT, the film made a somewhat respectable amount of money, taking in almost $100 million in worldwide receipts. Is it worth checking out now in high definition?
Kevin Munroe's writing and directing debut is based on the comic from Mirage Studios. This story follows the loose concept behind Superman Returns, in the sense that the four brothers who have shells and enjoy the ways of the ninja have fractured. Leonardo (voiced by James Arnold Taylor, Johnny Test) has gone to Central America to pursue additional training. Enter April (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who brings him back to his brothers Michaelangelo (Mikey Kelley, Mystic River), Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield, Amy's Orgasm) and Raphael (Nolan North, Déjà Vu). April's friend Casey (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) has eyes on her, but serves as a sidekick to Raphael who fought crime during Leo's absence. It's not as confusing as you might think, but once the proverbial band gets back together, under the leadership of their rat sansei Splinter (Mako, Memoirs of a Geisha), as they try and save the world, what else would you expect?
In between TMNT and Transformers, I've never been one who's loved these touchstones of animated crimefighting ninjas, much less robots that turn into cars and jets. It was just after I discovered sports fanaticism. I am told though that the ninja turtles have come to theaters before with a few movies, both animated and live action for some time. Looking at TMNT now from an impartial view as a standalone film, and in Munroe's first feature film effort, he manages to weave a story that's predictable, but on the whole, decent enough. He keeps things moving using a mix of acting voiceover talent, some you wouldn't know, and others that are more familiar, like Patrick Stewart (X-Men), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Ziyi Zhang (Rush Hour 2). The relationship between Leonardo and Raphael turns out to be a little bit more compelling than I anticipated, and that's the reason I stuck around on this film as opposed to ditching it early on.
However, if there is something that gets in the way of this being a completely guilt-free movie experience, it's that sometimes it's maybe a little too kid friendly. The one-liners are a little bit too prevalent and got annoying after awhile. Ironically, maybe it's because Evans was involved in the film. He's been in some overrated films where he is "the obnoxious yet fun loving guy," and anyone who makes money from that role should be given a through psychological workup. The lesser known voices like Kelley and North really bring out more resonance with their work than the more recognizable names in the film, perhaps maybe raising a contention that voiceover work is a little bit harder than we all think? I was impressed more by their work (and the way a lot of the scenes were illustrated) than most everything else in the film, and while the characters were ones that never really appealed to me before, at least they were palatable here.
Probably in large part because the film is computer animated, the 2.40:1 VC-1 encoded transfer is among Warner's best. The detail is simply amazing, many times retaining a three dimensional look that stood out on my large TV. From an audio perspective, this was the first feature I've watched for review purposes, so perhaps my judgment is skewed, but the Dolby TrueHD track is equally impressive. The dynamics are much broader than the regular 5.1 surround option, and the surround effects are frequent throughout the film. All in all this is a solid technical disc.
Lordy lordy, the extras are the same as the standard definition version, starting with a commentary from Munroe. He's the only participant on the track and he says that this is his first commentary, but he spends most of the track talking about some of the challenges that went into animating the film. He also puts in some time discussing things that were small details or tributes to the previous films and other lore. Kevin Smith (Clerks) was part of the production, lending his voice to a character, so you'd think Warner would bring him in to help on this, because Munroe is a bone dry commentary participant. However if you've got an urge for some mild technical information, this might be your cup of tea.
Moving onto the extras, we first get some face time with some of the actors voicing the characters, but at least it spares us from watching the obligatory clips where an actor physically emotes a voiceover line. There's a group of footage in various stages of completion to show you what was involved for animation. Munroe includes commentary for each scene. Next is a side by side comparison of storyboards to the finished film. After some test footage of the turtles, footage of the creation of a big fight sequence follows. This is primarily a storyboard reel followed by some previs work. There's some completed animation which is supposed to serve as the film's deleted scenes section. There's an alternate opening and alternate ending, though none of this footage is worth mentioning. A highlight reel from the film (which substitutes as the trailer) completes the disc.
Gellar is almost five years removed since slaying each week, and this is not her first appearance in a revival of this nature, as she was Daphne in the Scooby Doo films. Whatever happened to just taking the money each week and not having to say a word? She gutted the franchise that no one will see on TV or in films for a few years thanks to her apathy.
(Note: the preceding message was written by someone who really REALLY liked the Buffy show in all its forms, and still harbors some raw feelings about the cancellation.)
On its own merits, TMNT is a harmless film that kids and some nostalgic grownups will like. Clearly when it comes to high definition, this Blu-ray presentation brings a lot to the table and impressed me a helluva lot more than the actual film did. Style clearly prevails over substance when you get down to it here.
A hearty cowabunga dude, despite the guilty verdict for remaking things better left alone.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Director's Commentary
* Making-of Featurettes
* Deleted Scenes
* Pre-Visualization Footage
* CGI Featurettes
* Storyboard Comparison
* Internet Footage
* Official Site
* Official Movie Site
* Original DVD Review
* DVD Verdict HD DVD Review