Monday, June 20, 2016

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' review

I don't know if anyone asked for a sequel to 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I really don't. The film was #2 on my worst movies list of that year, and most people seemed to share that sentiment. Despite strong box office grosses, the Michael Bay-produced reboot of the 80s franchise was joyless, tedious, and poorly conceived. But as with anything else in Hollywood, if it makes enough money, the sequel is coming. Less than two years later, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows has arrived. Reviews have been a bit stronger this time out (37% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 22%- significant improvement!), but don't believe the supposed hype- Out of the Shadows is still a bad film in almost every way. Injecting a sense of "fun," but forgetting to add the very important ingredients of story, character, pacing, and motivation, Out of the Shadows is both a juvenile and exhausting ride.

The Turtles are back, and they're doing turtle-y things again. Like eating pizza, beating up ninjas, and watching Knicks games from the balcony. Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and leader Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) may have saved New York City from the infamous Shredder (Brian Tee), but due to the fact that they're giant talking turtles, they stay in the shadows, allowing for cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take the spotlight and the responsibility for Shredder's capture. All seems well, until a nefarious plot to break Shredder out of prison is unveiled. Intrepid reporter April O'Neil goes undercover and finds that acclaimed scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is working with the notorious criminal on a new plot that could put New York City in danger.

With Shredder set to be transferred to a new prison under the supervision of the NYPD and guard Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), it's a prime opportunity for Stockman and the Foot Clan to unleash Shredder, along with convicted felons Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly). The Turtles successfully pursue Shredder, but the evil mastermind escapes through a strange space teleport which takes him to Krang (Brad Garrett), a brain thing-y. Krang has an epic plot to take over New York City and Shredder quickly jumps on board. To save the city that they love from an epic line-up of villainy, the Turtles will need to embrace their image and become the heroes that New York deserves.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is being praised for its lighthearted spirit and sense of fun, which many see as a stark departure from the grittier tone of the 2014 reboot. However, fun does not necessarily equate to good, and the latter word definitely does not apply to Out of the Shadows. Something about this franchise just does not work for me, although I can't imagine that I'm alone on this one. Moments pop out as fun, bright, colorful, and weird, but it never gels together into anything worth watching. The characters are thin and annoying, the plot is plodding, the climax is just as tedious as the last time, the acting is....wait, there's acting in this movie? Maybe Out of the Shadows gives fans what they've been looking for the whole time, but for me, it was just another ugly ride into a universe I don't care about.

And man, this really feels like a movie occupied by a great sense of nothingness. I almost fell asleep nearly a half hour in, and if I had been at the local AMC theater where they have the reclining leather seats, it's a guarantee that I would have been out. I love going to the movies and I'm almost always excited to see the possibilities of what could happen on screen. So while an argument could be made that I was incredibly tired going in, I truly believe that my sudden exhaustion was a result of quickly realizing that I was about to take another trip into the void. TMNT 2 wasn't going to give me anything other than loud action and shrill, annoying characters and that just straight-up deflated me right out of the gate. And after my impromptu fatigue had set in, it didn't get any better- Out of the Shadows gave me absolutely nothing. Things happen, but there's no impact, no emotional reaction, no consequences. It's the definition of a cinematic vacuum.

The two most glaring issues in this film are the action climax and the villains. Both are awful in their own ways and they bring down the movie. The Turtles are easy to describe and their characters are rather well-defined. They can be incredibly grating, but at least there's some energy and consistency. However, this series has never managed to have any villains with credible motivation or intrigue, settling for.....well, I don't even know what it settles for. Can anyone tell me what the motives of Shredder and the Foot Clan are? Because I'm really not sure there are any. And who the hell is Krang? His character is never explained. He pops up out of nowhere and reappears only when the plot needs him. I guess these characters are out to create chaos (speaking of which there's a great article on this over at Collider), but even that's weakly explained.

After the Turtles have successfully fought off the giant farting rhino and warthog, our irritating heroes and lackluster villains meet in New York City for a big battle. In the previous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, one of the biggest problems was the film's ending. The 2014 film had a few action scenes building up to the critical fight against Shredder, but once the Turtles actually got on the skyscraper to fight their mortal enemy, the battle (and practically the movie) was over in no time. That ending was quite jarring, and if anything, I figured that director Dave Green and the filmmakers behind Out of the Shadows would fix that for this outing. I guess nobody got the message. While there is a little bit of buildup in the streets of New York, once the four brothers reach the rooftop of a skyscraper (again) to fight Krang, the duel is over rather quickly. It's so monumentally disappointing, but ultimately, it just reflects the rest of the film.

Dave Green should get some credit for slightly improving on the original. This film isn't as dull as its predecessor. It has a little bit more flavor, more color, more character. But you just can't escape the fact that it isn't a good movie. Poorly structured, lackadaisically paced, and mostly pointless, Out of the Shadows is another tiresome venture into a strange cinematic universe that I don't understand or care about. Look, I'm all for popcorn cinema that isn't necessarily good in the traditional sense of the word. After all, I consider myself a fan of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. But at least those movies offer me some basic surface-level pleasures, some shamelessly over-the-top action scenes, and that glossy, trashy Bay shine. Ultimately, for all of their goofy, outlandish convictions, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies are just dull. And after two movies, the results have shown to be continually disastrous.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D+                                           (4.7/10)

Image Credits: Variety, Yahoo, Nerdist, Joblo


  1. Yeah, this film was another stinker.

    Good review.

    - Zach (

  2. I love the movie and hoping for another TMNT movie.