THE AFJ REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS **SPOILERS!!**
By RJ "The Dentist" Davis
OK fellow Junkies, I’m going to get this out of the way early – I’m 32 years old, which means I was the perfect age for “Turtlemania” in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I collected all of the toys and I see from the AFJ pages that many of you do as well. That means that despite my best efforts to be objective with this review, I’ll occasionally fall victim to the nostalgia of playing with the turtle van in my basement in 1990. I’ll also fall victim to wanting the turtles to look and act like they did in the 80’s. I’m sure many of the readers of this review will be the same.
Before you see the movie, there are a few things you should know. YES, it is better than the very mediocre 2014 film. NO, this is NOT the charming, slow paced (by today’s standard) 1990 Turtles movie that you may have grown up loving. It is, however, very similar to the 2014 film - for better or worse. It’s fast paced, loud and in-your-face with a camera as shaky as a 90 year old woman with bilateral hip replacements. So, if you hated that Michael Bay produced CGI-fest, you’ll probably hate this one too.
"Probably" is the key word here though. It suffers from a lot of what I didn’t enjoy about the first movie, especially the design of the turtles themselves. They still look gigantic and borderline scary. The action is still frenetic, especially in 3D, and can be hard to follow. You’ll see oodles of explosions and slow motion “bullet time” for its own sake. It just doesn’t work for me, but maybe the ADD generation loves it. Who knows? This is for the “modern” kid anyway.
The plot tries to be multilayered but it still comes off as anemic. It’s clear the story is just there to pit giant CGI monstrosities against each other and not much else. I didn’t mind. You won’t get the “feels” with this one, but were you really expecting that? If you’re in this for emotional resonance, go watch an MCU movie.
The story picks up with scientist Baxter Stockman (played really well by a hammy but usually buttoned up, Tyler Perry) plotting with the Foot Clan to break Shredder out of prison. April O’Neil, (Megan Fox) is hot on his trail trying to figure out what he’s up to in some sort of undercover sting. Once again, she looks great in a mini-skirt but can’t act to save her life. She finds out what’s going on and BAM - cue the first big action scene. BOOM! CRASH! WHIRL! LOUDER BOOM! Despite the turtle’s best efforts, Shredder escapes with two convicts named Bebop and Rocksteady. Back at the evil lair, we then learn that Shredder has discovered an “ooze” that awakens dormant genes in our bodies and decides to experiment on – guess who – new pals Bebop and Rocksteady. Somehow this ooze is also a portal to another dimension (they lost me there, but who cares) where a guy named Krang (WOOT) is looking to invade earth using the Shredder as his pawn. Shredder mutates Bebop and Rocksteady, brings Krang to earth, and all hell breaks loose. Plot-wise, it’s essentially an extra-long episode of the classic TV show.
The supporting cast includes Laura Linney as a police chief and Will Arnett as the lovable “Vern.” Both do their jobs well but seem out of place in a movie that’s really about giant mutants clashing with one another. The big disappointment is Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. What was once one of my favorite characters from the cartoons and movies was reduced to a forgettable side role in this film. He only wears his hockey mask once, and it’s not even during the final battle! Also, his acting is terrible, even by B movie standards. Elias Koteas is turning in his grave (is that guy alive?). Poor form.
If I have to commend this movie for one thing it would be taking the goofy, cartoony origins of the 80’s cartoon and toy line and absolutely running with it. Fans my age will surely get all giddy when they first show the turtle van launching MAN HOLE COVERS (just like the toy!) You will jump for joy when Bebop and Rocksteady start high fiving, burping, farting and absolutely destroying everything in sight. It’s like they never left us – and I welcome them back with open arms. The revolting Krang is also portrayed perfectly, even down to his voice. When these villains are on screen battling the heroes in a half shell, we forgive the sloppy writing and ugly, scary turtles. For a little while.
But that’s where the movie really upsets me. We live in an age that I call the comic book movie renaissance. MARVEL and DC (sometimes, sometimes) is cranking out movies with incredible action and heartfelt plots. Is it too much to ask this of the turtles? Hey, if we can turn ridiculous concepts like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy into A+ movies, we can do it with the turtles, can’t we?
THE FINAL WORD:
A step in the right direction with fun villains and more adherence to what the fans want, but it’s still not enough. Get Michael Bay out of the picture, hire a talented director who takes the material seriously. Then systemically redesign the turtle from top to bottom, and then we might be cooking with gas. See you all at the inevitable TMNT 3 with fingers crossed.
6/10--2.5 out of 5 *****