As stated previously here, the 2014 franchise reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t suck nearly as hard as I thought it would. While an uneven mess that clearly implemented some poor decisions in terms of the origins of the characters and a lack of screen time for the titular reptiles, the 2014 film at least had a solid representation for Turtles and could potentially improve on the aspects around it for a more enjoyable sequel. Well, I’m happy to report that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is an improvement over that, mainly as an energetic adaptation of the popular perception (ie the 1987 animated series, not the more gritty 1984 comic book) of the characters… though that isn’t to say it results in a movie that’s too good overall. I know: a faithful adaptation of a goofy 1980s cartoon property might have some sort of problems due to being close to its childish previous incarnation? What blasphemy!
But there’s a huge difference with capturing the spirit of the source material tonally and adapting the story structure to a modern audience. On the latter point, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows takes about as many short cuts as that original cartoon did for animation budget purposes. Mainly, there’s a lot of very quickly rushed exposition that ends up being at the disinterest of some of these human characters. Early on in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, our new version of the villain Shredder (Brian Tee, whose take is at least more tolerable than the previous film in that he is literally “out of the shadows”) jumps through a dimensional portal and runs into an inter dimensional being Kraang, who is a giant brain-like alien inside a giant robot. Kraang is a well crafted version of the fan favorite baddie from the cartoon with modern updates and effectively voiced with the right kind of pompous arrogance by Brad Garrett. Yet, Shredder – who, despite his badass silent nature – has ABSOLUTELY NO REACTION to this giant alien and no qualms about allowing him to proceed to take over the world in exchange for defeating the Turtles. No shock. No contemplation. Not even a simple defensive pose. He’s just like “sure, take over the world. Just kill those turtles for me.” This lack of human contemplation ends up infecting the general plot construction of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, having the general plot progression of an average episode of that original 80s cartoon.
Plot points skip multiple threads just to get to the square peg it’s intended. Megan Fox blasts off exposition faster than she can take off an item of clothing. Will Arnett manages to get high tech security footage by getting into a facility and tearing out a wire. Tyler Perry manages to create teleportation yet still wants to be faithful to The Foot despite not really needing them at all. Basically, this entire story is pretty dumb and nonsensical. Yet, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows doesn’t seem to be under the delusion of it being otherwise. The story of finding three pieces to get Kraang’s Technodrome to our dimension is more of a catalyst to get our four turtle brothers together for antics that are silly, yet manage to create a solid chemistry and keep the one solid thread that ultimately matters for the film together; these four diverging personalities clashing as teenage egos tend to do. Despite being giant CG reptiles (who look far better than they previously did), the Turtles manage to be surprisingly relatable young bucks simply trying to find their place in the world as heroes to New York. It’s not a complex arc and it often gets sidetracked for the less engaging if occasionally amusing human antics, but it’s heartfelt enough to keep one invested as corny one liners and patchy plot points play out.
A lot of this clearly comes from David Green’s more infectiously fun style that shows in some solid action sequences and the appropriately boorish antics of Gary Anthony Williams & Stephen Farrelly as Bebop & Rocksteady. There are moments that feel familiar to producer Michael Bay’s less inspired Transformers series, mainly when Fox uses her sexuality as a flimsy method of investigative journalism or the various dutch angles that stick out like sore thumb. Yet, there’s a sincere sense of juvenile fun that makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows far more tolerable than it deserves to be. Even not being a huge fan of the original cartoon, this cinematic attempt at it is a decent if forgettable take on these characters. If anything, along with the original 1990 film or the 2003 series, it’s probably one of the better versions of those characters. To be fair, that competition also includes their Christmas sing along special. I know… it must be really good to beat the TV special where Donatello sings with a Jamaican accent. That’s just how tolerable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Slices of Sewer Odored Pizza