I grew up with the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films so I don't really think any improvement needed to be made. The original put the Turtles in the real world. Even though they were guys in costumes, they interacted with the human cast so it was magical. The Secret Of the Ooze brought us into their world. Even with Vanilla Ice, it was wonderful. III was nonsense. I don't count III.
The new TMNT doesn't rely solely on the tricks of computer animation to bring back the phenomenon. It tells the story of where these characters would be today. Though it doesn't address the decade and change since their last movie, I think in turtle life spans, they're still teenagers.
Shredder has been defeated and the turtles are effectively disbanded. Splinter sent Leonardo to Central America to train to be a better leader, but Raphael couldn't wait so he's become a vigilante called the Night Watcher. Donatello and Michelangelo have day jobs, brilliantly conceived, one working from home and the other dressing up in the ultimate ironic costume.
When creatures from a legend the narrator told us about in the opening come to New York, the turtles have to come together, but it's not easy. Raph and Leo keep fighting and with all the time off, none of them are in the best fighting shape.
Now, I don't care about immortals and monsters and their portals to another dimension. I do care about Leonardo being alone, Raphael being impatient and the heroes being ill-equipped to handle a new threat. I care about the foot clan, without their leader, working for some rich guy and to a lesser extent, I care about Casey and April living together.
The story deals with really good issues, though the writing isn't always worthy of the themes. A lot of times, the characters just state exactly what their issue is, so there's hardly a "great power/great responsibility" level subtext. But the issues do play out maturely.
The turtles have more distinct personalities in this version than in the previous movies, where they seemed to be just four of the same guys. They look absolutely real in animation, as does the whole city. The only thing that looks cartoony are the humans, which may be a necessity as we all saw what happened when they made photoreal humans in Final Fantasy.
The big fight scenes are stellar set pieces. The construction site battle, the rainy rooftop and the final battle look like hardcore fight scenes. Some of the other stuff is more slapsticky, running around really fast and cutting away so we don't see the violence.
Kids will love this movie. The awesome monsters and action will make them feel like they're watching a grown up movie. Grown ups may lament some of the potential that couldn't be realized but it's certainly classy enough that they should keep making more, and push further and further next time.
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