Here’s the thing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, despite it’s longevity in the pop culture world, it has its roots deeply embedded to anyone who was a child of the 80s. So with any such attachment there would most likely be high expectations for its live-action adaptation movie. And while the 2014 film of the same name fell short of that, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows actually exceeds those expectations because it embraces its roots and absurdity.
One of the mistakes the first film made was that it seemed like it was racing towards an unknown goal. It was way too serious for its own good, and headache-inducing kaleidoscope camera effects only added to the confusion. But it is amazing what a better story, written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, and a new director, Dan Green, can do to give the film a complete 180. Rather than double down on those same mistakes, we have a story that is much more focused and a proper introduction for the Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) the leader, Donatello (Jeremy Howard) the intellectual genius, Raphael (Alan Ritchson) the muscle, and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) the party dude. Although April O’Neill (Megan Fox), starts out using her charm to get closer to the nefarious Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), she progressively gets better in the film as she does more hacking, researching, and stealing. But still no clue as to why she is portrayed as a journalist when we see her do more crime fighting than anything else. Will Arnett also provides some humorous moments.
Rather than turn in another episodic installment of the new franchise, Out of the Shadows seems to be a true origins story by exploring the relationship of the titular turtles and introducing fan-favorite characters like the evil alien living brain Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), Shredder’s (Brian Tee) two meatheaded soldiers Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrlley), and the hockey mask wearing vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell).
As always there is some sort of impending threat that only the Turtles can stop. In Out of the Shadows, our Turtles continues to live in the shadows out of fear that they cannot be accepted due to their unhuman-like appearance. As they try to grasp with the idea that they can never live amongst humans, Shredder is hatching a plan to rule the world with the help of Krang who informs him that if their plan is to succeed they need to find three items that are spread across the Earth. They are already in possession of one, but to make sure there are no problems Krang hands over a mutagen give Shredder the muscle he needs to fight the turtles. So Shredder uses it on Bebop and Rocksteady to turn them into an anthropomorphic rhino and warthog.
The film is definitely a nostalgic joy because of the use of those fan-favorite characters. Unlike the first, it embraces its own absurdity and silliness. That sort of self-acknowledgement is so hard to find these days. By doing that, it allows audiences to accept that it is silly and that it is not trying to be like Batman or Captain America. So there is no reason to be dark or gritty, but rather be light-hearted and fun.
But there are some serious themes that the film addresses. The subtitle should be a tip that these four brothers are constantly hiding in the shadows because of their appearance. It is great to see that we can see topical issue that is the subject of conversation play out in a family film. These brothers do not want to live in hiding anymore, and are presented with an opportunity to become human when they learn that the same mutagen that turned Bebop and Rocksteady into mutant animals could do the reverse for them. That somewhat spills over to the themes of family and brotherhood as Leonardo does what is best to protect his brothers whom he sees more as teammates. We see how the relationship between the four brothers falls apart and how words can linger. But it is how the four resolve the issue couldn’t be more genuine and honest, and hopefully parents can talk to their kids about it as those themes affect us today.
There is some mild language in the movie, however it is nothing really to be concerned about considering there are no more then two or three choice words being used.
Overall, it was a fun film and definitely something for the TMNT fans of all ages. It has no problem acknowledging where it comes from and embraces its silly roots.
It’s reviews like this that make me wonder if I backed the wrong horse when reading Return To New York, initially drawn to the darker tone compared to the TMNT cartoon I knew but hooked in by genuinely good storytelling. This franchise is capable of better and I actually think it doesn’t work when you embrace the absurdity and make it all a joke which is lazy and more often than not used as an excuse for bad storytelling