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April 4, 2007
The morning of TMNT's opening day (and I hope everyone knows I'm talking about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), I sent around an email to everyone I know announcing my plans to go see it that evening. I expected not just prompt but immediate replies, in all caps, asking where and when and if they could get a ride. Crickets had been chirping for about an hour before I finally attacked people on an individual basis. Instead of the enthusiasm I had assumed would erupt, I was greeted with puzzlement. "Why would I want to go see that?" "I have no interest in that movie" and "I'm an adult" were their responses, and these comments, besides indicating a general lack of camaraderie by everyone I know, were the beginning of an inkling I was starting to get that TMNT is, alas, a kid's movie. This inkling was confirmed when I arrived at a very popular and crowded cineplex on a Friday night at 9:00 pm with the four people that were nice enough to humor me, and we ended up comprising 50% of the audience.

You can't really blame me for being confused though. Hollywood has spent millions upon millions on the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman enterprises, not to mention the forthcoming Transformers flick, which no one I know will shut up about. I naturally assumed that the hysteria surrounding the Turtles in the late 80s had carried over into our adulthood, where it became a sort of warm, nostalgic glow. Well, apparently there's a fine line between "being nostalgic" and "acting really childlike and weird," which my friends picked up on very quickly. That fine line, I've figured out, has a lot to do with animation and very little to do with subject matter.

As far as I can tell, the new TMNT picks up where the original TMNT movie - the one with Corey Feldman, not the one with Vanilla Ice - left off. Shredder is long dead, and the lack of focus has fragmented the once tight family of mutant ninja brothers. Leonardo, the oldest and leader of the pack, and Raphael, the hothead who's never been comfortable taking orders, have really gone too far with their sibling rivalry this time, and the tension finally comes to a head. Instead of the easy, feel-good route that they could have taken, the makers of TMNT instead chose to go along the darker channels prevalent in the comic book, and the film goes in a new direction by including a very real-seeming battle between the two alpha-male-turtles that really doesn't end in the expected hugs and high fives. Their personalities have been so well preserved over the years, that I almost felt a little misty watching my old friends alive and well again, just as I remembered them.

So why am I not falling to pieces over this well-written and exciting film that brings to mind so many pleasant childhood memories? Because some moron chose to animate it! No, I get it, the costumes of the 1990 film were clunky and fake, and the agile amphibians of the comics and television series were reduced to a gang of dangerously slow-moving martial artists. As such, we never got much acrobatic ninja fighting, and today's technology allows the turtles to zip around New York in a more "realistic" way - and if not realistic then at least more romanticized. I'm down with CGI turtles, but it's the CGI Splinter and the CGI April O'Neil and Casey Jones (who became a hot hipster somewhere along the way) that make you ask yourself if you're watching a film or a video game. They cheapened the entire experience and made me glad I hadn't dragged the reluctant ones to the theater. I would never have heard the end of it, no matter how much I pleaded for them to look past the awkward humans and focus on our old friends, back to their normal slender states and kicking ass with bows and sais.

And the worst part is, you know it's possible for a great film to be hatched out of the combination of CGI and real people. I mean, this isn't the age of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.* The abovementioned superhero movies do a fantastic job of seamlessly integrating fact and fiction, but the difference is that it costs a lot more money to corral big shot actors and big shot animators. Consequently, TMNT comes across as low budget, even though the concept and writing are right on, and just because it satisfied my own nostalgic yearnings, it probably will fail to hit the mark with most other adults.

I just have to mention, though, that there is no way that the Transformers could beat the Turtles, it's just not feasible. They make too much noise when they walk around. Ninjas are all over that.

*I am on a roll recapturing my childhood, here! Next stop, The Land Before Time and Ann M. Martin!

SEE ALSO: www.ninjaturtles.com
SEE ALSO: tmnt.warnerbros.com

--
Susan Howson
A staff writer attending graduate school in Richmond, VA, Susan Howson cannot be persuaded to stop talking about movies.

See other articles by Susan Howson.

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