Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Plot Summary:
The Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes police custody with the help of advanced technology, but in doing so, comes into contact with a war lord from another dimension who wants to bring his ultimate weapon to planet earth. To combat the Turtles, Shredder enlists mad scientist, Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), to create two new mutants to demolish his old enemies. The special mutagen may also contain life changing properties for the turtles, as they try and unite to save the city once more.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows can best be described as not being able to look at the ark of the covenant. While this Turtles movie demolishes the first film, it’s very much a gigantic turtle tease. Don’t get me wrong – if you’re a die hard Turtles fan like myself, you need to see this film. This movie gave me images and characters that I literally had dreams about when I was a kid. If you’re in my age bracket, this is what we all thought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was going to be. The problem is they don’t go all the way, to the point where it drove me to the brink of madness. They were so close. Even with all my Ninja Turtle nitpicks though, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was totally and utterly satisfied with this movie. To put it bluntly, this is a damn good Turtles romp.
Even with my strong dislike for the first film, they still built a good foundation. The turtles had chemistry, and they nailed the characterizations. The problem is they needed to tone down Michelangelo (Noel Fisher). I guess they listened. No longer is his dialogue 85% hitting on April (Megan Fox). Michelangelo was a lot funnier because his jokes weren’t constant. But aside from Michelangelo, they get the heart of what the Ninja Turtles is. It’s four very different brothers who need to unite as a team. That’s the Ninja Turtles, and that’s why this film works. They also introduce a strong conflict that hasn’t been explored very much in Ninja Turtles lore – the desire to be human. For all its juvenile flaws and Michael Bay-isms, they kept the turtles pure. There’s actually some subtle character development here, and even some memorable dialogue, especially from Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), who’s kind of a dick. All the turtles deal with not being accepted in different ways that hold true to their personalities. If this didn’t have to placate to kids, the writers could have really dived into something special. I understand it’s a kid’s movie though, and I appreciate what we got. Even with all the fan service, the Turtles were the best part, and that’s how it should be. I have no complaints with anything involving the Ninja Turtles in this movie.
Before we get to the newbies, my biggest rant against the previous film was Shredder. He completely sucked can openers. Thankfully, he’s much better, but they still dropped the ball. He barely gets anything to do, and is completely tossed aside at the end. While they wrote nothing for Shredder, Brian Tee did a great job bringing an intense presence that the character sorely lacked last time. It’s still not everything I hoped for, but Shredder definitely gets the Most Improved award. Splinter (Tony Shalhoub, voice) was also underutilized, which pisses me off, as he’s my favorite character! Come on! When we did see him though, he was well written, and definitely had some great stand out moments. There just needed to be more. Megan Fox was also much improved as April, and just seemed to have more fun with it. I’m not saying she’s Katharine Hepburn, but this movie at least proved she’s capable of smiling. Will Arnett is also back as Vernon Fenwick, who’s perfectly fine, but he’s the one guy who was better last time around. He just seemed funnier. The movie in general could have been funnier, although there is one hilarious prank involving Splinter and Casey Jones (Stephen Amell).
Speaking of Casey Jones, you want to hear about allllllll the fan favorite newbies, right? I enjoyed Amell in the role, but if you’re expecting Oliver Queen as Casey Jones, it’s not that at all. Casey Jones was way more chipper than I thought he’d be, but when he fights, it gets nasty. They could have done more with the character, but Amell’s charisma really elevated what was on the page. Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly) are Bebop and Rocksteady. They run around like morons and smash things. I got to say though, they were funnier as humans. Gary Anthony Williams legitimately made me laugh as Bebop. As the rhino and warthog, the jokes never got too bad, aside from one horrible fart gag. It happened. It is what it is. Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman was hilarious in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way. The dude just went for it, and completely over acts. I loved every minute of it. You’re either sold on his first laugh, or you’re not. Laura Linney also pops up as a police chief. She doesn’t do much, but it was nice to have her.
Enough about Laura Linney though. Let’s get to it. This is it. If you’re a Ninja Turtles fan, you know what this moment means – I’ve seen Krang in a live action Ninja Turtles movie. There’s no build up whatsoever to his first appearance. It just happens. I couldn’t even contemplate the first few seconds he was on screen. I never thought this day would come. So, how was he? Overall, pretty damn good. The look was perfect. This is where the film is a giant tease though. Krang’s body – good, not great. Krang’s voice – good, not great. What’s interesting about that is Fred Arminsen was attached for a long time, but had to back out at the last minute. Brad Garrett was put in the role literally a few weeks ago. It annoys me that Krang’s voice felt rushed. It’s essential to the character. I’m not saying it was bad. It just could have been better.
If seeing Krang was my first childhood dream, I also got my second. The Technodrome. Look, I’m not spoiling anything here. It’s crystal clear in the trailer. It’s the damn Technodrome, alright! This is what really pissed me off while watching the movie. The Technodrome looks like the Technodrome. It’s exactly how you’d imagine. The problem is you never see one full shot of it in all its glory. What complete bull shit! It’s like going to a Patriots game and seeing Rob Gronkowski run around the field, but he never catches a pass! I’m guessing this was a budget problem, but it’s still infuriating. WHAT A TECHNO-TEASE!
For all my Ninja Turtle-centric complaints, I had an absolute blast. Yes, it has several scenes that remind you Michael Bay put his grubby hands on it, such as the fart joke, and an April scene where she wears a suggestive outfit while a crappy pop song blasts through the speakers, but that’s really it. The action sequences are pure pleasure. It was quite a thrill to see Bebop and Rocksteady go at the Turtles. And even though it’s very fan servicey right up through the end credits, this is a fun summer movie that parents will be just fine with while they get dragged by their kids. If you’re a life long turtle fan though, this is required viewing. Aside from the 1990 film, this might be the best Turtles movie ever made. If for nothing else, they’re good to go for one hell of a third movie, where I expect to see the Turtle film to end all Turtle films. There are no excuses now. They have all the pieces, or shells rather.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.