For over thirty years the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have entertained audiences across all platforms of entertainment from comics to cartoons to movies and video games. To this day the heroes in a half shell remain incredibly popular though two years ago there was a large outcry and backlash against the newest installment of the film franchise which this critic feels was largely undeserved. Fans reacted harshly due to the designs of the turtles, the involvement of Michael Bay and numerous other nitpicks. Well it seems that the studio took those tantrums to heart as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was made with those fans in mind. Will the more cartoonish nature pay off or will this be a step down for the film? Let’s find out.
The story for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is, I admit, stronger then the first film’s story thanks to the more over the top cartoon tone. The story takes place one year after the events of the first film with the Turtles mostly bitter about having to remain in the shadows even though they saved all of New York from Shredder. Their dour mood is only worsened by the fact that Shredder escapes and, with the help of an inter dimensional tyrant named Krang, creates two powerful mutant henchmen and sets out to build a device to bring Krang into our world. The story in a whole feels like one big cartoon and I say that in the best of ways. There is a more fun and enjoyable tone this time around that not only makes the film entertaining but allowed me to be more invested in it then the first time around. There are numerous scenarios, story elements and jokes that in any other film would have been met by eye rolling and groaning but here it all works perfectly. There’s also more emphasis on the Turtles this time around which does make for a more enjoyable experience and the film allows them to develop and have stronger conflicts. The main conflict with the brothers this time is that they find a mutagen that could make them human which splits them on whether or not they can use it. It causes the four to become disjointed and fail as a team which seems to be one of the film’s main themes. There is a problem with that however as the conflict feels as disjointed as the team and is resolved quickly and quietly. However there is one sad moment that is effective with the Turtles being revealed to humans and being met with fear and hatred. A little more focus on that well made moment could have gone a very long way. Another problem is the dialogue. There is quite a bit of exposition in this film and whenever a character is providing exposition it feels unnatural and clunky. They talk at a mile a minute or bring up something of their character that was unwarranted and it just feels odd and out of place. Lastly of course there’s the humor. In the previous film it’s humor relied on crass and low moments, clearly Michael Bay’s childish humor leaking in. Thankfully this time around the humor is well done and effective mostly though it doesn’t stray from that childish humor as it returns in the form of villains Bebop and Rocksteady though it is kept to a minimum and does work for them, though often times it doesn’t.
The characters for TMNT 2 are a mixed bag
Thanks to the larger focus the Turtles are more developed in this film and thankfully it chooses to focus on all four rather then just one. In the case of Donatello and Michelangelo they feel stronger with Donatello serving a greater purpose and Michelangelo being a more humorous and charming character rather then a nuisance. However Raphael and Leonardo seem to have taken a step back with the two butting heads constantly, Raphael being hot headed and Leonardo being really arrogant. It’s as if the two had to learn the same lesson they did the first time around. Other then that the four do work well together and the stronger focus does make for stronger characters.
April O’Neil takes a back seat this time around which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand she had too much focus in the first film and her major defining trait was that she knew the Turtles as a kid (honestly I don’t like that predestination story idea) but on the other hand she is very useful in this film and is all around likeable so it is a shame to see her sidelined for so long.
Casey Jones makes his first appearance in a live action film in twenty three years and I did not like him. There are numerous problems with the character and in terms of writing he just comes off as a typical vigilante character with no depth or personality. I also don’t understand why he’s a cop, it honestly makes his vigilantism pointless.
Shredder, like the Turtles, has more screen time however he feels less important here. Rather then a very powerful criminal mastermind Shredder feels more like MacGuffin serving only to move the story along until Krang shows up and is then immediately discarded.
Krang is roughly the same character many of us grew up with: a psychotic inter dimensional tyrant bent on world domination. Unfortunately there’s not much of Krang in this film and all we get is an exposition dump and a brief but satisfying fight with the Turtles.
The scene stealers in this film are Bebop and Rocksteady. For the most part they’re incredibly fun and entertaining villains having numerous scenes of comedic bumbling as well as their strong friendship make them a delight to watch whenever they’re on screen. Unfortunately the aforementioned crass humor is saved for them and every so often I found myself doing a dreaded eye roll. Sure it works for them being bumbling villains and all but crass humor is something that is very difficult to do right and this film doesn’t do it right.
Acting for TMNT 2 is done well by most of the cast.
Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher all do well as Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo respectively. Ploszek does a fine job taking over the role of Leonardo from Johnny Knoxville and manages to sound the same making for a smooth transition. Ritchson and Howard are still very convincing in their roles and Fisher, though too thick on the surfer talk, is enjoyable as Michelangelo and it’s clear he’shaving fun with the role. All four work together very well throughout the film be it in scenes of comedy or some of the rarer serious moments of the film.
I still feel that Megan Fox does well in the role of April O’Neil and though she doesn’t fit the role perfectly she still tries her hardest and prevails. It’s too bad that she has to take a backseat this time around.
I did not like Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, in fact I find him to be the main reason why this Casey Jones doesn’t work. Amell tries way too hard to come off as the humorous and immature Jones but no matter what he did all I saw was Amell playing another vigilante character though this time he isn’t a self righteous, misogynistic jerk. Amell was just a terrible casting choice in a film that otherwise did a fine job in casting.
Brian Tee, though not having anything in particular to do, does well as Shredder. Tee manages to be very menacing in every scene and embodies the character almost perfectly. Even with little to do Tee still gives a good performance and is a memorable Shredder.
Tyler Perry plays Baxter Stockman and unfortunately he’s not the cool 2003 Baxter Stockman who was cold, menacing and cheated death time and again but rather the lame doofus from the original animated series. Despite this Perry still does well, coming across as a socially awkward but intelligent villain. Perry has numerous intentional cringe worthy moments that do work well for the character and is overall enjoyable. It’s a shame though, I imagine he could menacing very well.
Brad Garret gives a brief but overall disgustingly pleasant performance as Krang. Though he talks in rapid fire fashion Garret is still enjoyable, slobbering out each line of dialogue in a villainous nature.
Lastly we have Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly as Bebop and Rocksteady. Like their characters they manage to steal the show with their excellent chemistry and dynamic. They each fit the roles perfectly both as humans and mutants and were constantly entertaining from start to finish.
The effects for TMNT 2 were well done
The CG for TMNT 2 is leaps and bounds better then it’s predecessor. For starters the Turtles themselves look better having brighter colors, smoothed out designs and their rendering with the real world is more believable though I must say I still don’t like Michelangelo’s face. The CG in the gran set pieces does come off as cartoony but overall that is the point of the film and it works very well and only adds to the over the top fun of some scenes. However, at times the CG can be a problem as many scenes have too much CG and with frantic action scenes it does at times become difficult to follow what’s happening.
The action scenes for TMNT 2 are flawed but at times entertaining
TMNT 2 could have had stronger action scenes but unfortunately second time director Dave Green doesn’t seem to understand how to film an action scene. Fight scenes involve a lot of shaky cam and some but cuts and camera angles which ruins what seems to be well done fight choreography. The big set pieces are the ones that are mostly done well with lots of enjoyable chaos and destruction one in particular taking place on a crashing cargo plane. However, the final battle with Krang was hard to follow as there was too much going on and Green’s inability to get it down pat. At times the action can be entertaining but too often it’s ruined by bad cinematography and editing.
Final Thoughts: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows is both flawed but a step up from it’s predecessor. The story is well done having a fun Saturday morning cartoon feel to it though some things need polish, most of the characters are likable, some acting is strong especially from Williams and Farrelly, the effects are improved and some action scenes are fun though many are hard to follow. Overall Out of the Shadows is still a fun summer popcorn film, warts and all.