TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES:
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
PG-13, 112 mins.
2016, PG-13, 112 mins.
Megan Fox as April O'Neil / Laura Linney as Chief Vincent / Stephen Amell as Casey Jones / Will Arnett as Vernon Fenwick / William Fichtner as Eric Sacks / Pete Ploszek as Leonardo / Alan Ritchson as Raphael / Noel Fisher as Michelangelo / Jeremy Howard as Donatello / Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (voice) / Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman / Brian Tee as Shredder / Gary Anthony Williams as Bebop / Stephen Farrelly as Rocksteady / Alessandra Ambrosio as Vernon's Girlfriend / Brad Garrett as Kraang (voice)
Directed by Dave Green / Written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec
The very best scene in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS occurs during its end credits.
very familiar theme song blares on the soundtrack, signaling a whirlwind
of wonderfully reflective emotions about the ionic 1980’s animated
Hearing that song filled me with nostalgia and made the adult
viewer in me feel like a child again.
everything that transpired in OUT OF THE SHADOWS before those wonderful
end credits, though, made me feel thoroughly miserable.
The movie made the adult viewer in me feel like it was
nonsensically written and produced by pre-adolescent filmmakers.
was awfully fair to the 2014 Michael Bay produced franchise
reboot, as far as
I could considering that the phrase “produced by Michael Bay” is
enough to have many a filmgoer yearn to sheepishly crawl back into an
emotionally agitated shell of panic.
For as much perceived good will that the makers of that film
probably believed they were imparting of Kevin Eastman’s and Peter
Laird’s legendary comic book creations, the last TMNT film came off more
as a dutifully produced, 90-plus-minute mass marketed bit of product placement
than it did a fully realized and impactfully designed feature film.
Even with the film’s exemplary visual effects and production
values (it was the best looking TMNT film ever made), it nevertheless was
as soulless as a plastic action figure.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS, more than its predecessor, is a sequel that
certainly makes the catastrophic error in surmising that lazily engaging
in simplistic nostalgic fan servicing somehow equals a competently
designed and executed motion picture.
The new film
takes place soon after the events of TMNT 1, during which time pop
culture’s most famous eradiated, bipedal, quip slinging, pizza loving,
and martial arts skilled reptiles – Leonardo (voice of Pete Ploszek),
Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy
Howard) – have just saved The Big Apple from the nefarious plans of
Shredder (Brain Tee). Of course, because they are, to be fair, freakishly large monsters,
none of these siblings believe that the larger world will accept them in
any tangible way, despite their heroic efforts (this film exists in a
bizarro version of New York where none of its citizens have smart
phones, cameras, or the ability to upload video of the turtles to
Instead, they incredulously allowed their buddy Vern (Will Arnett)
to take all of the credit for ending Shredder’s reign of terror.
Now, how any sane and rational person that watches the news –
and witnessed first hand the near catastrophic events of the last film’s
climax – would believe that a bumbling and egotistical dope like Vern would
be capable of such gallantry is something the film never once plausibly
OF THE SHADOWS kicks off with investigative journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox, once again about as credible as an investigative
journalist as I would be playing a perpetually shirtless Wolverine in an
X-MEN film), deduces that strange things are afoot with scientist Baxter
Stockman (Tyler Perry, the only human performer here that seems to be
genuinely enthusiastic about appearing in a TMNT film), so she quickly
asks for her green skinned pals for assistance.
Making matters worse for all is Shredder’s prison break (with aid
from Stockman), who decides to ally himself with an alien entity know as
Krang (voice of Brad Garret), a slimy extra-terrestrial that looks like a
brain with eyes and octopus-like hands that’s housed in the stomach
cavity of a giant robot.
Krang wishes to bring his Death Star-like Technodrome to Earth to
destroy it, but requires Shredder's assistance in doing so.
Also helping the villains are two Stockmen created mutated
henchmen, the warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and the rhino
Rockesteady (Stephen Farrelly).
But of course, the turtles have to emerge…wait for it…out of
the shadows to battle their sworn enemy yet again.
how can a movie based on a 30-year-old comic book/cartoon property fail so
miserably at envisioning the overall look of its titular heroes?
My biggest gripe with the previous TMNT entry was in how
wrongheaded it was in portraying the appearance of the turtles
themselves, which disappointingly continues on here.
Instead of making these ninja warriors agreeably and faithfully
pint sized like in the source material, they're instead ugly and
grotesquely roided out behemoths that appear seemingly indestructible
against every obstacle thrown in their way (hell, at one point one of them
collides mid-air with the front of an airplane thousands of feet above the
ground – don’t ask – with nary a scratch to show for it, an event that
should have reduced him to gooey soup and obvious death).
Yes, the film captures the jovial personalities of the turtles
well, but since these characters are borderline indestructible and nearly
as large as the Hulk, there’s never a single moment of suspense in OUT
OF THE SHADOWS.
characters fare no better.
These two TMNT films have really no idea how to handle the most
classic villain in the entire litany of this franchise.
Shredder here is once again lamentably wasted; in the first film
he was reduced to a giant robotic warrior with mechanized enhancements
(odd considering his lethality as a martial arts master) and now he plays
second fiddle to an alien and two simpleton minions that face off against
TMNT and OUT OF THE SHADOWS misses the boat altogether in
understanding that the core central conflict in the series is between
Shredder, the turtles, and their master Splinter (still inexplicably
voiced by Tony Shalhoub, still a poor casting choice as he rarely
brings any solemn gravitas to the part).
New characters like the alien brain monster Krang are so ineptly
shoehorned into the narrative without anything in the way of decent
exposition that they feel like they’ve been hijacked from another film
and haphazardly thrown in here without a care in the world.
and rather predictably, the human characters are not afforded much in the
way of development either.
It takes Fox only five minutes into the film before she parades
around in yet another gratuitously sexualized outfit, much to placate the
pitifully horny desires of young – and perhaps many old – male
viewers. It's impossible to ever believe that she’s a smart, assured, and
courageously independent minded reporter, mostly because she struts around like a runway Barbie doll in tight fitting outfits striking pouty
lipped poses for the camera that passes as acting.
The great Will Arnett (proven to be hysterical when given the right
material) is wastefully annoying in a throwaway role that could have been
easily excised from the film altogether.
Series newcomer Stephen Amell (so very charismatic and charming on
TV’s ARROW) is a real misfire as the hockey mask adorned
cop-turned-vigilante Casey Jones, which has more to say about the
film’s comatose and D.O.A. writing of the character than it does with
the actor’s enthusiastic commitment to the role.
And don’t even get me started with Oscar nominated actress Laura
Linney appearing here as a police commander intent on hunting down the
heroes; she visibly appears about as confused and ill at ease in the film
as I was while watching her in it.
Director Dave Green (EARTH TO ECHO) replaced Jonathon Liebesman this go-around, and of course the computer generated effects he utilizes in conjuring up the turtles out of sheer nothingness are indeed thanklessly rendered and look sensational…but at what ultimate cost? TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS is a film bereft of soul, wit, humor, and even a modestly compelling narrative worthy of its characters' stature in the annals of pop culture. Ultimately, it’s a senseless continuation of a heavily commercialized brand that proves to be a patience-testing endurance test of will for any viewer that achieved puberty decades ago. In many ways, it's the kind of super hero film that Joel Schumacher would have directed around, say, 1997. OUT OF THE SHADOWS will definitely appease children and those adults embarrassingly stuck in a state of arrested development, but the rest of us will easily see it as a dreadfully engineered piece of nostalgia claptrap orchestrated to sell toys and methodically push a brand.
Heroes deserve better treatment than this…even ones that live in the sewer.