TMNT 2007 recap and review

Back in 2013, Comics Alliance did a two-part review of the 2007 film TMNT where they did a back-and-forth that had some pretty great moments in it. So let's look at some of them.

there were a bunch of different plots discussed during development, including sending the Turtles out into space. Fortunately (or not, depending on your views of ninja astronauts), Peter Laird opted not to follow the format of the Leprechaun movies.

Matt: Things open up with about four minutes of infodump narrated by a voice who I'll just call Not-Keith-David. There's a lot crammed in here about the turtles, their origin, their names, a 3,000-year-old warlord who became immortal, his generals turning to statues, some soldiers that look like cylons and 13 monsters who came through a portal opened by aligning stars. It's more plot than the past two movies combined had.

Chris: I think my favorite thing about this is that he just drops "named after the great Renaissance masters and trained as ninjas" as though this is no big deal.

I'll get into it a little more further down, but "Not Keith David" is of course Lawrence Fishburne, because they wanted a negro to do the voiceover but Morgan Freeman was unavailable.

Chris: It would've been better if the tag had said "Leonardo (leads)" to be followed by "Donatello (does machines)" and so on, but I'll admit that's wallowing in nostalgia. I have to say, though, this entire bit is really weird. Usually, referring to someone as a "ghost" is a setup for it to be revealed it's only a man, but Leo's a six-foot tall talking turtle that stabs people with swords, something I could consider to be way, way scarier than a ghost.

Chris: Mikey dressing up in a giant turtle head, gluing a zipper on his shell and swinging around foam nunchucks for kids' parties is a pretty inspired career choice, even if it does posit a world where talking turtles have become as popular as, say, magicians and clowns.

Matt: Their appearance onstage with Vanilla Ice has become the stuff of legend. I'm curious where Raph got all the resources for his many chains and his advanced biker-vigilante outfit. Donny's tech support gig must be lucrative.

Chris: Considering that they have two jobs now, compared to zero jobs where they could afford multiple nightly pizza deliveries, I suspect that they're rolling in cash. I will say, though, I do love the movie's implication that they had to get jobs because Leo's not around to lead them in crime-fighting, as though a) they're not all ninjas, and b) that's what was paying the bills before.

Matt: It's been some progression for the Foot, hasn't it? They went from thieves corrupting the youth to working for an immortal ancient warlord. What a long, strange trip.

Chris: When your leader is beaten to death by turtles at a Vanilla Ice concert, you really have to find a new direction. Whatever you're doing, it ain't working

It's also worth noting that April gets a new costume in the form of a Kill Bill jumpsuit with what I can only call a Battle Corset.

Don't worry, I'll discuss Sarah MichelleApril's outfits myself as well.

Chris: I think TMNT '07 has 'em all beat six ways to Sunday, even without the scourge of ninja crime. Either way, it's a pretty good way to end our run with the Turtles.

So that was snippets of the Comics Alliance rundown. I figured this was a good time to throw back my own copy and do a recap/review. Chris called it the best of the first four Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, Matt called it second best after the first one, so let's take a little break while we watch what's by far the best single scene in any of the Turtles films (though you can turn it off after about thirty seconds, that's the good bit at the start even though it sadly starts about 6 seconds too late):

So we're back. Actually, let's also watch the teaser trailer for the 2007 CGI film:

Okay now that we're acclimatized, let's get into the film. Oh hi Weinstein Company! As noted above, it opens up with Lawrence Fishburne's narration which summarizes the Ninja Turtles backstory and the first couple movies surprisingly quickly. As CA noted, they really skim over this bit (which is a shame, it has a pretty epic feel to it) and then in what seems to be inspired by the Brendan Fraser Mummy franchise that was popular at the time, goes into a long story about a king who turned immortal thanks to planetary aligning mysticism.

Three thousand years ago we're told "Yow-lo" led a Brotherhood to conquer the entire planet. Which, apparently, he did, in a Lord of the Rings inspired armies-battling-in-front-of-city-walls action scene. Until he opened a portal to another world that made him immortal at the "price" of turning his army to stone and unleashing 13 monsters into the earth. He really didn't think ahead about this portal thing. Now Yow-lo is unable to die, with no army left to fight his battles. But he could surely get another army? And seize more power by virtue of living forever? Nope, apparently he just turns into an ancient wanderer.

I do enjoy the Central American opening scene, where a corrupt presumably Nicaraguan warlord in a run-down Jeep torments and robs (and implied rapes) the local villages. He at least stole that bracelet from the hot Latina girl. From the shadows, what's clearly a ninja takes down members of their team and then scares off the warlord and gets the necklace back. This is also, of course, the part of the movie where every reviewer has to complain how human beings are portrayed: literally, as in they are drawn and animated awfully cartoony. Limits of 2007 CGI I suppose, but if the Uncanny Valley is going to be a problem anyways you might as well just shrug it off. Nobody really cares for human characters in a Ninja Turtles movie anyways and OH MY GOD IT'S SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR AS APRIL O'NEIL AND I'VE NEVER BEEN THIS SEXUALLY AROUSED IN MY LIFE.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right, April shows up to investigate the legend of a mysterious ghost of the jungle. She seems pretty sure who she's going to find when she tracks the ghost down, but all we're doing is noticing how deliciously skinny she is. She's on par with Lois Lane in the "The Batman" animated series which was on at the same time. Yeah yeah, unrealistic body types but I once knew a waitress at Club Malibu who had D cups and a nineteen inch waist, so maybe not as unrealistic as you might think.

April and Leonardo catch up: she's hunting 3000 year old statues for a mysterious businessman, Donatello is hilariously being a tech support guy in what's possibly the best gag in the entire film. 

No, I'm not playing hard to get. I'm telling you, sir, it's not that kind of phone line.

I'm not your enemy. I'm just Donnie, your friendly IT tech support...
- Donatello dealing with queers confused by their Windows Vista

It fits both his character and a realistic way for the Turtles to be active in the world while still hiding in the sewers. Michelangelo is playing a six foot talking turtle mascot at kids' parties to the music of Billy Talent's "Red Flag"...okay? The only old characterization is after stashing the Turtle Van he skateboards to generic punk music through the sewers. Raphael is a nighttime vigilante wearing an iron armour suit and driving a motorcycle, which apparently nobody connected to him can figure out. The three NYC based turtles fight and argue over him, Splinter has to break it up, you know the drill.

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, April supervises a crate (she...owns a shipping company now...?) while waiting for Casey Jones, who's played by none other than Chris Evans. He's also being a nighttime vigilante who sleeps in and misses his appointment to pick up the crate. They take it to WintersCorp, which is essentially the evil corporation from the Resident Evil movies, led by a 35-year-old Bruce Wayne lookalike played by sixty-seven year old Patrick Stewart. He's so anxious to get the latest stone general statue, and he cryptically talks about them and wait we all saw the prologue so we can all guess that this Winters guy is actually the immortal warrior king from 3000 years ago.

Wait...as shown above that prologue from 3000 years ago seemed to be centred on Central America (where April obtained the statue). But the name that sounded like "Yow-lo" and apparently is spelled Yaotl sounds a lot more Mongolian though the spelling makes it possibly Mongolian or Aztec. 3000 years ago the only real "kingdom" in Central America (all of the Americas really) was the Olmec who are pretty much bang on where the light is, but the warrior king conquered kingdoms "of the world" of which the only ones available where in East-Central Asia (Sinic, Thais, Zhou, Wu), and the Greece to the Middle-East (Greeks, Hittites, Arameans, Levantines, Egypt, etc) regions. With the ninja theme to the movies we should assume they mean the Asian option, but in any event Winters should not look like he's from Munich and sound like he's from Mirfield. I'm getting a real Die Another Day vibe here where apparently any Korean or Mongolian can get some reconstructive surgery and elocution lessons to sound like a British person. Wait can an immortal even get surgery?

Nevermind. I guess if we can accept Patrick Stewart playing a character from La Barre France, we can accept this. As April/Casey leave, Winters is paid a visit from the Foot Clan whom he hires for no apparent reason than to appear evil. Since we aren't supposed to know who he is and what he wants, he speaks cryptically to the people he's hiring: "friends coming from out of town", "roll out the red carpet", "they're impossible to miss" sort of thing. This sounds like the sort of double meaning you expect halfway through the film when an interrogation scene (lie detector?) lets him not lie but still convey uncertainty. Here you'd expect the Foot to have it explained: "there are 13 monsters unleashed upon the world who will try to stop me, but I need them captured for my dastardly plan but in actuality I'm just trying to elimate them forever and therefore you have no reason to oppose me", in a scene we either don't see or get in flashback. Also did the statue General's mouth open wider during the scene or just animated poorly?

Casey and Rafael have a late night vigilante rooftop confrontation (as you do), discuss how Leonardo is away on training and re-iterate the inter-turtle conflicts, and then Casey talks about his long-term relationship with April, and it sounds like me and my friends getting a little too nostalgic and melancholy at the pub. Meanwhile Winters brings the stone general to life, Leonardo sneaks back into NYC on an airlane that opens it's landing gear way too soon, and the Turtles are all back together again.

Speaking of which, Nostalgia Critic also reviewed this film. 

They still aren't a well-oiled machine working well together anymore, of course: Rafael resents Leo's absence and presence, Splinter refuses to let them fight crime with conflict between them, and they have trouble getting on the same page during a day-for-night training exercise that goes south when they come across the Foot Clan in an under-construction skyscraper battling a monster that looks like King Kong with spikes on his head. Leo and the chick running the Foot (Karai is the character, Zhang Ziyi is the voice actress, and don't pretend you'd have noticed if I switched them around or not) spar briefly before she orders her ninjas to leave...which...means they aren't performing their mission. That doesn't sound very ninja to me, but I guess it makes the Turtles-Kong fight a little cleaner from a story perspective. Halfway through the fight four stone generals show up to battle Kong, who surprisingly  gets defeated after one hit. The stone generals and the monster vanish, and the Turtles are fairly upbeat for accomplishing exactly zero of their goals.

Karai and the Foot get very upset at Winters for being so cryptic and not mentioning monsters, and with the stone generals behind him the Foot are told to know their roles and shut their mouths. Twelve more monsters and Winters' evil plan can be achieved. The structure of how this mystery unravels is very very poor. We're way ahead of the plot, the characters in it are way behind, and as we'll discover by the end of the movie there shouldn't be any mystery whatsoever. No character except oddly enough Casey seems to be able to put two and two together. April can't figure out the Winters plot, the stone generals can't figure out the Winters plot, the Foot can't figure out the Winters plot, Splinter and Leo can't figure out the Nighthawk plot, Splinter can't figure out the training-gone-bad plot, Rafael can't figure out the working together plot, and haha Gilmore Girls joke.

Splinter forbids surface activity, gets mad at Leo who only got involved to save Rafael (though he shouldn't, apparently, been on a rooftop doing training), and then lets Rafael go...to...the...surface... Can you believe we're already a third of the way through the film and the dramatic low point has already been reached? Kinda?

The Foot and the stone generals continue monster hunting: the Minion, Crocodile Clayface, an Acklay, chest burster alien, and a few others we don't really get to see are all locked up and put into your classic sci-fi humanoid holding tanks inside an ancient temple on top of Winter's office complex. I suppose since we opened with a gargoyle monster, I can let this slide. Hey wait, isn't this basically starting to look like the plot to Blade? Evil bad guy is assembling the 13 monsters to unleash a hell dimension onto Earth? The only difference is in Blade that was actually the evil bad guy's plot. Spoiler alert: this isn't Patrick Stewart's plan, we're just made to think it is.

Sarah Michelle is back doing training in front of RileyCasey, because April is now a kung fu champion or something. Gargoyles, Blade, Die Another Day, Resident Evil, and now Undefeatable. This film's influences are just all over the place. 

Casey sneaks up on the roof to join Raf, who's being on the down-low because...wait, he knows April knows that Casey is being a vigilante right? Anyways the Man Bat is our latest monster and they witness the Foot Clan tranquilize and capture it with assistance from the stone generals: but before they knew it, they fell in a trap and got caught, because they were all alone, with no friends, and no phone.

Okay not that last part, I just wanted to join Matt and Chris in referencing cool songs about the Ninja Turtles. They do however get noticed and have to escape...which they do really really easily. Good thing the monsters are all large and lumbering morons who never think of this. If the two guys hiding out from bad guys had simply been quiet, they would have gotten away cleanly. Instead they kept talking and only intervention from the cops chased the stone generals away and wait I thought they were insisting on getting rid of all witnesses. Aren't the police cruisers also witnesses? The generals don't seem to have any trouble with opposition.

Casey drags a tranquilized Leo back to April's, and the rest of the Turtles come to check on him. April recognizes a piece of the stone general that broke off in Rafael's shell from a Central American legend about the...well, the prologue now officially takes place in Central America doesn't it? So the warrior king was an Olmec? Or fought the Olmec? Did the Olmec build Minas Anor style walled cities? Answer: no, no they did not.

Anyways April recaps the prologue for us, a little slower and less Lawrence Fishburne-ish. Winters apparently went to Egypt and Rome and kept being a king everywhere he went, though how he got from Central America to Africa/Europe/Asia between 1000 BC and the Achaemenid Empire invasion of 343BC is a complete mystery. We pan across Winter's trophy room as April figures out Adam West 1966 Batman style the entire plot based on this one data point. Winters is Yaotl! Finkel is Einhorn! Yet another movie plot stolen!

Fun Ace Ventura: Pet Detective movie trivia: Ray Finkle is actually Sean Young in a wig and mustache.

She also figured out he's incredibly guilty. He actually is incredibly guilty, and wants to put things right. His plan will kill the stone generals and himself, and return the 13 monsters to their own realm. Other than to be "the muscle" what exactly was the point then of bringing the stone generals back to life? If this was just an elaborate suicide and send-the-monsters-back apology move, wouldn't the generals either also be killed or just remain as stone forever which is ultimately the same thing? And why would his guilt be a thing? His generals are dead, yes, but killing them a second time doesn't really atone for that crime now does it? One of the stone generals is figuring out that Winters' plan will cost them all their immortality, but at least for now the command of his warrior king Yaotl is enough to keep him in line. Oh in the meantime another Leo/Raf argument ends with Rafael quitting the team for no apparent reason. Doesn't he also implicitly love and respect Splinter's wishes?

April and Donatello are still unaware of Winters' non-evil plan though (so, I suppose, are you supposed to be. Whoops. Spoiler warning?), and they think that when the planets align directly over Winter's New York City headquarters (good thing the land wasn't previously owned by somebody who wasn't interested in selling, though I suppose there exists a piecewise curve on the globe that the planetary alignment will be directly over) that the portal will bring more and more monsters into New York City. Eventually some of them will decide to branch out and spread around the globe, so the world is going to end. Obviously this has to be stopped, but Splinter first insists that Leo go out and find, then make peace, with Rafael the Night Stalker.

Uh oh, the stone general has decided to go AWOL and not bring the 13th monster back as ordered. So here we are 48 minutes into the movie and we've already had the big swerve from the villains. Cut to a random diner (the cook is Kevin Smith who screams like a girl) where the final monster is screwing around in the kitchen. He's only 16 inches tall, looks like Ratchet from Rachet and Clank, and bites Raf's finger...inside his iron armour suit...somehow. Rafael chases away the monster and then tries to escape a pursuing Leo. The pursuit calls to mind the first Spiderman movie and...wait another random influence?

Just in time for their dramatic rooftop fight and argument it starts raining and turns to pouring within seconds. Now we're ripping off Space Cop? As the two fight, Leonardo plays a purely defensive game and riles the Nightcrawler up, ultimately scoring the first hit with an uppercut that knocks the helmet off so he can learn who it is. So now the physical fight turns back to an argument, which is much less fun than the action scene we wanted. So they at least give us another action scene: Turtle versus Turtle. Except one is in an iron suit which you would think would come up but doesn't. Instead, in the battle of katana vs sai Rafael goes full Yoriki and breaks the swords in two. Rafael wins the fight but not the war inside of him: his guilt and resentment take over and he flees into the night: causing Leonardo to be hit with a tranquilizer dart by the combined stone general/Foot Clan. The generals have decided that he can play the part of the 13th monster and spoil Winter's master plan. Leo's cry for help reaches Rafael too late and he's unable to save him as apparently Manhattan traffic isn't what it used to be.

An angry Rafael returns to notify Splinter and the Turtles what happened. Splinter tries to give Rafael some positive qualities to counter everything we've seen about him in this movie, and then decides they must all go back to the surface to retrieve Leonardo. Oh look, April and Casey have had enough time to arrive. Uh, they know they're on the clock right? Winter's roof is opening up like the spaceship mouth in You Only Live Twice, the Blade floor made up of hieroglyphs is rising up for some reason, and I suppose we're supposed to forget that his evil plan isn't actually an evil plan? I guess if you really think about it, Donatello explained it would end the world if the 13th monster was, say, replaced by a phony and the portal could stay open. So Winters' plan is now, unbeknownst to him, an actual evil plan again.

So now it's time to bring up the outfit. Casey is busy putting his hockey gear on for the upcoming fight, including a golf bag strapped to his back with hockey sticks and baseball bats inside. Speaking of phallic imagery and "strapped", April is back in her classic yellow with a skintight battle suit and corset armour that pushes her tits higher than previously portrayed.

It's pretty much made clear that if they survive this, she's totally ripping a hole in the bottom of that outfit and bending over a table for him. She also gives him a new badass hockey mask, seductively says Halloween stuff, and I guess this resolves their relationship trouble alluded to earlier?

At Nakatomi Plaza and/or USR Headquarters, the Foot Clan is ordered to keep everybody away, and inexplicably lets Casey with a plastic turtle mascot head distract them while the others infiltrate the courtyard. In space, the planets (which don't include Jupiter?) align and then spit lightning from heavenly body to heavenly body to Sarah Michelle Gellar to heavenly body for some reason. Also the lightning bolt hits the tower on an angle and I was assured it would be "directly above". Also the little monster from the diner is one of the captured creatures, which makes no sense.

The 13th monster swap, however, is discovered by Winters who unsuccessfully tries to convince the stone generals to commit suicide, forgetting that from their perspective they were the generals of a great king and as they tried to seize a city they turned to stone and then "seconds" later were awoken and told it was 3000 years in the future. Motivation for suicide: zero.

In the courtyard, that "sneak past the Foot" got them roughly...one foot...as they are all fighting hundreds of ninja warriors to generic rock music. April is single-handedly beating 2-3 of them at a time with swords, which makes no sense but it's Sarah Michelle so I'll allow it. Because she's a girl and Karai is a girl, they do fight very briefly and probably unfair that April holds her own against the leader of the evil clan. Splinter, despite being the same Splinter from the first two/three movies, is able to run full speed through the courtyard (and on the tops of the bad guys' heads) despite being crippled. I presumed his fighting would be a lot of arm-based attacks on guys charging at him, but continuity what's that? The Foot, ordered to keep everybody out of the building, wisely fights them in a manner that funnels them towards the building where April and Casey take out the two guards holding the bridge. Uh, isn't this the Turtles' sole objective? Shouldn't it be where Karai and her top lieutenants are making one last super-powered stand?

Casey uses the security system he clumsily set off earlier to keep the Foot Clan outside, they rescue Leonardo, Rafael apologizes to his team leader and gives him some new swords, and they are joined by a recently disposed Winters who is thrown from the top of the building

April: Winters

Michelangelo: Looks more like Fall...get it?

Donatello: Mikey, remember our talk...

Winters is okay, of course, being immortal, but sort of surprised to see April here with his fake 13th monster, three more just like him, and a giant rat. Our gang still thinks he's the bad guy, remember, and the Foot Clan and the stone generals all converge in time to hear his Picard-speech about his torments and how he wants to save the world as much as they do. The Foot Clan in an embarrassing performance signs onto Team Winters. Karai, April, Casey, and the Foot all take off to find the 13th monster, while the Turtles take on the stone generals. The portal is simultaneously sucking in the 12 monsters assembled while spitting out new ones, which Splinter/Winters fight off and hold on...what's everybody trying to achieve here? Lets analyze...

Stone Generals: Their mission is to straight run out the clock: if the 13th monster isn't found and brought back to the portal, they will never die (for 3000 more years at least) and can "rain destruction" upon the earth. It's unclear why the portal in 994BC and the portal in 2007AD behave differently: the 13 monsters, while likely an annoyance, didn't really cause much destruction, and the person who opened the portal turned immortal and those near the portal turned to stone the first time, but now everybody can just chill around it. They are (presumably) undefeatable since they are stone.

Foot Clan, April, and Casey: Find the 13th monster, which they are doing.

Splinter: Defeat the monsters coming out of the portal, even though the only way to defeat them is to send them back through the portal which he does precisely twice and lets dozens others get past him. Fortunately for him, none of the monsters coming out a second time are larger than a breadbox.

Winters: Close the portal using the 13th monster, which he isn't really doing much to obtain other than occupying the generals. He is, however, immortal: no matter what the stone generals do he either will remain alive or close the portal and die as planned.

Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, our heroes in a half-shell: Beats me. They're apparently fighting the stone generals to protect Winters, who is immortal and doesn't require protection against the stone generals. They also cannot defeat the stone generals but may be necessary to capture the 13th monster, seeing how the Foot Clan's ranks have been diminished and even fully staffed they needed stone general help to catch the first twelve. So in other words they are the title characters, the hero of our story, the team who has to work together again, and their only task is an endless fight against undefeatable enemies to save the life of an unkillable immortal.

So our main characters aren't doing anything important, it's not clear why everything is happening the way it is, and the only real stakes of this battle (the 13th monster) are being left up to the group that started and will end the movie as villains. Speaking of which, we do eventually cut to them: April is driving like..well, a woman...and she and Casey have a back and forth which Karai sarcastically is not a fan of. The 13th monster, a sort of triceratops Pokeman, smashes into the van and I guess the diner creature was actually the 12th monster and not the 13th? But wasn't he running around free seconds before the Leonardo/Rafael rooftop fight which ended with the Foot Clan capturing Leo as the "13th monster"? I guess they captured the diner monster in the 45 seconds before it started to rain, but instead of taking him back to the tower like every other monster started wandering rooftops looking for errant ninjutsu-capable giant reptiles.

Splinter and the Turtles combine forces to push the stone generals into the portal...who then simply walk back out and explicitly mention that they are immortal and that fighting them has been a giant waste of time without the 13th monster who arrives chasing the turtle van basically on queue, losing his footing at precisely the perfect time, and knocking the stone generals into the portal like a bowling ball, sending the blue beam of light into the sky and ending their reign forever. Or at least the next 3000 years.

The day is won: despite rolling the van over and crashing into a wall at high speed, all four of the occupants are in perfect health: Karai and Casey get out first but are knocked over by April's massive rack...then April herself is knocked over by the Foot Clan mook behind her who probably bumped into her with his impressive erection after looking at her outfit for the last 20 minutes. Karai and the Turtles suddenly have an uneasy farewell, as she talks about how they will be enemies again because Shredder is coming back to life soon (again), which totally didn't come out of nowhere to hint at a sequel. Winters is laughing in joy at his mortality and that he got to look at April's rack one last time before dying. Because yes, he's now rapidly dying. Like super aging? Turning 3000 years old within seconds? Nope.

He becomes a mystical soul of floating energy just like that "Transfigurations" episode of TNG, turns to golden pixie dust, and dissipates. Why? Dunno. How? Dunno. His chest plate survives to join the BatcaveTMNT Cave trophy room, and the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles perform the same stunts they opened the movie with (replacing Lawrence Fishburne with Nolan North) and cut to a crappy rap song that's the only common element between all these films.

So that was TMNT. It was a nice looking film, had a couple good action scenes, and sucked you in with the first 40 seconds of narration before turning into a rambling and confusing mess. It was good without being outstanding, and certainly was better than the second film (though Patrick Stewart couldn't out-class David Warner). I never saw the third, and I think only watched the first two once each. I was never really a Ninja Turtle fan, and was more interested in the games than the TV show or movies.

By Ninja Turtle standards, from what I've seen, it was pretty good though. You really have to grade this franchise on a curve. Yep. Curves.