Sarah Michelle Gellar
Children of the Eighties will undoubtedly remember Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the popular cartoon/film franchise that coined the term “cowabunga”. Four over-sized turtles, trained in ninjitsu and named after Renaissance painters: its one of those concepts that sticks in the mind.
Of course, technology has moved on since the first Turtle trilogy, and today’s children would never suffer four guys in rubber suits however acrobatic they were. The 2007 update is, predictably, computer-generated, part of the recent proliferation of CGI cartoons to hit the screens in recent months. The results are mixed: backgrounds and characters are lovingly drawn but the high-speed sequences are a mess. The film is a tussle between the brooding visuals of a graphic novel and the frenetic 3D of the Playstation tie-in.
For a film aimed at a single-figure age-group the plot is surprisingly complex: multi-millionaire and immortal Max de Wynter (voiced by Patrick Stewart) has a plan to collect 13 ancient monsters in time for an alignment of stars that will help him and his ancient family achieve world-domination. He enlists the aid of the evil Foot Clan: double-crossings ensue.
Only our half-shell heroes can save the day, but with eldest brother Leonardo missing, the turtles are out of action. Only Raphael continues to fight crime, disguised as the motorcycle vigilante ‘Nightwatcher’. It’s up to April O’Neill (voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her hockey-stick-wielding waif boyfriend Casey (Chris Evans) to get the brothers back together.
The film is a series of chases and fights, across sewers and rooftops, as the turtles and the mysterious Foot Clan attempt to bring down a succession of increasingly goofy-looking monsters. The action is far too fast to follow, and it doesn’t help that at least two or three of the leads are doing their thing on screen at any one time. The results are not especially exciting while remaining – though completely bloodless – fairly violent.
The script is similarly unsuccessful. Bar one gag, the sub-Cartoon Network jokes will entertain the very littlest children but anyone older should expect to sit them out. Dialogue is simple and to the point, and the wrangling between Leo and Raphael gets repetitive after a while. Meanwhile, the wider plot zips along quickly but is fairly unmemorable.
Overall, the film is more Tweenage than Teenage. The human characters are particularly childlike and there’s none of the urban sprawl that gave the original Turtles film its darker edge and its 15 certificate. There are clear morals about families, working together and honour, and even the evil de Wynter ends the film a reformed character. There are flashes of something more artistic – fights filmed through neon signs in the rain – but fans of the original comics will be disappointed.
Perhaps then, this is about right for the children of the generation who grew up with the cartoon?