I've discussed it before, and I'll discuss it again - in the late 90's, cartoons took a serious step down in quality, with few exceptions. People still fondly remember the cartoons of the 80's and 90's for a reason: many of them were genuinely entertaining and told a story rather than simply delivering hyperactive action and lowbrow gags.
One of the better animated shows of the 80's, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" originated from the comic series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (although the animated series was toned down for younger audiences.) The series revolved around four turtles who were mutated by materials in the sewer system. The turtles - Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo (all wearing a different color mask and using a different weapon - were trained by mutant rat, Splinter and assisted by local reporter April O'Neill.
Given the fact that those who grew up watching the series still remember it fondly and a new generation probably has no problems with an animated action movie, the decision to reboot the franchise with a modern CGI-animated feature was made. "TMNT" opens with a lengthy introduction showing an ancient being who used a rare allignment of the stars to gain immortality. However, as a result of the process, his generals were turned to stone and 13 horrible monsters were allowed out into the world.
Fast forward to the present, where Turtles Leonardo (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield), Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) and Raphael (Nolan North) have gone their separate ways after defeating the evil Shredder. Human pal April O'Neill convinces the turtles to come together once again, and it's not long after that they find a vigilante named Nightwatcher has been cleaning up crime in their absence - but just who is the Nightwatcher, and is he closer to the Turtles than they realize? Meanwhile, the ancient, immortal being (Patrick Stewart) realizes that it's time again for the stars to come together to break the curse on himself and his generals, but going through with his plans may have dire consequences for the world.
The film succeeds in creating a surprisingly (for a kiddie flick) dark and shadowy New York City. While it still doesn't reach the look of a graphic novel, it gets closer than I'd expected. The film's animation certainly isn't up to the level of some of the major CGI animated films of recent years, but it's certainly better than direct-to-video level and the design/visual style of the film does certainly add atmosphere pretty effectively. The voice acting is also solid across the board, although some of the lines do cross the line into being a little too clunky/goofy.
However, the story feels like a bit of an unncessarily complex mess at times, between turtle conflicts and a creaky plot about the stone generals and ancient being. Some streamlining of the story would have helped, and the film doesn't get much milage out of the conflicts between the turtles. Still, the film's never boring, and boasts some exciting action sequences. Overall, "TMNT" could have used some work in the story department, but it's a success otherwise, and a decent restart for the franchise.
VIDEO: "TMNT" is presented by 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan, with each edition getting its own side of the dual-sided disc. The presentation is perfectly solid, with excellent sharpness and detail, which certainly does justice to the film's rather impressive CGI world. Some minor shimmer and slight artifacting were spotted, but the presentation generally appeared crisp and clear. Colors appeared rich and dark, with solid saturation and no smearing. Black level looked strong, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack manages to bring audiences into the action effectively, as the surrounds offered up quite a few sound effects and enjoyable ambience, as well as some reinforcment for the music. Dialogue seemed crisp and well-recorded throughout the show and effects sounded clean and dynamic. Overall, this was an entertaining sound mix that certainly was more aggressive than one would expect from a kids film - even a kids action film.
EXTRAS: Audio commentary from writer/director Kevin Munroe (commentary offers optional captions for the hearing impared), alternate opening/ending, storyboard-to-CGI comparison, interviews with the cast, "Mikey's Birthday Party" full sequence, "Raphael's Rough House" fight test, "Donny's Digital Data Files", "Still Wanna Fight?" test scene, "TMNT: Internet Reel" promo, and "Rooftop Workout".
Final Thoughts: Overall, "TMNT" could have used some work in the story department, but it's a success otherwise, and a decent restart for the franchise. The DVD presentation boasts excellent video quality, a good sound mix and a solid helping of extras. A recommended purchase for fans, others should try a rental first.
The Film B-