TMNT (Kevin Munroe, 2007)
When the fast food restaurants peddling Colonel Sander's finger lickin' good fried chicken changed their name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, rumors figuring out why arose. The most interesting rumor is that the food corporation has mastered the dark arts of genetic mutation and food processing; that what they serve aren't really chicken, but chicken parts grown without bodies. The name change is due to ethical considerations. There's actually no chicken in the fried chicken, just mutated parts.
Now, those beloved shelled green heroes, who from being mere illustrations in a semi-popular comic book became television celebrities and soon after movie celebrities, are back. Instead of utilizing their nominal catch phrase (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as the title of their come-back film, it was decided that the film be called TMNT --- befitting the age of acronyms, web and SMS lingo, and instantaneous gratification. Like Colonel Sander's suspicious fried chicken-like parts, the name-change feels like a product of ethical purpose because there's really not much turtles, much less mutant ninja turtles, in this flick.
First, I miss the original villains. TMNT starts off from where the last film ended (Shredder is dead, etc., seriously, I can't remember.). The foot soldiers are back, lorded over by anime-ninja chick (voiced by Zhang Ziyi). They are recruited by this wealthy corporate warlord who seeks to reunite with his military family (turned into stone, this one's explained by the opening narration), in order to collect the thirteen monsters from another world. It's the standard plot of a role playing video game (think Legend of Zelda or pre-Playstation Final Fantasy) and its not surprising coming from Kevin Munroe, whose imdb credits include a videogame. The substandard plot is pumped up by the inclusion of the ninja turtles into the mess --- desperately trying to save the city (and the world) from those baddies while easing a bit of their internal dilemmas.
Where's the fun (which was really the reason why the ninja turtles became popular, in the first place) in all this? While most easy-to-please viewers would cite the action sequences and the unusual morphing of the ninja turtles into model-type physiques (I remember them to be much more bulkier; it just goes to show that our action heroes have evolved from Arnold-type muscle men into those leaner type actors), I thought the flick's an empty-headed diversion. Although I'm not a huge fan of the stupid catch phrases like "Cowabunga" or "Dude, where's the pizza," there's a sore lack of those personality-building ticks that made these turtles such celebrities. Actually, aside from the prolonged fraternal issues between leader Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) and hot-headed Raphael (Nolan North), the other two turtles, fun-loving Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) and especially brainiac Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) are barely given any celluloid personalities. The other characters like fatherly sensei Splinter (voiced by Mako, in his last performance, sigh) and lovers April (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans), are cannon fodder.
Am I being overly critical on a picture that is obviously not made for my demographic? Yes, I am. But, I used to be part of this film's demographic and like most viewers my age who would curiously sneak into the cinemas to see how our childhood heroes have evolved, I would feel a change (unfortunate or fortunate, depending on your taste). I, for one, think that the change is for the worse. The transition to CGI is a bad idea --- while the previous films were obviously bad, they had that camp factor that made them viewable through the years. I think this one would get lost in the graveyard of bad CGI-flicks; and when people get to notice that the polyester perfections are far too perfect to be cinematic (those reflective eyes and smooth epidermis have been bothering me), this one will be far too below in the dump to be remembered.