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Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

Directed by: Dave Green

Premise: A sequel to the 2014 film. Shredder (Brian Tee) joins forces with an alien warlord named Krang (voice of Brad Garrett) to take over the world. The turtles team with April O’Neil and Casey Jones (Megan Fox and Stephen Amell) to stop the invasion.

What Works: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a marginally better film than the 2014 picture. The special effects and the rendering of the mutants are improved. The digital characters have especially fine detail and visual texture; they blend seamlessly with the human actors and the natural backgrounds. The goo and saliva of Krang is sufficiently gross. Out of the Shadows is also a bit more fun than its predecessor. There are more and better jokes and the overall tone of Out of the Shadows is lighter. This picture makes a deliberate attempt to court the fans of the 1980s and 90s cartoon with funny gadgets and the inclusion of characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, played by Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus. The mutant warthog and rhinoceros bring a bit of levity to the movie as does Tyler Perry’s performance as Baxter Stockman. The Ninja Turtles have had several big screen incarnations and this one adds something new; the turtles want to be accepted into society and recognized for their contributions to the city, leading to conflict over whether or not to reveal themselves. The conflict among the turtles gives the movie a handful of human moments that it sorely needs. 

What Doesn’t: Despite some incremental improvements and a bit of fan service, Out of the Shadows retains many of the problems of its predecessor. The plot is quite similar to the 2014 film. In fact, if the movies were played side-by-side nearly every one of the major plot beats and set pieces would probably parallel each other quite closely. When Out of the Shadows isn’t replicating the previous Ninja Turtles movie it blatantly rips off other films. The climax of Out of the Shadows is lifted wholesale from The Avengers. The characterization in Out of the Shadows is considerably worse than the previous Ninja Turtles film, especially the regard for April O’Neil, again played by Megan Fox. The first movie made a point of sexually objectifying her but in that film O’Neil at least had things to do and she was a critical part of the action. In Out of the Shadows she is objectified yet again but this time it’s a lot cruder and O’Neil has little to do except tag along as the arm candy of Casey Jones who is presented as an utterly bland and unnecessary character. The chief villain of Out of the Shadows is Shredder; unlike the first film he is foregrounded but he makes no more of an impression. Shredder has no motivation. He acts bad because he is bad and there’s nothing more to the villain than that. The story of Out of the Shadows is a mess. The movie is just a bunch of random events; there is no rising action or a discernable narrative through line. Out of the Shadows expands the story world but the filmmakers do an especially terrible job introducing Krang. Only middle aged viewers who watched the cartoon will be able to make sense of who these people are and what is going on. The dialogue of Out of the Shadows is also pretty bad. A lot of the dialogue is expository in nature interspersed with fortune cookie pseudo-wisdom that are either clichés or non-sequiturs or both. Lastly, the action of Out of the Shadows is chaotic and incoherent. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series is the stylistic cousin of the Transformers movies; both franchises are made by many of the same people and they share the same over-busy style of filmmaking. The action is hard to follow and, most critically, nothing in the film is emotionally involving. There’s a lot of fury on screen but it can’t make up for the mess of a script and the uninvolving characters. 

Bottom Line: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a better film than its predecessor but it still isn’t very good. The movie is a mess of chaotic action in search of a coherent story that it never finds.

Episode: #559 (June 19, 2016)