With a movie title like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, I figured part of the story is going to be about these heroes in the half shell coming out of the darkness they are hiding in and entering into the public eye. They have been fighting New York crime at night and while they leave the thieves all tied up for the police to take away, they do not necessarily leave their calling card around, like Spider-Man. Plenty of subtexts are offered in what they represent to the city and never getting the recognition they deserve, but the story does not go deep enough in that territory. The movie provides more fan-service moments to the masses in a hyper-violent kind of way. In a different spectrum, the obligatory scene with April O’Neil (Megan Fox) in a short skirt gets included too.
A lot of the set pieces have a feel of having been done before. From A-Team (2010) to Transformers (2007-present), I really had to wonder why having Bumblebee appear mattered at all? The obvious answer is because Michael Bay is producing and David Green’s name as the director is just a nod. I liked his movie Earth to Echo; it had a charm to it. His name is sadly overshadowed by Bay’s style. Any movie this producer touches is more about flash and bang for your buck. In that regard, this movie succeeds with plenty of explosive action, stupid hijinks and a plot riddled with holes that I can stick a rhino’s horn into. One is not enough to fill the many problems in this movie. While I love Donatello’s aptitude for tech, there are times I wonder where he gets the parts to build some of his toys, I get the feeling he raids Tony Stark‘s garbage pile for all those discarded tech he has! (side note: yes, please give me a TMNT / Avengers crossover movie)
Be-bop and Rocksteady get a decent introduction. They are career criminals who are idiotic enough to eventually get caught. When they meet Shredder, he could have killed them but instead recognizes them for what they are. When transformed, they shine as beasts of burden … In their respective animal forms of a warthog and rhino, their intelligence dropped by at least 50 points because of the dormant genes in their genome. Scientifically, the taxonomy is correct when considering that humans fall under the Mammal Class of the Animal Kingdom to which these species. Oddly enough, only Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s episode “Genesis” mixed things up when engineer Reginald Barclay transformed to a scary human-arachnoid hybrid. He was most likely bitten by a spider (to which he did meet one up-close in the previous season), a bit of this arachnid’s DNA did leave a residue.
Real science aside, plenty of cartoon absurdity are abound in this film. If this product is meant to bring a sense of nostalgia for past iterations, it fails. I would rather it introduce a new interpretation of how these ninja brothers have to make space for one another. There are conflicting egos. Between Raph and Leo who often share a difference of opinion, none of this conflict is fully explored.
As their sensei, Splinter, explains (to Leonardo), it’s up to him to take the best from each of his brothers represents to mould into an effective team. Little lessons are placed in the film like tossing bread to ducks. Some will eat it up and others watch it sink. Most of the good bits of storytelling are marginalized by the visual pomp going on. The producers do not want this movie to be serious. Instead, it just provides a carnival ride of fun for audiences who love turtle power in all its electrifying action.
Stephen Amell is clearly having fun as the hockey loving Casey Jones. He’s making very good money as a low ranking police commissioner in charge of prisoner transportation to own a Dodge Hellcat Challenger. When considering all the camera angles and emphasis of this vehicle on frame, there’s no better product placement the filmmakers can do. Even the Michael Bay influenced final shot with the turtles on the Statue of Liberty is a placeholder for the ideals this producer’s films extols. These moments make me feel the screenplay is nothing more than a merchandise/tourist map for all things turtle. Amell’s name is most likely there to attract Arrow fans, and his great looks exist to help set up obvious romance still to come with April in the next movie.
Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is very clearly a parody of Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. These two are great in their respective roles and I was more interested in watching them develop as foils to the CGI characters than the action itself. Even the new actor playing Shredder is menacing. Sadly, there was not much for him to do. He is perhaps being used as a pawn to develop what’s to come in the next film ala Stephen Sommers G.I. Joe when Cobra Commander got put in jail, only to be rescued later. Kurai (Brittany Ishibashi) hardly gets enough speaking moments to make her matter. Hopefully, the next film will give her a chance to shine.
In a movie which has the core group of heroes and villains all there, is a new threat even needed? Technically yes, because when there’s Baxter, an alien threat is not too far behind. Just who that is has a goofy redesign. In the familiar-looking dimensional rift that’s opened, I kept on looking in the background for a familiar blue police box. Sadly, the big boss battle was too easy and too quick.
In a movie that clocks at nearly two hours or roughly five tv episodes, you would think that’s enough to build to a climatic ending. Instead, I’m made to believe this movie is a setup for an all-out trilogy boom-tacular. Another film will no doubt get made, but as for better stories, I’m going to tune into the current CGI animated series to get my turtle love on. It is miles better than the absurd action that’s going on. Now into its fourth season and set in space, I find the awesome pool of voice talents and story arcs far more engaging to thrill to. Plus, it has The Doctor (well, David Tennant) voicing the mysterious Fugitoid — a character I absolutely love since his introduction.
2½ Stars out of 5