Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Dave Green
The first Bay-Turtles movie was pretty damn awful. Maybe not as bad as the WORST Transformers film, but certainly no better than the arguably best one (Marky Mark for the win). With this one though, there seems to be a conscious effort to integrate more of what people ACTUALLY liked about the cartoon and incorporate it into the Bay-Turtles universe, so maybe a middle ground can be struck here between big budget extravagance and nostalgic sincerity. Does this manage to AT least be better than the first one? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up some time after the first one with the Turtles (Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson) continuing their hero shtick in the shadows while Vernon (Will Arnet) is taking all the credit for defeating Shredder (now Brian Tee instead of Tohoru Masamune) and putting him in Jail. Eric Sacks by the way is not even mentioned here. At first they made him NOT The Shredder, and now they’ve retconned him out of existence! The turtles are restless about all the lack of kudos they get or kicking so much ass, but those concerns will be secondary soon enough as Shredder escapes jail with the help of Super Nerd Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and recruits two new soldiers in his army in the form of Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly AKA Sheamus) so that they can build a teleporter device that will bring Krang (Brad Garrett) and The Technodrome into our world. Oh, and I’m pretty sure April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is around doing something. So is Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). ANYWAY! Can the turtles stop Shredder from his latest evil schemes? Will they do as the title says and come out of the shadows to stop this latest threat? Seriously, how much longer before they do a crossover?
I begrudgingly accept that this movie is MUCH better than the first one; however shallow the improvements may be. While the last one was a terrible film that did an awful job of adapting the license it was based off of, this one is a pretty bad film that does an okay job of adapting its license. That’s also coming from someone who does not care in the slightest for the property at hand, so while the improvements in adaptation are noticeable even to a non-fan, I’m not getting too worked up that Bebop, Rocksteady, and even Krang managed to sneak their way into this awful and horrendously paced script. For some reason this seems to be the year of decent sequels and I guess some of that magic managed to splash off of Alice: Through the Looking Glass onto this franchise, and maybe by the third movie we’ll have something truly enjoyable. As it stands, this movie is… okay… I guess… if you like the turtles.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it has no discipline. There’s no sense of flow for the story, there’s not enough world building for half the “they’re doing this, so we should do this” moments to make sense, and there’s rarely a moment here where things actually slow down for the characters to have moments that make you care what ends up happening to them. Even for scenes that are supposed to be heartfelt and build up these characters, they’re undercut by the fact that the camera will not chill the fuck out, or the filmmakers decided to overload it with shtick. The movie’s plot though may be the worst offender which has no rhyme or reason for any of the events to happen the way they do and no motivation for the villains to carry out their obviously stupid plan. We don’t know why Tyler Perry (playing his role with only slightly more dignity than Jamie Fox in Amazing Spider-Man 2) wants to help Shredder, and whenever the movie even tries to approach that question, it does so in the worst way possible. Is the guy a sheltered nerd looking for revenge? Is he an idealistic scientist who can’t see the ramifications of his discoveries? Does the dude just want more money? Depending on what scene it is, it could be ANY of those (or even all three at once) and it never works. What part of this plan seemed like a good idea in the first place? Was it the part where you broke a serial killer with an army of ninjas out of jail, or was it when the serial killer THEN told you an alien wants them to build the dimensional portal from The Avengers so that he can take over the planet? At what point did you think that you were gonna have a future with them once you had finished building the doomsday device?
Shredded is somewhat improved here from the last film, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually good. He’s not a secondary henchman to the main villain like he was in the last movie… okay, he KINDA is, but we’ll get to Krang soon enough. Brian Tee actually has a chance to act here as he’s not in the shadows for most of the movie (you could say he’s… OUT OF THE SHADOWS? Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk) and he plays the stoic bad ass well, especially considering he’s acting as Moe to Bebop and Rocksteady’s Larry and Curly.
That said, the guy doesn’t have much in terms of menace or believable motivation (I think he wants revenge against the turtles and that’s it) but if we HAVE to have a stock and cliché villain in this, I don’t think he was bad for the part. The rest of the acting isn’t much more to write home about. Either everyone is over acting like crazy, or they’re Megan Fox who is just flat out boring to watch on screen. Tyler Perry and Stephen Amell are the two who are plying it up the most here and are one dimensional cartoon characters which MIGHT have worked if this WAS a cartoon but it’s not, and trying to watch these two figure out exactly what tone they should be working at, from scene to scene, is just painful. The lone bright spot (at least for the humans) is Will Arnett who’s at least doing his usual Will Arnett shtick and is in the movie just enough so that he doesn’t our stay his welcome, so he manages to come out of this relatively unscathed (as is Dean Winters who’s only in here for five minutes). I’ll give the movie credit that the Turtles are better in this movie and do have very distinct personalities and have moments that really let you know what’s in their heads. Those moments of course don’t work completely because they’re either in the middle of something crazy or are sandwiched between exposition dumps, but watching Raphael be scared of heights and psyching himself up by thinking of Vin Diesel is a very nice touch.
Getting back to the villains, all that really leaves us (aside from Bebop and Rocksteady who we will get to later) is our supposed big heavy of the movie; Krang. I am not convinced that this guy or The Technodrome were in the original script for this movie. He shows up twenty minutes into the movie with no buildup or warning for him to suddenly be in the movie; so much so that I feel like there’s a Ninja Turtles 1.5 out there that I missed because I STILL don’t know who the fuck Krang is or if Shredder knew him before we see them meet in this! He has one job in here and that’s to get the plot going by telling Shredder to find three pieces of a teleporter (why the pieces are on Earth, I have no idea) and to bring him and The Technodrome from wherever the fuck they are. Then he’s gone! He’s not seen ONCE for another hour in the movie, and is saved for the final city wide battle that’s so unoriginal that I don’t even know why they bothered shoving him into the movie. For the MAYBE ten minutes that he’s on screen, I think he’s adequately realized (I like the voice that Brad Garrett gives him) but he adds almost nothing to this movie other than to mark it off on the fan service checklist.
Another huge issue with this movie is the action which never works and has zero weight or impact. It’s yet another example of this movie’s more is more approach (more fan service, more villains, more plot points) and because of that the action is too busy to get a real idea of what the hell is going on. It’s not even shot well as all this chaos is going on in the scene, yet the camera always wants to get right up in the characters faces so that on top of not knowing what the hell is going on with the incomprehensible action, we don’t even know WHERE it’s going on half the time due to the cinematography. Are they still in the plane? Did they make it all the way to the entrance of the police station? Wait, they managed to jump from building to building all the way to the ground STARTING AT THE CHRYSLER BUILDING, in about a minute and a half? WHAT!? How is it that a movie about NINJAS is at its worse when they’re doing NINJA STUFF!? It almost seems intentional at points so that we don’t question how certain characters manage to win fights against much more skilled opponents; such as how Bebop and Rocksteady can kick the ass of four highly trained Ninja Turtles, or how WILL ARNET is able to take down not one, but TWO Ninjas in this!
Alright, now that’s a WHOLE lot of bad that I just outlined, but there are some strong points. If there weren’t, then I wouldn’t say that this is a marginally better film. While I do believe that the humor and the fan service are overdone to the detriment of the film, they do bring a lot here. Similar to how Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass was an improvement because it stopped trying to be something it’s not by finding its own voice, this movie drops a lot of the grit and self-importance that kept popping up in the last movie and replaced it with winking nods and a sillier aesthetic. Chief among these is the introduction of Beebop and Rocksteady who oddly enough embody both the good aspects of the fan service as well as the bad. They’re goofy, fun, and are interesting to follow throughout the movie, while simultaneously being annoying and nonsensical. Like most of the fan service here (Casey Jones, Krang, the ooze), there’s a good foundation to build upon, but they had no idea where to take it other than TO THE EXTREME. It’s just that TO THE EXTREME is kind of Bebop and Rocksteady’s deal already, so it works for them.
There’s no doubt that this movie is better than the first one, but that’s hardly an achievement. A part of me wants to be kinder to the film because of the ways they decided to improve this were the right choices. Under a more dedicated director and a less cynical writer (just throw all this shit in there and watch the fan boys squeal!), this could have been a solid film. As it stands, it’s just another disposable kid’s movie that’ll provide little more than a distraction for families who need something to do this weekend. Maybe that’s enough for Paramount, but the fact that someone was willing to spend [money] on something so pointless is a depressing thought. Even if you’re a TMNT fan, I wouldn’t really recommend seeing this in the theater; especially considering that the action (what you’d go to see a movie like this for) is one of the weakest aspects. It might be worth checking out once it gets a home release and save your theater money to buy that Coming out of Their Shells album.
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