Not gonna lie, the success of the first movie was a surprise, especially considering that Michael Bay’s name is stamped all over it, despite not directing the project himself. But where there’s a successful movie in Hollywood, there’s bound to be a sequel. An inevitability in this day and age.
Before I get into this review, here are my thoughts on TMNT as a whole. I’m actually not the biggest fan. I never read the violent original comics. But as for the 80’s kids cartoon, I didn’t always watch it. I saw a few episodes here and there, and I liked it well enough, it just wasn’t that show that I grew up with. I’ve actually never seen the original movies, or at least, not that I can remember. However, the one television incarnation of TMNT that I did like was the series back in 2003. I also really enjoyed the 3-D animated movie, TMNT (2007). Love it or hate it, Nolan North voiced Raphael. That’s the voice casting to end all voice castings of the character! No one’s topping that! Did I also mention James Arnold Taylor voicing Leonardo? I don’t care who you are, this was the best movie out of all the movies, if not for the professional voice acting power itself.
As for the new Michael Bay-produced movies, I may not have hated the first one, but I sure didn’t think it was any good. Should probably suggest that I wasn’t initially looking forward to the sequel. But the trailer got released and… well, I admittedly got really hyped for it. Especially the announcement of Krang and Stephen fucking Amell as Casey Jones, the inclusion of one of my favorite actresses EVER, Laura Linney, this was actually shaping up to be a fun ride. So… was it? This is my honest opinion of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS.
The ass-kicking turtles are back, yet the team seems pretty divided on the subject of being accepted by the general masses; being ready to try, or to remain hidden and let Vernon (Will Arnett) be the city’s celebrated hero that brought down Shredder (Brian Tee). Elsewhere in town, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) thinks that the brilliant-but-insane scientist Baxter Stockman is in league with Shredder and discovers that he is about to be broken out by his Foot Clan during a prison transfer. Joining him on his transfer is the eccentric duo, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), and helping oversee the transfer is the wise-cracking officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). April gives the turtles the information to make sure the transfer goes swimmingly. Turns out, the information is accurate and the Foot strikes. The turtles unfortunately don’t succeed in keeping Shredder in place, but not in the traditional way: Baxter has a teleportation device powered by mysterious alien technology that he thinks will teleport Shredder to Baxter’s building, but instead accidentally teleports him to another dimension where he meets the grotesque brain-squid known as Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett). He wants Shredder to assemble this device that Krang sent to Earth that broke into three parts, one of them held by Baxter. Assemble the remaining parts and Krang will come through with his destructive Technodrome and take over the world with Shredder. Returning Shredder to Earth and recruiting Bebop and Rocksteady to transform them into creatures to help fight the turtles. Infiltrating Baxter’s building April catches wind of the plan that Shredder has and now it’s a race to prevent Krang coming through to protect the world.
Holy crap, what an improvement over the first!
The biggest problem that the first movie had was trying (and miserably failing) to ride the wave of current superhero movies by trying to balance dark and fun. While Marvel succeeds at this, Ninja Turtles isn’t that kind of story. It was never supposed to be taken seriously, it was supposed to be fun, and that’s what the first film missed the point of.
SHADOWS clearly understood this and embraced its own insanity by giving us, you guessed it, TURTLES! Another big complaint that the first movie had was a little too much Fox as April, to the point where the movie was more about her than it was about the turtles. Um…not smart. While we do get a big of April in this movie as well, it’s far better balanced leaning more toward the turtles, their internal struggles as individuals and a team. This of course is actually where the heart of the movie is and it really works. Donnie (Jeremy Howard) has come up with a formula that can turn the turtles into humans and be able to wall among them as equals, something that both Raph and Mickey want. But Leo doesn’t and this leads to tension between the brothers and made for some relatively interesting drama. I’ll get to why I call it “relatively” interesting, but I’m not done gushing.
Bebop and Rocksteady, hell YES, what an awesome pair of additions. I may not remember these guys from the cartoon, but I know a great deal of the fanbase has wanted these two bad guys appear in a movie since the original live-action films. Well, I feel confident that the fans have their live-action Bebop and Rocksteady in spades. These guys steal the show. They have a genuine comradery that’s incredibly fun to watch and they are ruthlessly savage when fighting the turtles and they aren’t a glorified cameo either, they’re in the movie a lot as the bumbling brown-nosing henchmen. One of the things I really appreciated about their debut is when they transform, they aren’t tormented by the transformation like Green Goblin in 2000’s SPIDER-MAN. Hell, it’s not even a simple acceptance of situation like Dr. Doom in 2015’s FANT4STICK, the Joker in 1989’s BATMAN. Instead, they take the time to celebrate how amazingly awesome they became. That’s refreshing.
Oh my god, Krang. Krang was unbelievably enjoyable and you can tell that Garrett is having a boat-load of fun with the part and plays it so over-the-top, it’s equal parts hilarious and threatening. It’s kind of ironic how bad guys these days in superhero movies have to be complex and deep, or boring and uninteresting. When was the last time we got just a straight-up campy villain with one-dimensional motivations that was this funny? The correct answer is, we haven’t. The villains really steal the show in this movie and it’s great.
Amell. Jesus, talk about a touch of real class…er, you know, in a Green Arrow kind of way. Amell is fantastic as Casey. He doesn’t quite act like Oliver Queen, he’s a little more comedic…remorsefully, not quite as bad-ass, or…useful. Yeah, I know Casey is a fan favorite, but this was probably a little too fan-servicey. His role in the film feels like it was just to steal a phone and allude to an attraction between him and April. Boy, that’s a concept, the eye-candy of the flick has eye-candy. I do believe that if you took Casey out of the movie, the movie would be just fine. But you know what? It doesn’t matter because STEPHEN AMELL, BITCHES!
The same sort of goes for Linney as Chief Vincent. Again, don’t get me wrong, I love Linney and I love that she’s in it. Better with than without. But… her role isn’t necessary. The turtles don’t need their own personal Commissioner Gordon. But hey, if I said Amell was a touch of class, Linney is a touch of divinity.
But for as much good the movie does, there were a couple of oopsies it makes, one not so big, one sorta big.
The first was a story element and I promised I’d touch upon this. When Donnie discovers the formula to turn the turtles human, Leo tells him to keep it a secret. I really hate when characters have to make big decisions on behalf of other characters instead of letting them make their own choices. It’s so sleazy and inconsiderate and really hate the motivations behind them. Always trying to convince the audience that they’re trying to get them to accept their situation as is, but really they’re just selfish and fearful. It’s a cliche and no one likes it. This would be a lot more unbearable were it not for the appreciation that it’s pretty much resolved in the next scene, so hence it’s not dwelled on for long.
The real problem is actually related to this sequence, but really, it’s a nitpick as well.
Toward the end, Leo offers the formula to Raph and Mickey to see if they really want to take it. Raph decides that his “no” will be a dramatic “throw this shit at the wall.” Um…dude, that stuff can turn you human. No, I’m not saying he should have taken it and abandon his turtle persona, but think of the possibilities! Ninjas are all about stealth. What’s stealthier than being known as a turtle and then infiltrate a human bad guy’s lair AS A HUMAN! I’m sure Donnie could synthesize a modified formula that would make it less permanent, but no, destroy one of the best weapons that a ninja could ask for. Makes sense.
This movie earns its title: OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Ironically, while the code of the ninja usually involves operating IN the shadows, the first film kept itself in the shadows; almost ashamed of being a Ninja Turtles movie. But this movie decides to say, “Screw it.” It’s come out of its own shell of embarrassment and embraced its own ridiculousness to deliver one of the funnest movies of the year. No, it’s not perfect, but considering how much it blows the previous movie away, it’s hard not to be impressed with it. Highly recommended to any and all, it’s worth it.
My honest rating: 5/5
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