Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
Director: Dave Green
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Laura Linney, Brian Tee, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Gary Anthony Williams, Stephen Farrelly
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ kid-friendly action and cheesy, slap-stick humor is aimed at a younger target audience. If you no longer wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons or the phrases “Cowabunga” and “Turtle Power” don’t illicit nostalgia, it could be a tough movie to sit through.
The story picks up after the events of 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After stopping Shredder’s attack on New York City, The Turtles are miffed that Vern (Will Arnett), cameraman turned celebrated hero, is getting all the credit and glory. Until humans are ready to co-exist with six-feet tall freaky looking mutants, the Turtles must remain hidden. But the Turtles have bigger problems like stopping mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and the rest of the Foot Clan from rescuing master Shredder during a prisoner transport.
The above synopsis doesn’t even begin to cover how many characters are haphazardly crammed into the 1 hour, 52 min run time. For a supposedly brainy villain, Commander Krang doesn’t do anything to outsmart the Turtles. Krang oozes personality but unfortunately is underused. Tyler Perry awkwardly embraces his inner nerd as Dr. Stockman who is never fully realized and is merely the summation of two character traits: his bow tie and dweebish laugh. Better utilized are henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady providing dim-witted comedic relief and the physical force for the Turtles to go up against.
As formulaic as 2014’s reboot is, it got the basics mostly right. It pin-pointed what the causal audience (not the fanboys) needed to feel satisfied. Here’s where the sequel misses the mark. Returning characters Splinter and April O’Neil aren’t given much in a way of memorable moments. Shredder is reduced to stoic and menacing glares, which you might say is an actual upgrade from the previous film but at least in the reboot he got to show why he’s a fearsome warrior. If this was like Godzilla (2014), there would be a character saying “Let Them Fight” to Shredder and the Turtles. Aside from an airplane sequence, the action scenes aren’t quite the adrenaline fueled ride they are intended to be. This includes an uninspiring climax which borrows from The Avengers ending, which in itself mirrored the Transformers.
The intro credits puts captions on screen that Donny is the Brains, Raphael is the Muscle and so on. Archetypes makes it easier to understand and identify with characters without having to truly flesh them out. Better defined in this sequel is Leo, the quiet leader who learns the difference between being brothers and being a team. There’s a divide in the team with Raphael and Mikey most wanting to live up above among the humans. The idea of coming out of the shadows helps shape the story and sets up the Turtles’ hero arc, but falls short of something that’ll emotionally resonate.
Arrow’s Stephen Amell brings a solid likability factor to hockey fanatic Casey Jones. Jones is a corrections officer striving to advance his career in law enforcement, similar to how April wanted to become a serious journalist in the 2014 reboot. Casey is not a dark, violent type vigilante which fits into the tone of this franchise. Of the new characters, Casey is the best choice to bring back for another movie as there’s more potential to be explored. Fortunately, there’s no forced romance between Casey and April. In a funny way, his presence puts the dampers on Mickey’s unabashed crushing on April, an on-going gag from the first movie, and makes Vern jealous.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow’s story is safe and predictable. The silly humor isn’t as consistent as 2014’s reboot, though there are a few good laughs. Many of the supporting characters and villains get lost in the mix; however, Bebop, Rocksteady and Casey Jones are pretty good additions. Out of the Shadows doesn’t up the ante as a sequel but it’s not so bad that it’ll kill this franchise. The Turtles are fun-loving, crowd pleasers. It’s harmless fun. Kids and families will no doubt be watching this summer blockbuster.