For a while, I've never have been able to get into the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise. I've tried many times over the years and have seen many different incarnations of the characters in animation from the original 80s cartoons to new animated shows on Nickelodeon and yet I've never been able to get into this franchise like others have. While I still wouldn't call myself a fan, I have softened on the franchise and I do see some of the fun that others have had in it. Therefore, I was curious to see how "TMNT" would turn out. The animated film came out in 2007 and wasn't well-received by critics. It's currently sitting at 35% on Rotten Tomatoes as of me writing this review. Honestly, I don't think the film is actually that bad. I don't think it's amazing either and I don't think I'd watch it again due to some of the bad elements of the film, but for what it was, there was some pretty good stuff in it.
After we are shown this Lord of the Rings like prologue involving a warrior who is granted immortality at the cost of his brothers and bringing down monsters to the human world, we are introduced to the four Ninja Turtles who defend New York City. They include Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor), Raphael (Nolan North), Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley), and Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield). The four however haven't been fighting crime as they used to after the defeat of their archnemesis, The Shredder, and their master Splinter (Mako) has sent Leo down to Central America to train him to be a better leader. When he is found by his friend April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), he is caught up that Donnie is working as an IT guy, Mikey runs a birthday party entertainer, and Raph still fights crime under a new vigilante known as The Nightwatcher. Leo eventually returns to New York to reunite the brothers to train them to become better fighters to discover monsters on the loose in New York along with other ninjas trying to capture them as well as stoned warriors brought back to life. Can the Turtles figure out the mystery behind the monsters and the soldiers as well as Leo trying to get along with his estranged brother Raph? Well, you'll just have to figure that out yourself.
This film was made by Imagi Animation Studios who had only made two movies during their existence, the other being the very boring and highly unimpressive "Astro Boy". It's also from director Kevin Munroe who later went onto make "Ratchet and Clank", an animated film I did find bad though not nearly as bad as others did. The good news is that the film is much better than those films and has a lot of fun moments. Though the bad news is, it has a lot of flaws that hold it back. First, let's talk about the story. Overall, the pieces are there to make for an entertaining film. It had enough weight with Leo and Raph's conflict as well as the mystery of the monsters in New York and I think it had some entertaining moments. What holds it back from reaching its full potential though is the absolutely terrible pacing. This film was all over the place in terms of pacing right from the start. We are given a huge exposition info dump about what we need to know from the start and then afterward, we are expected to know about who the characters in this film are and what they're personalities are like. Also, the film jumps all over the place from scene to scene and even the editing of how it was handled was very bad. This is a screenplay that really had the right material to be made into a great quilt, but the stitching was simply bad and should've been redone. It does get better by the end of the film though and I will say the climax is fantastic. As far as the animation goes, I did like it. I found that the grungey look of New York and the Turtles fit this film well and I loved the look and the color palette chosen for the film. Even the new designs of these characters are very good and I really appreciated it. I do have a major problem with it though and that's that the way the action scenes were presented because they were very sloppy. Like with the story, these action scenes had the potential to be really amazing and able to show off their true potential, but elements of it hold it back. The camera work is my major issue with these scenes. It's really terrible. There's a fight scene between Leo and Raph in the rain that really could've been great, but the camera work absolutely ruined it. It ranged from the camera having awkward movements or being placed behind neon signs making it hard to make out the characters. Compared to something like the bridge fight from "Kung Fu Panda" which came out a year after this film where the camerawork was smooth and elegant and nothing obstructed its view making it easy to see the characters in the fight. That is how great animated action should be done. This had the potential to show off great animated action, but sloppy camera work really ruined it. Not only that, but the cameras also follow characters in some fights as if it was a video game camera and it didn't work for me. We're supposed to be watching a movie, not a video game walkthrough. As for the characters though, all of them are very good and are true to the original characters. The Turtles are all fun and also April was great and I'm glad they didn't make her character a damsel in distress like in other adaptations. Casey did get on my nerves at first, but I grew to like him over time. Also, their voice actors turn in some excellent performances. Mako as Splinter was the real highlight. I've always loved his roles in TV shows like "Samurai Jack" and "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and he turns in one last excellent performance here. I really do miss hearing his voice in animation. I will say that one character I didn't really understand the purpose of was Karai (Zhang Ziyi). Her character felt very tagged on and didn't really serve much purpose in the film. I guess they were trying to build her up for a sequel that never happened, but we'll never know. Also, if there is one last problem I had with the film, it was the soundtrack. While Klaus Badet's score was okay, the song choices in this film were weird. There was a weird fight scene with Raph fighting a monster and a cover of Black Betty was playing for no reason. It was just strange.
Overall, I do think "TMNT" is not as bad as some have made it out to be, but I do feel it could've been better. The story is set up to be fantastic and has great moments but is badly paced, the animation has great character designs and atmosphere but the camera work is sloppy, although the characters are all fun and have their moments. I don't think this film was nearly as bad as what people make it out to be. I do think it could've absolutely been better had proper care been applied to it and I don't think I'm gonna watch this film again, but I certainly don't regret seeing this film. If you're curious enough to watch it or are a massive Ninja Turtles fan, then feel free. Though I will say that you'd probably need some knowledge of the franchise before watching it.