The Red Right Hand

Raising Shell In 2007

Kevin Munroe

Patrick Stewart
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Zhang Ziyi

During the late 80's the Transformers were saturating every children's market with merchandise, television shows and films. I'm not sure if it was due to the fickle nature of children or if they simply stopped being cool (though, I know people who would swear up-and-down that the Transformers will always be cool) but by 1987 kids wanted something new; what they got would have the same effect and lasted well into the early nineties. For whatever reason (cash, methinks) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have returned to plague parents everywhere; come July, so will the Transformers. This reincarnation is not so much a reboot as more a continuation. The TV series (dubbed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in the UK) was a very light hearted, pro-values series with a simple plot thread running over 194 episodes. With the success of the show, three rather poor live-action films were made, depicting guys in large clumpy rubber suits. Luckily, in this CG-infested world, we can do away with the bloated rubber and replace it with shiny plasticine... ah well. Alright, so the turtles look sort of fake on-screen but they're six foot men with oval heads and shells, I don't think realism is the key issue. The same goes for the humans, who have the hyper-realised tone of The Incredibles and Splinter [Mako], who looks more like a wolf than a rat. For the uninitiated, let me bring you up to speed: as a child of the 80's I know my Transformers and Turtles; yes, it's sad, no, I don't care. The Turtles' initial plot thread was very simple. An old ninja master trained one of his pupils (Shredder), who turned evil and drove Master Splinter into the sewers. Shortly after this incident, a young boy, walking home from a pet store, dropped his newly acquired pet turtles into a storm-drain, where they were found by Splinter, playing in some toxic waste. He decided to name them after his favourite Renaissance painters... 'cause you know... ninjas, 15th Century European artists... you know that whole thing. As time passed, the turtles mutated to become half-man, half-turtle. Splinter was also affected and took on the qualities of a rat. As they grew up, they trained under Splinter's guidance and then yearned to fight crime on the New York streets. Introduce budding reporter, April O'Neill and renegade vigilante, Casey and you've pretty much got the idea.

We open on an ancient legend of a Warrior King who led his brotherhood of loyal Generals into battle with a large seal. The seal was linked to a prophecy which stated that every three thousand years the stars would align and open up a portal to another dimension –oooh- granting the bearer of the seal immortality. Of course, everything went wrong and thirteen demons were released to plague the Earth and the King's Generals were turned to stone. The movie goes on to explain that Shredder is dead (erm.. maybe) and the turtles have been divided for nearly a year. Leonardo has been sent to Central America, to train to be a better leader; Donatello is now running a technical support line for computers; Michelangelo is a kid's entertainer and Raphael is keeping up his crime fighting habits under the pseudonym of 'The Nightwatcher.' April [Gellar] has been sent to recover an artefact for a wealthy entrepreneur, Winters [Stewart] and ends up following a local ghost story, until she finds Leonardo, then proceeds to give him a brief update on the home front. It is eventually revealed that Winters is the Warrior King himself and he intends to round up the monsters and return them, to free his brotherhood from their curse. To help him do this, Winters has hired 'the foot', who are currently under new management, embodied by Karai [Ziyi]. On Leonardo's return, he is greeted with rebellious tension from his brother Raphael and a city wrought with crime.

The story is fairly entertaining but stands as more of a set-up for things to come; a light-hearted adventure with some dark undertones - harking back to the Turtles' comic origin - similar to the first Fantastic Four feature. The animation is credible and praiseworthy but the element that really caught me off guard was the distance put between the cartoon and this flick by the director, Munroe. This film, especially in the opening sequence, feels like a big-budget action feature. At times the Saturday morning cartoon feel creeps through and seems to sully the overall motion picture effect but that's not the largest flaw. The worst problems derive from the same pitfall that Fantastic Four fell into: weak plotline, too many beloved characters and not enough screen time for all of them, not violent enough (I know, that may sound stupid but they're supposed to be ninjas, wielding swords! Someone should get skewered!), Mako (despite being the real deal) comes off as really corny and fake - which will make it easy to recast him as he died last year and the reinvention of the April/Casey [Chris Evans - Fantastic Four guy, not English ginger moron] relationship was stupid as the roles changed from Casey being a psycho to being a mope, complaining, "I don't wanna settle down" and April is now some sort of freelance tomb raider with martial arts training. As I said, this is an entertaining enough feature but it's the (possible) sequel that will bring about the most interesting response.

Release Date:
23rd March 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
I liked the idea of Winters being this immortal who simply refused to stop being a badass and was therefore responsible for all the great military accomplishments. He has one room in particular with all sorts of paintings, busts and statues from different eras and regions, all resembling him - stupid and historically ridiculous but funny nevertheless. Either that or an entertaining scene between Raphael and a tiny little demon in a diner (to the tune of 'Black Betty' for some reason). The fight good, the Kevin Smith cameo was not, ah well.

Notable Characters:
Part of the opening sequence briefly touches upon the evil Shredder - they even feel the need to show a little picture of him. At the end of the film, Splinter adds Winters' helmet (which I swear is a cylon head!) to his... weird... hat collection. Which includes Shredder's right at the top. THAT'S RIGHT! MY HIGHLIGHTED CHARACTER IS SHREDDER! You can argue with me about this if you like but I doubt I'll listen.

Highlighted Quote:
"That's Winters? Looks more like Fall... hehe, get it?"

In A Few Words:
"Pleasant enough for the kiddies and fans will be split down the middle but all-in-all felt a little cheap. Despite this, it's far superior to the original TV series and the 90's films and more closely resembles the comics"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon