(WARNING: Spoilers ahead. For those who haven’t watched the film yet, proceed with caution.)
The 2014 Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was…not a good film. While it wasn’t totally unwatchable (that honor goes to the one where they end up in Feudal Japan), it still suffered from a paper-thin and aggressively generic script, weak jokes, uninteresting and in some cases irritating characters, sub-par acting, butt-ugly CGI, needlessly frantic and hard-to-follow action sequences, and a handful of other problems which I won’t list, since they’d pretty much take up a majority of this post. Needless to say, it might as well have been called Diet Transformers and no one would’ve batted an eye. But alas, we currently reside in a era where no matter how you handle a film, it can still end up being a box-office success in some form or another for the most part. And like that one guy from the Tom & Jerry movie said…
“We’ve GOT to have…moneeey!”
One thing that’s worth noting about this film is that quite a bit of the folks at the helm have been changed up quite a bit; for instance, Jonathan Liebesman, the director of the last film, does not return to his role as director; instead, that spot has been shifted over to Dave Green, director of 2014’s Earth to Echo (which I haven’t seen, but from the looks of it seems to be another run-of-the-mill family flick). Brian Tyler, the last film’s composer, does not return either, as he has been replaced by the composer for all of the recent Transformers movies, Steve Jablonsky (my pity goes to whoever has to spell THAT during a spelling bee). Even some of the cast isn’t safe from change, as William Fichtner is nowhere to be seen throughout the film, along with Tohoru Masamune and Minae Noji, who played Shredder and Karai respectively, who have also been replaced, this time by Brian Tee and Brittanay Ishibashi. With all of that stuff out of the way, how does the movie itself fare? Let’s find out, shall we?
Starting off with the good aspects, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang and my personal favorite TMNT villain, Baxter Stockman, FINALLY make their feature film debuts! Granted, the latter two don’t really have that much screen time, and the former two tend to get involved in some gross-out humor, but when you consider just how much over-the-top energy, personality, and all around fun they manage to bring to the film courtesy of Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus, Brad Garrett, and Tyler Perry respectively, those problems can easily be overlooked. Plus, the action scenes this time around are WAAAY better this time around. Not only do they lack the nauseating amount of blur that plagued the ones in the first, but they’re also fast-paced while not being unbearable to sit through, and can even get a bit epic at times, with the battle with Bebop & Rocksteady on a Brazilian river and the climatic final showdown with Krang at the assembling Technodrome in the sky standing out in particular. The CGI itself has improved significantly as well, as Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang (when he’s not using his body) closely resemble their cartoon counterparts. Heck, the Turtles themselves are a bit more easy on the eyes this time around! There’s also an absolutely astounding remix of the theme of the 1987 cartoon during the end credits, which has to be heard to be believed. Also, this is the first time ever for a film based off of a pre-existing franchise that has Michael Bay’s name on it in some form or another, in which the TITLE CHARACTERS ARE ACTUALLY THE PROTAGONISTS, AND NOT SOME BLAND HUMAN!!!
However, even taking into account that Bay and Paramount FINALLY managed to overcome one of their worst flaws when making movie adaptations, there’s still one little problem…EVERYTHING ELSE.
“I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHER*bleep*IN’ TURTLES ON THIS MOTHER*bleep*IN’ PLANE!!!”
While it’s great that the Turtles are taking the center spotlight of the plot instead of Megan Fox (I know she’s supposed to be April, but she’s the same bland and boring character she plays in every single film she’s in, so I’m referring to her as Megan Fox), the same thing cannot be said about their story arc. Not only is it extremely predictable, but there are times where it just stops to tell a inane joke that wouldn’t feel too out of place in a Happy Madison film. In addition to that, there’s also a sub-plot that just pops out of nowhere that involves around the Turtles wanting to be human, and discovering a purple ooze that can do just that which never really goes anywhere – at least, not in an interesting way or fashion. In addition to that, there’s also ANOTHER sub-plot revolving around a storyline that nearly every single incarnation of this franchise has told; the Turtles struggle to work together to defeat an enemy, end up failing to defeat the enemy because of their bickering or something else, but ultimately unite as a team in order to defeat the enemy. I actually don’t mind this type of plot line at all; pretty much every single buddy cop movie or recent kids’ films usually revolve around characters learning to have to work as a team. Unfortunately, like the aforementioned purple ooze sub-plot, it isn’t written very well, pops out of nowhere, and isn’t concluded in a way that’s really believable or satisfying. I’d talk about Splinter, but he’s once again been flanderized into an old rat that just spouts some moral mumbo jumbo and doesn’t really do anything besides that. As for Casey Jones, Stephen Amell (who most of you may instantly recognize as Oliver Queen from Arrow) actually does a really good job as the character, who starts off as a member of the NYPD who ends up getting temporarily put out of line after he tries to tell someone about the Turtles, and goes on to join in the fight against the Foot Clan (who are now actual ninjas this time around, instead of some goofy-looking soldier/terrorists wannabes), and also win back his respect by getting Bebop & Rocksteady back behind bars when they escaped with Shredder under his watch. It is too bad he never yells “GOONGALA!” once, but whatever. As for ol’ Shredhead himself, Brian Tee actually succeeds in making him a menacing threat this time around. It’s just too bad he never gets to fight the Turtles and ends up getting frozen by Krang near the end. As for the rest, I just don’t give a crud. Like Fox and Splinter, they’re just there to do…stuff, and don’t end up really contributing anything actually worthwhile to the plot whatsoever.
Although it does improve on its’ predecessor in some areas and succeeds in translating some of the most iconic villains of the franchise over to the big screen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows still manages to fall on its’ back, with a predictable plot, lame jokes, unengaging sub-plots, and characters which, for the most part, are simply not worth caring for in the least. Like The Angry Birds Movie, this is a film that’ll probably be enjoyed best by the youngsters. That, or if you’re a hardcore fan of the franchise, or just generally liked the first movie. Other than that, just stay away.