I know that this is grounds for getting my “90’s Kid” membership card stripped from my hands, but the more I see “TMNT II,” the more I dislike it. Yes, it has camp value thanks to Vanilla Ice, but nostalgia lens aside, it’s a pretty crummy follow up to the 1990 movie. It’s basically the “Batman Forever” of the original TMNT movie series, a movie that waters down the formula of the Ninja Turtles. Hell, even like “Batman Forever,” the turtles are no longer urban legends working in the shadows, and become virtual celebrities by the climax. Much to the shock of everyone involved, 1990’s “TMNT” movie was a film for all ages that took violence seriously, and depicted actual consequences to actions and decisions.
While 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was a watered down remake of the 1990 Jim Henson production, “Out of the Shadows” is a larger and sillier remake of “Secret of the Ooze” taking a lot of the ideas from the aforementioned film and realizing them to a more “TMNT” accurate vision. “Secret of the Ooze” had all the implications of the Krang, Baxter Stockman and the like, but “Out of the Shadows” takes that and re-introduces it to make about as much sense as it can. Rather than Tokka and Rahzar, we finally have Bebop and Rocksteady in their full disgusting glory, battling the Ninja Turtles, and playing stooges to the Shredder. “Out of the Shadows” isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it’s ten times better than its 2014 predecessor.
That might be because it comes up with a radical new idea and focuses the majority of the sequel on the titular Ninja Turtles. April O’Neil is still a major character but is pushed to the sidelines more and more, allowing the characters we came to see a bigger spotlight and more of a chance to grow and blossom. The Platinum Dumbs version of the turtles is still wildly imperfect and stupid, but “Out of the Shadows” is at least fun, and tries to give us as many elements from the canon as possible. After Shredder’s plans from the first film are thwarted, he’s taken to jail and sent to a maximum security prison, supervised by Officer Casey Jones. When Shredder is broken free by his foot clan, he brings along thugs Bebop and Rocksteady to set off a plan to take over the world alongside a new alien ally.
Armed with mad scientist Baxter Stockman, Shredder plans to build a mutant army, and use his alien allies to help him rule. When the Turtles, with the help of April, learn of the mutagen, they learn the ooze has potential to turn them in to humans. With the turtles still pariahs of the city, Raphael is tempted to become human, while Leonardo tries to convince them to stay true to themselves. This time around there’s a larger focus on the dynamics of the brothers, as Leo and Raph bicker and fight for command over this current development, while Michelangelo is no longer making erection jokes, and is now the party dude we know and love, making cracks, fawning over pizza, and approaching every challenge with a chuckle worthy of Spiccoli. Stephen Amell is also a fun addition to the cast, providing a charismatic take on Casey Jones.
“Out of the Shadows” is a really good time and about as close to great as can be expected from something starring Megan Fox. I wish she’d drop out and allow an actress with actual ability and chemistry with her co-stars to take the reins as April. “Out of the Shadows” also has no idea how to handle so many elements of the narrative as there’s so much going on for a hundred minute movie. A lot of conflicts are tacked on, sub-plots go nowhere, and Splinter being retconned to have no connection to Shredder makes him a virtually pointless addition to the team. He literally does nothing but meditates in the background and offer convenient pearls of wisdom to his sons, with no actual emotional investment in their battle. You could have cut Splinter out of this movie, and it would have had no effect on the overall production.
Meanwhile there is the gaping wide hole of the new mutagen presented from Dimension X and the Krang. If the mutagen turns Bebop and Rocksteady from humans to animals, why can the mutagen possibly turn the turtles in to humans? They weren’t humans before they became teenage turtles. The implication of being mutants is that they’re anthropomorphic and human like, so wouldn’t they revert back to normal everyday turtles if given the mutagen? Also, I’m not a science wiz, but since when do the turtles have human DNA in them? Wouldn’t becoming human being a mutation be very redundant to the narrative? That said, if you can forgive the canyon wide plot hole, “Out of the Shadows” is an entertaining diversion that improves on a lot of the glaring flaws from the 2014 reboot.
Growing up in the nineties, I would watch cartoons all day long during the weekdays; hell I pulled seven hours at school and was a grade A TV junkie, so I watched a ton of television. During the cartoons, between the toy and candy commercials, there were about thirty anti-drug and alcohol PSA’s played between the hours of three and six. Hey, mock me all you want, but those PSA’s worked and worked well on me. It’s not enough that I always found the idea of drug use disgusting, but the PSA’s that would air on television scared me straight, just as they intended.
It’s pretty sad to see “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which understands the idea of dysfunctional warriors coming together for a common purpose and becoming heroes, while “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” gets it so wrong. Speaking as a fan of the TMNT franchise, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” not only gets it all wrong, but it accomplishes what not even the worst adaptations could in the past. It turns the Ninja Turtles in to generic heroes with almost no personality. Beyond Michelangelo, no one in the film has an actual unique personality I could think of. Director Jonathan Liebesman and Platinum Dumbs take the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in to a whole new arena of bland, lifeless, nonsense. What’s pretty much always been a franchise meant to sell merchandise for decades, becomes even more
Director Jonathan Liebesman and Platinum Dumbs take the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in to a whole new arena of bland, lifeless, nonsense. What’s pretty much always been a franchise meant to sell merchandise for decades, becomes even more soulless than ever. In this unnecessary rehashing, April is a fluff news reporter anxious to be taken seriously, so she begins investigating the foot clan and their reign of crime. During an investigation, she’s taken hostage, and witnesses the Ninja Turtles bring down a troop of the Foot Clan.
Despite being ninjas, April is able to follow them and sneak up on them, prompting her discovery of the four anthropomorphic turtles, all of whom are committed to fighting crime. After meeting them and their master Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat with knowledge of martial arts, the turtles are kidnapped. Apparently the turtles have magic blood, and the Foot want to spread a lethal plague across New York, synthesize the turtles’ mutagen blood as a cure, and sell it to the US government for big profits.
If you can believe it, Shredder is awkwardly shoe horned in to the movie, never really doing much but confronting and taunting the turtles, and donning robotic armor that looks like the Foot strip mined a Decepticon and used its parts for a suit. The Shreddertron 3000 is also turned in to a generic foe; it’s quite obvious the script was hastily retooled to turn Shredder and Sacks (William Fichtner) in to separate characters. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” completely re-writes the entire mythos for the sake of propping up future installments, and selling toys, never actually touching on what’s so much fun about these characters.
Splinter now becomes a martial arts master because he read a book, the turtles were once pets of April, and for some reason the turtles now look like dinosaurs. With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s always been that thin line that separates them from being moronic creations, and fun underdog superheroes, and Liebesman seems to want to embrace both sides of the coin. He mocks the characters for the adult audience, while giving them their own moments of martial arts bad assery for the sake of the kids. He also throws in a fart joke, and an honest to goodness erection joke. Shredder is barely the villain of this piece, the foot clan is generic soldiers, and (for the sole reason of Megan Fox’s sex appeal) April O’Neill is now the main character. Not to mention the entire reasoning for the turtles existing. It’s disheartening that a movie about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” takes almost twenty minutes until we see the foursome. Even then they’re really just nothing but plot devices for April confronting her tortured past, and becoming an actual news reporter.
Not to mention the entire reasoning for the turtles existing. It’s disheartening that a movie about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” takes almost twenty minutes until we see the foursome. Even then they’re really just nothing but plot devices for April confronting her tortured past, and becoming an actual news reporter. The movie relies on Megan Fox reacting and interacting with the turtles, and that’s a travesty considering Fox’s performance is god awful. It’s cringe inducing how she can barely deliver a worthwhile line of dialogue convincingly, and never seems at all lifelike in the role. April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants.
April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants. April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants. There are glimmers of fun moments between the team which include an impromptu beat box session in an elevator, and Raphael’s conflict with Leonardo. I wanted so much more of that. Instead all we get is another loud, obnoxious, ninety minute commercial with no grasp on what makes the source material it’s adapting so appealing.
In the right format, the Ninja Turtles are pretty damn incredible. There’s just something about anthropomorphic human sized mutant turtles that are ninjas and know Ninjitsu that is just so darn appealing. What’s more is that there’s just something about the concept that is just so entertaining. Even when Eastman and Laird never intended for the series to be for kids, the Ninja Turtles always seemed destined to become icons for childhood superheroes who fought bad guys while entertaining tweens and all audiences alike. The eighties was the golden age of the Ninja Turtles where they were household names. There was just nothing but an avalanche of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise and clothing that you couldn’t fit it all in one giant warehouse.
Like many of you who grew up during the eighties, the Ninja Turtles was a big part of my life. It was a fun, kick ass animated series that took the plots as seriously as can be while also squeezing in some hilarity in the process. Michelangelo is the primary source for the comic relief and thankfully in everything I’ve ever seen from the heroes in a half shell, there’s never been an instance where one character was annoying or grating. Now comes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles box set from Warner that not only includes every Ninja Turtle movie ever made, but also arrives with a choice few special prizes the youngens will enjoy. The entire set comes in a fancy DVD case with a cover that resembles a man hole. When opened we get a basic booklet that features separate discs and sadly a bunch of black DVD holders that serve no purpose. Thankfully that one faulty aesthetic is more than made up for when you take in to consideration what you’re getting here.
Michelangelo: I have nightmares about birthday parties…
I’ll happily admit this again and again, “TMNT” was one of my most anticipated movies of 2007. Because whether I say it or not, the Ninja Turtles were just a big part of my youth. And they’re a franchise I consistently trail back to and enjoy. I loved the original movie, loved the animated series and hell, I even dug the 2003 animated series. Remember that period when they were a rock band? I digress. This franchise is not without its hitches, as every franchise is, but “TMNT” was a step in the right direction. Computer animation, great cast, and bringing the turtles back to the dark without abandoning their major audience. I’m assuming you know the story of the turtles by now, so I’ll segue into the review.