TMNT (also known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is a 2007 American computer-animated martial arts superhero film written and directed by Kevin Munroe. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series, the film stars the voices of Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, and Zhang Ziyi and narrated by Laurence Fishburne. It is loosely connected to the original 1990–1993 trilogy.
In the first animated feature film in the franchise (and only good since the 1990 original), the film sees the four Turtles (Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo) grow apart after their final defeat of Shredder, when strange things are happening in NYC as ancient creatures threaten the world and the Turtles must reunite to save it.
Three thousand years ago, warlord Yaotl enters a portal into a parallel universe and becomes immortal, but his four generals Aguila, Serpiente, Gato, and Mono are turned to stone. The portal also releases 13 immortal monsters that destroy his army and his enemies.
In the present, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have grown apart. After defeating Shredder, Master Splinter has sent Leonardo to Central America for training, where he protects a village from bandits. Donatello works as an IT specialist, Michelangelo works as a birthday party entertainer called "Cowabunga Carl", and Raphael secretly works at night as the vigilante "Nightwatcher". April O'Neil operates a company that locates and acquires relics for collectors, assisted by her boyfriend, Casey Jones.
April travels to Central America for work and finds Leonardo, telling him that the Turtles have drifted apart. April returns to New York City with a statue for wealthy tycoon Max Winters. Leonardo also returns, and April and Casey deliver the statue to Winters. Winters hires Karai and the Foot Clan to search the city for the 13 monsters before the portal opens again. Raphael encounters Casey, who reveals his knowledge of Raphael's double identity and joins him in hunting criminals. Winters, who is actually Yaotl and is still immortal, reanimates his stone generals. Leonardo returns to the sewer lair, meeting Splinter. Splinter forbids the Turtles from fighting until they can act as a team again. While training, the Turtles encounter one of the 13 beasts, Bigfoot, battling the Foot Clan. The Turtles engage Bigfoot, going against Leonardo and Splinter's orders. When Raphael visits Casey, they encounter Vampire Succubor, one of the monsters and witness its capture by the Foot and the Stone Generals, who spot them. Raphael is knocked unconscious. Casey takes Raphael back to the apartment while April calls the Turtles for help and reveals the identities of Yaotl and his generals. After being revived, Raphael suggests they pursue Yaotl, but Leonardo forbids him to go until Splinter gives out the order. Raphael investigates alone.
Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo plan their next move, while Donatello discovers the next portal will open over Winters' tower. Splinter tells Leonardo that his team is incomplete and that he knows what he must do. After 11 monsters have been captured, General Aguila questions Yaotl's actions. The generals conspire to betray Yaotl, wanting to remain immortal. Raphael encounters the Jersey Devil, one of the remaining monsters but drives it off. Leonardo finds Raphael in his Nightwatcher disguise and, not recognizing him, tries to convince him to stop his vigilante actions. Raphael, still angry, attacks Leonardo, but Leonardo bests him and knocks his helmet off. The two turtles chastise each other’s actions until their anger reaches a boiling point, resulting in a second fight. Raphael breaks Leonardo's swords, but flees in shame when his anger nearly drives him to kill Leonardo. The generals seize Leonardo, intending to substitute him for the 13th missing beast, and Raphael decides to make amends by rescuing Leonardo. As the portal opens, Yaotl discovers his generals' treachery, while Splinter and the Turtles, accompanied by Casey and April, fight their way through the Foot Clan cordon and breach the tower. Yaotl reveals the truth to the heroes: he wants to be free of his curse of immortality. The generals reveal that they wish to preserve their immortality, but also to use the portal to bring in more monsters to conquer the world.
Having refused to betray Yaotl in exchange for serving the Generals, Karai and the Foot Clan work together with April and Casey to search for the final monster, the Sea Monster, while the Turtles fight the generals. Splinter and Yaotl fight off numerous monsters emerging from the portal. April, Casey, and Karai arrive at the tower with the Sea Monster. The Sea Monster crashes into the Generals, dragging them into the portal before it closes. Karai warns them to enjoy their victory while it lasts, claiming they will soon contend with faces from their past, which the Turtles suspect to be the Shredder. She and the rest of the Foot Clan depart. Yaotl, now mortal, honors the Turtles and Splinter, thanking them for fulfilling his wish before dissipating. Splinter places Yaotl's helmet among his trophy collection, as well as Raphael's "Nightwatcher" helmet and Michelangelo's "Cowabunga Carl" head.
As they return to their roles as the shadowy guardians of New York City, Raphael narrates that the Turtles will always be brothers. He ends the film with the familiar saying, "Oh, I love being a turtle ."
Why Turtles Go Cowabuga
- The choice to make the film computer-animated rather than the usual live-action/puppetry was a creative and worthwhile choice.
- The unique and semi-realistic designs of the newly CGI animated turtles.
- It maintains the serious tone to the original movie, in contrast to the second and third films.
- Very intense and well-choreographed action scenes.
- The film had an incredibly solid, ensemble cast that do a good job portraying their characters, Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor), Raphael (Nolan North), Master Splinter (Mako) and April (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are prime examples.
- Peter Laird, one of the co-creators of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, worked with Warner Bros. and had more involvement that the previous three films.
- The production company picked a newbie director, Kevin Munroe, a self-proclaimed fan of the original comics and film.
- Munroe wrote the film with re-introducing the characters in mind, as it had been nearly fourteen years since the last film with the turtles. He also made sure the turtles were written well-enough to make new/old audiences happy.
- Munroe worked with Peter Laird to make sure the story hit all the right notes for a good TMNT film.
- The computer animation enabled the crew to make more frantic and kinetic action scenes. The Leo and Raph fight is a major example.
- The film decided not to bring back The Shredder, which is a creative plus.
- April O'Neil, while with a smaller role, still kicks butt and has her own storyline with being an archaeologist and putting up with Casey Jones. Also, she suits up and helps Casey and the Turtles in the end.
- Each of the thirteen monsters in the movie were based off real-life, mythological creatures with exaggerated and creepy designs.
- For additional voices, the film brought in Billy West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy), Kevin Michael Richardson (Lilo & Stitch, Family Guy) , John DiMaggio (Adventure Time, Samurai Jack), Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Sonic SatAM), Phil LaMarr (Samurai Jack, Foster's Home) and Jennifer Hale (X-Men, Metroid).
- Made a smart choice of casting voice actors for the lead turtles while having the celebrities voice the supporting characters.
- The animation is amazing and is an improvement from Hoodwinked! and The Magic Roundabout and also looks similar to Monsters, Inc.. and Shrek.
- The story also feels like DreamWorks and Pixar.
- The dialogue lacks the irony and goofy wit of the earlier TMNT movies.
- Shredder only appears as a cameo and does not appear. It is possible that the writers are not trying to rehash the original 1990 film of the same name.
- Despite being meant to be the 4th movie in the series, it almost has nothing to do with the movie trilogy, it feels more like it's based on the 2003 show. The only connection the movie has with the trilogy is the old relics at the end.
- The movie starts off with the Turtles having parted ways after Shredder's defeat, supposedly after he was buried in Secret of the Ooze, but as mentioned above, it has little to no connection to that movie trilogy. Overall, the film feels like there should have been another TMNT reboot before it, which would have Shredder's defeat, and more into the turtles' decision to go separate ways. It's like if Pixar decided to just skip over Toy Story, and just go right to Toy Story 2, while still expecting everyone to be familiar with the events of the first movie.
- While amazing, animation suffers from weak lighting and hasn't aged that well.
- During the fight between Leo and the Nightwatcher, when the latter gets unmasked, Leo discovers Raph was the Nightwatcher. It's strange that Leo would not at least have suspected Raph, given the Nightwatcher's mannerisms and oversized turtle-esque figure, especially since Casey had told Raph how obvious it was earlier in the film...
- Yaotl and his siblings are considered the weakest villains in the series and are generic "ancient" beings along with being filler.
- On topic of that, despite the narrator's claim at the beginning that they are evil beings threatening to destroy the turtle's brotherhood, they had nothing to do with it.
The film holds a 35% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 120 reviews with an average rating of 4.96/10. The critical consensus states, "TMNT's art direction is splendid, but the plot is non-existent and the dialogue lacks the irony and goofy wit of the earlier Ninja Turtles movies.". On Metacritic the film has a score of 41 out of 100 based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an "A-".