Ultimately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of The Shadows is a movie aimed at kids, so that’s what I told myself going into the theater.
Now, that isn’t to say you can’t point out things that don’t make sense or spot plot holes, but I believe, as long as they aren’t glaring or distract from the movie itself, it’s easy to overlook them as long as you’re having a good time. There certainly are plenty of things in this movie that seem awfully convenient or can leave you scratching your head from time to time. How did no one working for the city notice how parts of the sewers are oddly high-tech? Are all security guards in the TMNT universe ridiculously dumb and gullible? Is Shredder really that gullible, too? Where is Splinter during the entire third act? Heck, what does he do down in that sewer all day besides meditate, and tell Leonardo to keep the Turtles together as a team? There are a bunch of small things of that caliber, but otherwise there was nothing particularly bothersome about the plot. The pacing of the movie was excellent, too. It never lagged. In fact, those 112 minutes flew by really fast; although, the writers should’ve fleshed out that third act a little bit more.
The overall action in this movie was solid but underused. There were a couple great chase sequences, particularly one involving Rocksteady, Bebop, and a tank floating down a raging river that was fun to watch. The movie spent more time on character development on the Turtles, which sacrificed some of the action. If the writers spent a little more time building Krang up as a threat, expand on that final fight sequence, and let the Turtles showcase more of their ninja skills to beef up the action, I would’ve been perfectly fine with staying an extra ten minutes for this movie. The tradeoff being that most of the rest of the CGI was a bit overwhelming at time. I liked the 1990 film with real people in turtle costumes and makeup better than the CGI, but I understand it’s almost impossible to get the crazy action-set pieces they wanted without it. The cinematography definitely gave the movie the ideal sense of scale, tone, and mood where it needed to be, and it didn’t leave your brain scrambling to catch up unlike the first movie. I saw this movie in 3D. I’m not a big fan of 3D unless it serves a purpose, and the 3D version didn’t really add anything extra to this movie. It didn’t take anything away either, but I would still recommend seeing this film in standard format.
One of the reoccurring themes throughout the film is the idea of fitting in. It’s mostly focused on the Turtles’ desire to live normal lives and even flirt with the idea of becoming human to do so. However, April, Vern, and Casey all have moments revolving around this idea of fitting into the world around them as well. It actually makes them ideal teammates. They’re all outsiders looking in on what they wish they could be. In the end, they do embrace the idea that they are outsiders and start to feel comfortable in their own skin; however, the Turtles choose to remain hidden from most of the world even though they saved it, again. I don’t quite understand that decision. The whole city witnessed this gigantic metal orb self-assembling above them, and one is meant to think the people wouldn’t accept four anthropomorphic turtles? The dialogue at times was a bit on the nose about how people would think the Turtles are monsters not to be trusted. I don’t know about you, but if I saw four huge turtles doing ninja stunts and cracking jokes, I’d think those guys were the coolest things ever. I’d certainly be more curious than afraid. The moral message came through a little uneven, but, as I said, it was good enough for this film.
The Turtles are the stars of this movie. One of the complaints about the first movie was that it didn’t really focus on the Turtles as much as people would’ve liked, and it was hard to distinguish between the four brothers. This time around the Turtles’ personalities and roles on the team are expanded upon greatly. They even got a cute little montage showing who they are and what they bring to the table: Leonardo (Leo) is the team leader, Donatello (Donny) is the tech genius, Raphael (Raph) is the muscle always looking to jump into the action, and Michelangelo (Mikey) is the jokester of the group. The interactions and banter between the four brothers are the best parts of the film. Their CGI looks a lot more polished than in the first film, too. That’s about the only CGI that’s better. Splinter still doesn’t look that great as a giant CGI rat. It’s probably a good thing in this case that Splinter is only in the movie for a few, minute-long scenes.
Megan Fox improved as April O’Neil this time around. I didn’t hate her performance in the first movie, but I thought she was portrayed as too whiny, too dumb, and not tough enough to hang with the Turtles until the very end. This time around she showcases more of her detective skills and isn’t afraid to jump into a daunting situation or stand up to an adversary when she’s cornered. She definitely had more confidence and it showed. It was amusing to see her mess with Stephen Amell’s Casey Jones when the Turtles reveal themselves to him for the first time. Will Arnett’s Vern provides the occasional comic relief. His character, as part of an arrangement to keep the Turtles hidden, took credit for stopping Shredder in the first place, so now he’s a celebrity that acts like a giant goofball. He reluctantly agrees to help the Turtles with their shenanigans when asked, but he always manages to find a way to help making you chuckle while he does it.
Stephen Amell did an OK job as Casey Jones. I wasn’t wowed by the performance, but he seemed right at home as part of the Turtles’ crew. In this film, he’s a corrections officer that gets blamed for an incident that’s not really his fault. Casey Jones gets dumped on throughout the movie, by his bosses, by Vern, by April, and even the Turtles play a practical joke on him. You kind of feel bad for him. I think most of the weaknesses of Casey Jones had little to do with Amell’s performance and more to do with the writers not giving him much to do after the first act. Amell was disappointingly only wearing Casey Jones’ trademark hockey mask for that brief scene you see in the trailers. They also never quite explain how he’s able to shoot hockey pucks with lightning speed and precision at the Foot Clan ninjas. There’s also a scene where they showcase his slight nuttiness, in which he tries to intimidate a bartender into giving him information on Rocksteady and Bebop. It’s fun to watch him intentionally lose his cool, but I definitely did not find Stephen Amell to be intimidating enough for that bartender, played by veteran actor and All-State insurance guy Dean Winters, to give up the information that easily.
Rocksteady and Bebop look and act like they were ripped straight from the 80s cartoon show. They’re crude, they’re idiots, they’re hilarious, and yet they somehow manage to be more competent at their jobs than most people in this movie. They’re origins, science experiments created by Baxter Stockman, is in line from their animated counterparts.
Shredder, on the other hand, is severely underutilized. Like Casey Jones, he never wears his mask and most of his scenes are relegated to looking intimidating and acting like the only serious person in a not-so-serious movie. It’s never made quite clear why he’s helping to bring Krang into this dimension, and, for a wise, powerful sensei, he’s pretty naïve when it comes to trusting Krang to uphold his end of the bargain. At least he’s not Transformers Shredder like the first movie. I like that they de-aged him when they recast Brian Tee in the role. In a cast of characters this large, some of them are going to get short-changed. Both Shredder and Splinter are the two that get the short end of the stick. Not so bad in the latter, but terribly disappointing in the former.
Tyler Perry went fully mad scientist meets nutty professor in his portrayal of Baxter Stockman. At the beginning, I found Perry’s performance to be funny, but, by the end, I was getting tired of his shtick. If you were hoping to see Baxter embrace his inner fly, like Rocksteady and Bebop, you’ll be sorely disappointed. There is definitely room for a sequel to go down that road.
Then we come to Krang, himself. Itself? His plan is your basic, “I’m from another world (in this case dimension), and I’m going to conquer your world with my superior technology.” Krang, more or less, has the same personality that he has in the cartoon versions. That slightly wacky, maniacal, but nonetheless determined attitude to achieve his goals. He uses a very large robot body to fight off any would-be attackers that has the ability to detach limbs and reattach weapons in their place. It’s a pretty neat visual. As a villain though, he was pretty disappointing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t more of a physical threat than Shredder was in the first one. The Technodrome, his gigantic, orb-shaped ship with a giant laser eye at the top, looked great.
There is no post-credit scene for Out of the Shadows, but, fittingly, you do get some animated artwork of the Turtles as the theme song from the 80s cartoon is blaring. That’s what this movie I believe aimed to do. It targets people like me who enjoyed the old Turtles comics and cartoon shows as well as younger audiences who haven’t been introduced to the heroes in a half-shell. There was this kid in front of me at the viewing I saw, and he was having the time of his life to the point where he was kind of getting on my nerves. I enjoyed myself, that kid enjoyed himself, and, if our two opinions as the older and newer generations of Turtles fans translate out, many others will enjoy this film.
Out of the Shadows is no masterpiece. There are plenty of little things plot-wise and visually than can turn people off. That being said, if you can turn your brain off for a little under two hours, you’ll have a great time. It’s a family popcorn film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll get plenty of laughs seeing the shenanigans the Turtles get themselves into, all with a fast-paced, tight plot to push the story forward. The ending is a little underwhelming, but, in this case, the joy is in the journey and not the destination.
- Captures spirit of TMNT cartoon
- Improved focus on Turtles’ personalities and team dynamic with good characterization of Rocksteady, Bebop, and April and to a lesser extent Casey Jones and Vern
- Lots of minor plot holes and the CGI can be overwhelming
- Shredder underutilized and the Krang fight was way too short
- Tyler Perry’s portrayal of Baxter Stockman was a little over the top