Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows has a spirit far closer to the cartoons and more mass marketing versions of TMNT than either the previous films and the comic itself. And for this, it profits in a big way. As a result, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a rousing crowd-pleaser full of characters, scenes and references for the fans of the property. But this isn’t just mindless pandering to that group, the film is also incredible well crafted. The direction, handling the action and the spirit of the world in which Donatello and his brothers live, far exceeds what we’ve seen prior with the franchise on the big screen. The film focuses on the Turtles and their dynamics giving them relationships that are easy to relate to and identify with. On the flip side, it has an outrageous villain in Krang that keeps things way over the top and exciting both visually and viscerally. While the story itself, and in many ways the film as well, is flawed, the end result is a fun, imaginative, exciting adventure with incredible special effects and an emotional core that keeps the outrageous tone tethered. It is the best of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, even if it hits a few too many familiar notes once again and, for the most part, short changes its human characters.
A little more than a year has passed since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have saved the city from Shredder (Brian Tee), but still they cannot take any credit. Instead, that credit has gone to Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) as the public face of their heroic deeds. Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) remain hidden under the streets of New York with their mentor and father figure Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), training and preparing to save the city when ever it is in danger. But their synergy is drifting apart as they grow in different directions — some looking to remain vigilant in their ways while others want to enter the public eye and be accepted. With the help of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), the Turtles learn that the Foot Clan are planning to free Shredder as he is being transferred between prisons.
As the story continues, it introduces Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), the warlord Krang (Brad Garrett) and Bebop & Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams & Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly). The story moves fast as Shredder and Krang team up to reconstruct a teleportation device with the help of Baxter Stockman to bring Krang from his dimension to Earth so he can take over the world. Yes. that old chestnut. From there, the film moves into “quest” mode as the Turtles attempt to stop Bebob & Rockstead from recovering the remaining two pieces while April O’Neil and Casey Jones try to recover the mutagen held in police evidence. The action ramps up as Shredder succeeds in bringing Krang to our dimension along with his war machine, the Technodrome. The fight is on and the Turtles must prevail to save the Earth from certain destruction. Fun stuff!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows succeeds almost entirely on the impressive realization of the Turtles themselves. The effects may be the best realization of full fledged comic book characters on screen – at least those that no longer have entirely 100% human features. Each Turtles has their own look and feel and body language. They are set apart by their color schemes as well but many audience members that are not hard core fans may be hard pressed to know one from the other, but they will still have no problems telling them apart. The film goes out of its way to introduce them by name twice during the film, once during the introduction and later within the story itself. When they are standing around their underground layer debating whether they should use the mutagen to become humans, they are fully invested character beyond just animation – they live and breathe in their cinematic space. Much of what connects is their eyes matched by their expressive faces leaving the days of the earlier films far behind. When they kick into action, the explode on screen. The plane scene alone is worth the admission price.
While Shredder is to the Turtles as the Joker is to Batman or Green Goblin is Spider-Man, the new villainous additions to the fray leave that underdeveloped bad guy frozen in his tracks. The characters Bebop (a mutant warthog) and Rocksteady (a rhinoceros), two bad guys designed by Peter Laird in order to win the action figure deal with Playmates, are far more enjoyable on screen than they sound on paper and seen within the trailers. They also provide most of the humor for the action sequences and give the film a little adult edge from time to time with visual jokes that will likely go over most kids’ heads while delighting parents with nervous laughter. By the time Rocksteady erupts out of a raging river on top of a tank firing its shells directly into the audience in splendid 3D, the two characters have won over the audience with energy, humor and effects. Meanwhile, the alien Krang flies overhead constructing his Technodrome. Krang is a brain-like critter with slimy tentacles housed in the belly of a giant killer robot. What’s not to love. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, he is brilliantly conceived overcoming the goofy nature of his appearance by fully embracing that very weird design and outrageous character. It also helps that he never interacts with any human characters other than Shredder whose behavior makes him less human than most. Visually, these character are a rare treat of realizing the absurd in deliciously wacky entertaining ways.
The more the film sticks with the Turtles and their battles with Bebop & Rocksteady, the more enjoyable it becomes. When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows attempts to deal with the human characters, the more is begins to wobbles and sway. The film doesn’t handle April O’Neil, Casey Jones and Chief Vincent (Laura Linney) very well throughout. Even Baxter Stockman is more a characterization than the Turtles, even if Tyler Perry exceeds the material by giving the audience a wonderfully nerdy, wacky scientist in search of fame and glory. Even when Perry is pushing the laughs hard with a dorky laugh, he humanizes the character with his longing to become “important” within the history of science. Megan Fox returns as April O’Neil as the film both benefits from and exploits her stunning figure. But she is not given any arc for her character to grow. In some respects, her character is plunged backwards as the most emotion she is given is a half-baked romantic google-eyes reaction to Casey Jones. Stephen Amell fails to bring any new to Casey Jones other than a squeaky New York accent and a boring anguish over becoming a detective. It is telling that if you imagine the story without these characters in it, the film would be little different in the end.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is Summer movie gold, a fun time at the theater to escape and enjoy. The film does not ask too much of its audience as it zips through its comic book story line with a slick mantra-like focus. While flawed and imperfect, the film thrills with its incredible special effects and CGI. It totally immerses itself in its own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles world as the Turtles are more real than their human counterparts. In their own way they represent every conceivable outcast in society, longing to be accepted by the public but still strongly rooted in what makes them unique. It is that celebration that most audience members can identify – perhaps unknowingly – as the over the top fantasy elements of an alien warlord from Dimension X threatens to mutate the entire world and claim it as his own propel the story into an action heavy, effects heavy, comedy driven great time. For those who are long-time fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the film delivers with nods and references from Krang himself to the powerhouse dumpster truck complete with manhole covers propelled from the engine grill. For those who may not have even seen the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film a few years back, no worries: the film provides everything needed to grasp the story without burying itself under a mountain of exposition and origin story. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a blast.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (3.8 / 5)