‘Out of the Shadows’ is Dumb, But Entertaining Sequel
2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot was nothing shy of disaster. While a massive financial success, the last Turtles film was saddled with a plethora of Michael Bay-isms (who produced the film), it would make the last few Transformers films blush. That leaves its follow-up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows with the heavy burden to right many countless wrongs in the sequel.
New York City is safe after Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) defeated the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) at the end of the last movie. The Big Apple doesn’t know the truth, as Will Arnett’s Vern takes all the credit in a deal with the turtles as to not cause mass confusion or hysteria.
When April O’Neil (Megan Fox) begins investigating a nerdy scientist’s (Tyler Perry) shady dealings with Shredder (recast as Brian Tee) and alien overlord Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), the turtles are back in the mix of protecting New York City from the cartoony bad guys. Fan favorite minions Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE’s Sheamus) also wreak havoc as the bumbling mutant warthog and rhinoceros in their first theatrical feature. The two weren’t even the 90’s live-action trilogy. Don’t even ask what knock-offs we got in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
Out of the Shadows is by far a massive improvement over the 2014 reboot, self-aware of its own ridiculousness. However, it does capture the light-hearted over-the-top tone of the original animated cartoon. The turtles, while still realized by motion capture, haven’t altered their roided Shrek appearances, albeit the design has been toned down enough not to be as jarring this second outing. Fortunately, that’s not all that’s different with the turtles in Out of the Shadows.
The four heroes begin to grow more faithful to the their original one-dimensional personas in the cartoon. At one point in the film, leader Leonardo struggles keeping their brotherly code of honor when holding back information about a mysterious substance that could turn them all human. In fact, with the story no longer bogged down by the Megan Fox show, the screenplay written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec rightfully focuses on the turtles’ adventures, bouncing from New York City to South America and back. Perhaps they’ve finally learned after issues from Transformers – the humans are the weakest element. But there’s not much depth as “cool, but crude” and “a party dude” are still the extent of Raphael and Michelangelo’s characters.
Earth to Echo’s Dave Green replaces Jonathan Liebesman as director and is tasked with overstuffing this Ninja Turtles sequel. There’s so much fans of the cartoons want to see that they didn’t get in the previous film. Enter cartoonish henchmen, Bebop, Rocksteady and scientist Baxter Stockman. Shredder’s still regrouping from his defeat with his own agenda and yet here comes Krang as the new big baddie with his Technodrome. Only Shredder’s villainy been downsized like Megatron in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Arrow’s Stephen Amell even joins in the action as the hockey stick wielding Casey Jones, who’s now a cop teaming up with April. Basically, he’s Casey Jones in name only.
Out of the Shadows is almost forced to make up for lost time, becoming a soft reboot like G.I. Joe: Retaliation did for its franchise. With all the chips on the table, there’s no real time to breathe caving into endless moments of fan service. Cue a cringeworthy Vanilla Ice track straight out of 1991. The addition of all these fan favorites will bring out the inner child in many moviegoers, but one can’t ignore the issues still staring audiences right in the face. While colorful and playful, the screenplay by Appelbaum and Nemec spells everything out, leaving nothing to the imagination. And the CG-heavy finale takes the easy way out, rehashing much of the last film’s climax.
Many issues from the 2014 reboot were fixed in Out of the Shadows, but the film still suffers from its own share of problems. Turtle Power isn’t back in full force, but at least we’re back on the right path if you’re expecting big, dumb, loud, entertaining fun.