I've seen my first movie of 2007 — and that film is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The star of the film is definitely the titular heroes. Though the plot makes Michaelangelo and Donatello extraneous, this bummer is balanced by Raphael, always my favorite reptile, taking the spotlight alongside Leonardo in a battle that is more emotional than physical. The evil Shredder is dead, and without an opposing force to galvanize the turtles, they've drifted apart. When Leonardo returns after a year's pilgramage, he finds a cooler reception than he expected. Old friends April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones must help the turtles unite against the machinations of Max Winters (Patrick Stewart). There are some great action sequences, but not as great as the character development — who'd expect that from giant turtles? — and some effective mirroring between the turtle's internal strife and that of the villains — something that Star Trek: Nemesis tried, and failed, to do well.
The directorial team approached this film in a way that lends it both strength and weakness. In the former area, TMNT cuts right to the chase. I've not read any TMNT comic books in the last 15 years; I've not seen the new cartoon or played the video games; I never even got around to seeing the third live-action film. But having grown up with the original cartoon and seeing the first two films, I felt like this latest animated installment was a direct sequel to that older franchise. The film does not dawdle with prelude: there's no flashbacks, setting up, or other time-wasting plot devices. If you don't know how the ninja turtles came to be, or why they listen to a wise old rat, by the end of the movie, you still won't know. Anything that's important can be gleaned.
The downside to this approach is that there is little that makes this film uniquely TMNT. It's a fun martial arts/sci-fi/action film, but I felt like their were too many elements that could've been transplanted into other setting (like Disney's Gargoyles). Not even the classic TMNT theme song is present.
I previously expressed my concern for the animation style, and I agree the humans were a bit too inhuman. But the dark style fit the turtles perfectly. Not once during the film did I think to myself, "This is a CGI cartoon." Its computer-generated nature didn't occur to me, though I think that is reflective more of the prevalance of the medium than of the improved quality (which is admittedly impressive).
Overall, a better film than I was expecting — and with a convenient hook for a sequel. For now, check out the online featurette (may contain spoilers).