The very idea of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a silly one. Initially a parody of other popular comics in the 80s, TMNT would explode in its own popularity spanning a series of television shows, live-action and animated movies, and arcade and console games. While it’s certainly not as popular nowadays as it was in its heyday, the fact that the four turtles are still recognizable to children over thirty years later is a testament to the brand’s appeal. The Turtles are back in cinemas this summer in Out of the Shadows, the sequel to the 2014 reboot of the film franchise. Is it worth a watch?
The film begins with an animated stunt sequence and a short break at a basketball game before diving into a little plot. It’s fun enough, but serves little purpose other than a silly gag featuring the anthropomorphic turtles’ dish of choice: pizza. From there, audiences are “treated” to a gratuitous amount of Megan Fox doing that thing she does in movies. The dialogue exchange between Fox’s April O’Neil and Tyler Perry’s Dr. Baxter Stockman is hammy and dumb, but it feels consistent with the overall tone of the film. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the sequence that follows as April sheds her outer layer for a quick costume change to make sure the film gets in its requisite sex appeal.
The story is set one year after the last film. Shredder has been defeated and is in prison. Will Arnett’s Vern Fenwick is, according to an agreement made with the Turtles, regarded as the hero who brought down The Shredder. And, thanks to this agreement, the Turtles are able to remain in the shadows protecting New York.
After our detour at the basketball game, we learn that The Shredder is being transported and there’s a plan to break him out. This sets up a solid highway chase sequence with as many laughs and explosions as there are groans. Some of the dialogue is just plain stupid but, most times, it works favorably for the film. The actors know they’re in a silly movie and they appear to be having fun with that, chewing through some painful writing with a mouthful of cheese and a toothy grin.
The plot opens up after the highway scene with what could have been something awesome: Krang and Dimension X. Unfortunately, exposition is not one of this movie’s strong points. I’d like to say it’s formulaic in its plot progression, but that would be giving the film far too much credit. It tries to be – it pretty rapidly moves from point to point to point, but each point is a misstep on a scenic route for about two thirds of the movie. After it finally takes us somewhere we want to be, the film forgets the fact that an important item has gone missing so it can rehash some group conflict that was already covered in the first movie. While the Turtles are caught up in their moody discourse and shunning of each other, the bad guys get to move forward with their evil plot. It’s all good, though, because we need that to happen for that final boss fight – which is, sadly, less spectacular than it should be given everything that’s involved.
Out of the Shadows does a solid job keeping the Turtles true to their roots while keeping them updated enough so they don’t feel like they’re trapped in the 90s. Contrasting this, you have Bebop and Rocksteady. The character designs are perfect, even if the execution is a little off. Despite how good the CG renders of the Turtles are, Bebop and Rocksteady never really look believable in this world. Still, it is fun seeing them on the big screen – even if there are some missteps with how the characters are handled. As if to make sure the film wouldn’t get a PG rating, the two need to check their nether regions to see how everything was changed after their mutation. It’s a small thing, but something that doesn’t jibe with the rest of the film, regardless how messy it is.
The problem with the film isn’t the campy dialogue and one-liners – while some lines definitely don’t work and the script is quite a mess, the Turtles’ banter and Mikey’s quips are, more often than not, enjoyable. The problem is the film’s nonsensical plot and incoherent editing. I’m not expecting Shakespearean level art here, but staying focused on a single idea instead of pointless tangents would make the film a little more watchable (I can’t call them subplots, because these detours don’t have any plot). Its few shining moments are far outweighed by the wasted potential, misguided writing, and shoehorned sexuality. This could have easily been a great summer film anyone could enjoy. Unfortunately, the end result is something that can be entertaining in short bursts, but offers little enjoyment as a whole.
Bad – 1 / 3
In an interview about his most recent film, Pain & Gain, Michael Bay addressed concerns regarding his upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Rumors have been circulating since the film’s announcement that the Teenage, Mutant, and Turtles part of the title were misleading as it was believed the beloved characters were aliens and not mutated turtles; the film’s original title, Ninja Turtles, was further indication that the titular characters may be aliens.
However, Michael Bay has clarified that the crime fighting reptiles remain true to their roots as turtles mutated by the ooze:
There was that quote saying that we’re making [the Ninja Turtles as] aliens. We’re not. It’s the ooze! It’s from the original source material. These are from the original writers, and I never went out to correct myself in the press. I do listen to the fans and I do want this to be authentic. I think they’re going to be really happy with this movie.
The film’s title has officially been changed to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.