Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence
Directed by: Dave Green
Written by: Joseph Appelbaum & Andre Nemec
(based on the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES comics by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird)
Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Brian Tee, Tyler Perry, Brittany Ishibashi, Laura Linney, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Tony Shalhoub, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus & Brad Garrett
Though it didn’t jive too well with hardcore fans and most movie critics, 2014’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was a box office success. Of course, this meant an inevitable sequel was on the horizon. Two years later, we have TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, a follow-up that noticeably improves upon its bland predecessor and yet still falls victim to a couple of the reboot’s shortcomings. It should be noted that I’ve never been a big TMNT fan, so I’m not exactly a person to ask regarding if this film delivers for fans of the comics, cartoons, and franchise as a whole. Strictly taken as PG-13 family fun and a big dumb summer blockbuster, OUT OF THE SHADOWS is by-the-numbers entertainment driven on a handful of cool moments and lots of questionable writing.
A year after the turtles saved New York from the evil Foot Clan, Shredder (Brian Tee) remains in police custody and cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) has taken credit for the ninja turtles’ heroic deeds. The teenage turtles (composed of: leader Leonardo, aggressive Raphael, geeky Donatello, and fun-loving Michelangelo) live in the sewer and observe the world from the shadows (hiding in the Jumbotron at Knicks games, stealing pizza from delivery drivers, etc.). When Shredder breaks out of police custody, it appears that the four turtles have their work cut out for them. It’s going to be harder to take Shredder down this time around, because he’s being assisted by warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and rhinoceros Rocksteady (Sheamus), and has also formed a world domination plot with tentacled alien Krang (Brad Garrett). To throw even more problems into the mix, Shredder has acquired a purple ooze that could possibly turn the teenage mutant ninja turtles into humans, which causes personal conflicts to emerge within the reptile team.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS is the first TMNT movie to feature Rocksteady, Bebop, and Krang. Even though I vaguely knew of these villains, I was pretty excited to see them on the big screen. Shredder is actually made into a real bad guy this time around and doesn’t look like a giant silver Transformer, all while Rocksteady and Bebop inject a sense of humor into the movie. You’d think that a film revolving around giant pizza-eating turtles who practice martial arts wouldn’t take itself so seriously, but you’d be surprised. Rocksteady and Bebop alleviate the brooding self-serious tone by being two goofball henchmen. They’re silly cartoon characters brought to life through computer effects, one happens to be a pig and the other is a rhino. Don’t worry about their origin story because it is given, albeit in a half-assed way.
As for Krang, I was mightily disappointed with his lack of screen time in this film. Even though the script sets him up as the main antagonist, Krang receives a total of two scenes (one of those being the finale). He only shows up to make a bad joke about his tentacle mucus to Shredder and eventually returns to fight the turtles. The final confrontation between the turtles and this gooey pink alien is fun to watch, but I wish this villain had more of a presence in the overall scheme of things. As a result, I cared more about Shredder, Rocksteady and Bebop than Krang…and this finale felt like an afterthought.
The 2014 installment focused on a convoluted and silly origin story, but the turtles are actually far more developed in this 2016 sequel. In the reboot, their only discernible differences were different colored masks. This time around, they’re given distinctly noticeable personalities from the opening frames. I was able to understand their differences better and the personal conflicts between them actually made sense, even if the story was repeating similar scenes from the first film. Because this sequel focuses on the turtles, the human characters are shoved aside as walking plot devices.
Megan Fox’s April looks sexy and gets info for the turtles, while never becoming the damsel-in-distress that she usually was in the cartoons. Will Arnett’s Vern is underused, but supplies one of the funniest scenes in the entire film. Tyler Perry isn’t bad as mad scientist Baxter Stockman and if they make a third installment, I’m positive that we’ll be seeing more of him. Stephen Arnell is boring and forgettable as masked vigilante Casey Jones. I guess this character is a huge fan favorite, but he seemed like a generic bland sidekick to me. Maybe, this movie just screwed up the character of Casey Jones? On a side note, Laura Linney seems noticeably embarrassed to be starring in this film.
There’s not a moment in OUT OF THE SHADOWS where you can’t fully predict the entire movie from start to finish. The script hits a series of expected beats and follows a familiar road that’s been seen in plenty of other movies, just not ones featuring giant talking turtles. The narrative is brainless, but the set pieces and effects are entertaining. I really enjoyed this sequel’s CGI, which looked like a monumental improvement over the first movie’s effects. The action scenes are mostly fun, but also get bogged down in distracting shaky cam. As a film made for families and people who want to watch ninja reptiles, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS is throwaway entertainment. Kids will love it. Fans of the series are likely to catch details that casual viewers will miss. SHADOWS is a step above its mediocre predecessor entry and there’s something to be said for that.