Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

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It honestly feels a bit strange to be writing a review for a Ninja Turtles sequel in 2016. The idea of four gigantic reptiles spewing out 1980s lingo while kicking folks in the face really hard frankly seems a bit dated in an age of such rich and thoughtful comic book characters dominating the screen. Especially considering that no studio will touch the earlier, darker iteration of the turtles, it’s frankly a bit amazing that they’ve managed to stick around this long when they remain such a product of their time. Fortunately, Out of the Shadows seems hyper aware of that fact, and is fully confident in immersing itself in the absurd monster mash that makes up the turtles’ world. That’s more that can be said for the first film, which while competently made, seemed unsure in both focus and tone. However, there still lies the task of making a good film out of this absurd world, which hopefully, will be the goal for part three.

Picking up a year after the first film ended, we find Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fischer), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) still patrolling New York City from the shadows. They’ve allowed Vern (Will Arnett) to take all of the credit for defeating The Shredder (Brian Tee) while secretly working with April O’Niel (Megan Fox) on further missions. However, they are forced to possibly reveal themselves when Shredder, along with dim-witted mercenaries Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen “Sheamus” Farelly), escapes capture with a brand new plan in mind. Meanwhile, prison guard Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) is hungry to track down answers, crossing paths with April and the turtles on a vigilante quest of his own.

Earth To Echo helmer Dave Green takes on directing duties this time around, and he practically smothers the film in his admiration for the source material. This is a movie entirely unashamed being a colorful, silly cartoon. It is hell-bent on jamming in as many popular Turtles characters as possible, and moves at such a quick pace doing so that one just might forget that even calling them half characters would be giving them a bit too much credit. Any scene that isn’t action ultimately exists for the sole purpose of getting us to the next set-piece, with all of the character musings about brotherhood and teamwork really serving as window dressing.

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With that said, all of the actors playing the turtles once again do a wonderful job of selling the brothers’ chemistry. When they’re not flying, flipping, or fighting in spectacular fashion, they’re often quipping and playing rather well off of each other. Sure, they are the same dated archetypes that have anchored this franchise for decades, but they work in this context. Meanwhile, Fox is a bit underused after perhaps taking up a bit too much of the spotlight last time, perhaps so the majority of the human spotlight can go to Amell as Jones. Fortunately, even if some of his line delivery is a bit stiff, the Arrow star is a great deal of fun in the role. Seemingly overjoyed that somebody finally allowed him to smile in something, his infectious enthusiasm ultimately makes him one of the more compelling characters in the film. It’s a shame that the film sidelines him for a long period, ultimately opting to focus on the turtles for better or worse.

The action sequences range from spectacular to sloppy, with the more elaborate CGI-heavy sequences winning the day. Watching the turtles fight on this scale creates some genuinely inspired moments, and Green’s camera follows it all with a style that evokes producer Michael Bay without the overblown heft that sends his Transformers movies hurling towards the three-hour mark. However, some of the more down and dirty scenes fall very flat, with a hand to hand fight scene involving Casey and the foot clan being so quickly edited that you’ll just have to make it up for yourself. It’s a money dumping, factory created brand of action, but if you’re going to have a movie as chaotic as this one, you might as well indulge.

Out of the Shadows is a film that made me feel very old as I watched it. It’s so bubbly, vapid, and jumpy that I realized all too quickly that perhaps this is the last outing the turtles that I need to have. That said, it’s a decent enough hurrah that should provide enough fan service to please zealots of the old cartoon, while entertaining the kids it was made for in spades. Meanwhile, when the inevitable third installment rears its scaly head, I’ll probably have to hide under a manhole to avoid my embarrassment in seeing it.

Rating: C

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