Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
After a complete disaster of a first entry someone decided that it would be a good idea to make a sequel so now we have Dave Green’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. The real question is if it does anything to improve on what came before.
In short, yes it does. It actually improves on the first film in almost every way but considering how bad that was the bar isn’t all that high so almost anything would be an improvement. Unfortunately it brings those problems up to that higher level as well.
The story this time is that Shredder (Brian Tee) is released from prison and begins a campaign that will result in a strange being from another dimension coming through to our reality in order to conquer it. It’s your usual high stakes villain plan that tends to accompany a summer blockbuster and doesn’t count as a problem on its own.
It becomes a problem in the execution as the plan essentially boils down to a number of excuses for action scenes to take place as the next phase is completed. I also don’t consider this a problem as I enjoy many films that structure themselves in a similar way.
The problem here is that none of this is worth investing in. As heroes go the Turtles are about as obnoxious as they were in the first one, Shredder makes for a really dull villain and the plan itself is fairly ludicrous. Shredder agrees to help the interdimensional villain Krang (Brad Garrett) after only a short conversation without assuming that there’s any possibility for betrayal. I won’t spoil exactly what happens but if you’ve seen films before then you probably have an idea of what’s coming.
Right away this makes Shredder seem like an ineffectual moron which runs consistent if you suffered through the first one. He spends the film trying to put the pieces of the magical teleportation device together and then when he does it creates an over the top set piece where the Turtles have to save life as we know it.
This would all be fine if the tongue remained in the cheek throughout but bizarrely it really doesn’t. Much of this is taken very seriously with only immature banter from the Turtles or inept henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly aka Sheamus) passing as comedy. Some of the other actors try to crack jokes as well but for the most part this is played fairly straight and it just doesn’t work. The introduction of other dimensions and giant world ending devices makes this whole thing larger than life so it would have made sense to fully buy into this and embrace how silly this concept can be. I’m looking at the G.I. Joe movies as an example of the tone they should be going for.
The plot itself comes across as a complete mess. I get the impression that someone was responsible for pulling together all of the negative feedback thrown at the first one and fixing those problems in one fell swoop. As such we are introduced to Krang, Dimension X, Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), Bebop, Rocksteady, The Technodrome and Casey Jones all in one film. There’s fan service and then there’s what this film is trying to do. Basically what I think happened was that someone decided to take everything they think fans wanted from that franchise and throw it all into one film in the hope that it would make people happy.
There’s such a thing as overkill even in fan service and this film completely overshoots the mark. Introducing one or two elements for the plot to focus on as an extension of the world that is being built is fine for one film. For example if Shredder’s escape along with the creation of Bebop and Rocksteady had supplied the villains with Casey Jones rounding out the hero team then that would have been more than enough. Krang could even have been hinted at for the inevitable third entry.
The Turtles are featured far more than they are in the first film so it does actually feel like this is about them rather than being a story about some humans where the Turtles make guest appearances. It is definitely a step in the right direction but I wish their increased screen time had been put to better use.
One thing that there was no attempt to fix from the previous film is how hideous everything looks. The Turtles are still repulsive looking hulking brutes, Bebop and Rocksteady are unpleasant to look at as well and Krang is really grotesque. I don’t understand the rationale behind these design choices.
I will say that many of the action sequences are somewhat entertaining. The Turtles move in a reasonably dynamic way and there is some really cool choreography in there. It does take an awful long time to get to the next set piece most of the time but that is mostly down to attempts at characterisation falling completely flat and dragging down the pacing.
It does feel like there is an attempt to develop the Turtles as characters but it comes across as half baked. Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) repeat the same conflict over Leonardo’s ability to lead from the first film, Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher) is still annoyingly immature and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) has no characterisation beyond the fact that he’s “the smart one” used whenever exposition needs to happen. The Turtles all have defined roles but since this is apparently supposed to be a story of them coming of age and accepting their identity as well as their role in society then it would be nice to get the smallest hint of development from any of them.
Other returning characters don’t fare much better. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) spends most of her time coasting by on her looks to get access to places and people she normally wouldn’t. Never mind that her entire defining characteristic from the first film is that she wanted to be accepted for more than just how she looks. Arguably her using how she looks as a weapon in her arsenal could be a good idea but it doesn’t come across. Beyond that she doesn’t do much other than support the Turtles and wait for them to save her. Megan Fox possibly does an even worse job of playing this part than she does in the first film but that’s mostly because her character has absolutely nowhere to go so Fox doesn’t really have much to work with.
Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) is the arrogant loser he was in the first film with no sense of personal growth to him at all. Arnett makes it work on occasion but for the most part the character is incredibly irritating and doesn’t really learn anything for a second time. It really is impressive how many things this film gets wrong.
Stephen Amell does a really good job as Casey Jones and the character has something resembling an arc some of the time. He wants to be accepted as being capable of doing more than he currently does so spends the film trying to prove that. There is no real resolution to this as such and I don’t get the impression that he learns anything but Amell is talented enough to give the character some personality that shines through the dreadful writing. Amell is the only reason I watched this film since I’m a fan of Arrow but after seeing it I regret my decision.
A very slight improvement on the first film but never manages to actually ascend to a level resembling good. The Turtles are still obnoxious stereotypes, the returning characters don’t develop at all, new characters aren’t given much to do and the whole thing is generally a mess. There are a few entertaining action sequences but those aren’t enough to spare this being nearly unwatchable.
- some impressive action sequences
- Stephen Amell’s performance
- awful pacing
- too much fan service
- terrible attempts at humour
- very little attempt at character development
- almost everything else