Reviews

TMNT (2007)

Daynah Burnett
Michelangelo (with Leonardo and Splinter visible in background)

The CGI allows the Turtles to have facial expressions, though here these mostly range from angsty to angstier.


TMNT

Director: Kevin Munroe
Cast: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne, Ziyi Zhang
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-03-23 (General release)
Website
Trailer

As comic book adaptations continue to rule the box office, someone came up with the bright idea that another round with the worthy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise would spur a new generation of fans. Only this time around, the Turtles come sans rubber suits and Vanilla Ice cameos, even sans their super-cool name. Even back in 1990, I thought that the Turtles' premise outlandish, the plots overblown, and the heroes obnoxious. Not much of that has changed, except that it's clearer to me now where the Turtles are coming from: they're boys being boys.

The new and improved Turtles are CGIed, allowing for more nuanced storytelling by way of a strong visual style and composition-based shots that come close to capturing the noir-based artistry of the original 1984 comic book developed by Kevin Eastman. Better still, the CGI allows the Turtles to have facial expressions, though here these mostly range from angsty to angstier.

So what does a teenage mutant ninja turtle have to brood about, anyway? Well, the city's in trouble, you see, and Donatelllo (Mitchell Whitfield), Michelangelo (Mikey Kelly), Raphael (Nolan North), and Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) are the only ass-kicking turtles who can save the Big Apple from being overrun by red-eyed Egyptian statues, a clan of evil ninjas and exactly 13 monsters from a parallel universe. Here's the story: In a platinum-tarnished flashback battle sequence (these scenes might have been lifted straight from another hyper-masculine comic adaptation, 300) we learn of a Egyptian "warrior king" who came across a portal to another dimension, one that opens up every 3000 years and grants passers-through immortality. Now that the portal is about to open again, the Turtles must stop tycoon Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) from entering it, thus bringing certain doom to the city, the country, the world! At least I think that was the deal.

The Stone Generals: General Aguila, General Gato, General Serpiente and General Mono

We have only vague indications of what "evil" means in the Turtles' world, and so it's hard to determine the real threat. The monsters resemble slightly nastier versions of something lurking under a little kid's bed, yet Donatello walks us through an alarming sequence in which a digitized map of the world (Manhattan the epicenter) is quickly overrun by a red swarm of terror, outlining how much of a global threat these monsters pose. When these threats aren't being showcased visually, the Turtles talk of "evil poised to destroy our brotherhood" and the "army of evil" that they must face together. Sounds familiar.

Luckily, there are still regular criminals out there too, and to combat that more identifiable brand of evildoer, Raphael moonlights as a vigilante called the "Nightwatcher," foiling bumbling bad guys as they steal cars and hold up convenience stores. While this seems noble work and a worthy subplot, it mostly highlights a lot of guns. Though the Turtles would never stoop to using such rudimentary weaponry, this cartoon features gunplay throughout, which feels alienating and gratuitously threatening, especially given the film's marketing campaign, which appears to target young children.

But the guns are also appealing to preteen boys, teeming with hormones and thirsty for justice. Though TMNT stresses the "anything for your brother" brand of moral fiber, it includes plenty of one-liners to underscore the Turtles' thrill-seeking bravado ("Come to Daddy!"). More disturbing is the film's depiction of women -- all wasp-waisted and big-eyed. In one of the first shots we see a close-up of April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), dwarfed by Leonardo's rippling, veiny calf muscle. Though she can kick some ass on her own, she just doesn't compare to a Turtle. She lacks the phallus-shaped weapon, rock-hard biceps, and snappy comeback.

4

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image