Editor’s Notes: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opens in wide theatrical release today, June 3rd.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the second reboot of the 90’s-era series, made just enough bank to justify a sequel. That, of course, is the only reasonable, plausible explanation for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the unanticipated follow-up to 2014’s semi-surprising semi-hit (it’s always about bank). With the amateurish animatronics, sophomoric humor and the rudimentary, reductive characterizations of the original swapped out for ugly, unattractive CGI, infantile humor, and casual sexism/misogyny for the reboot and Michael Bay producing, the 2014 reboot did little – actually nothing – to bring back the original series’ fans, however many or few they might be given the inevitable, inexorable passage of time (i.e., growing up, developing healthy, adult interests like sports, home repair, and lawn care), and instead made a crass, cynical play for über-fans of Bay’s multi-billion dollar grossing, robot-smashing Transformers franchise. Sadly, it worked. It worked well enough to “justify” a sequel.
The script also amps up the group’s internal conflict over leadership, team building, etc., but again it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows inexplicably introduces our four heroes in a (cracked) half-shell, Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), and Raphael (Alan Ritchson), as they slip into a NY Knicks basketball game at Madison Garden. (It’s a fantasy land because no one in their right (or wrong) mind would willfully embrace the currently woeful incarnation of the NY Knicks.) Despite the super-turtles superheroics the last time around, New Yorkers don’t know who or what they are, crediting the takedown of the turtles’ arch-nemesis, Shredder (Brian Tee), to onetime cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). They’re seemingly fine with the arrangement, though that doesn’t stop them from interrupting Vern’s on-air, courtside interview during the game, less out of resentment and more because they’re teens and that’s what teens, even teens who resemble human-sized, two-legged turtles do. But a literal slip-up forces the turtles to forego the remainder of the game and make a quick escape back to their sewer-level lair. Cue slipping, sliding, and skateboarding through New York City’s sewer tunnels.
This time out, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec’s (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) script places slightly more emphasis on helping the audience distinguishing between the turtles besides the color of the cut-out bandanas they wear around their eyes (even in their underground hideout) and their physical size (Raph’s imposing, hypertrophied bulk), Donny’s glasses. Still, Appelbaum and Nemec never stray far from their primary character traits: Leo’s the fearless leader, Donny handles all of the tech, Mickey is the fun-loving goof with a heart, and Raph function as the punch-first, think-second muscle of the group. The script also amps up the group’s internal conflict over leadership, team building, etc., but again it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. A mutagen – the long familiar purple ooze – offers the turtles a potential out (i.e., becoming human), but even that, like the fear and hate the turtles expect to face from humans who learn of their existence, makes the turtles look like second- or third-rate X-men rip-offs (probably because they are).
The central plot borrows from countless sci-fi themed comic books and films, including the Transformers series and the Avengers . . .
The central plot borrows from countless sci-fi themed comic books and films, including the Transformers series and the Avengers: After Shredder escapes in mid prison transfer through an interdimensional teleportation device operated by Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), a mad scientist with a grudge against the world (or something), Shredder finds himself face-to-tentacle with Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), a slimy, self-aware pink pustule with a yen to rule our world. Together, they make a pact to take down the turtles and use the teleportation device to bring a gigantic war machine to Earth, but for reasons that remain semi-vague, the war machine comes over piece-by-piece, giving the turtles and their allies, Vern, April O’Neil (Megan Fox), marginalized to resident hot girl, including an embarrassing sequence where April starts out as a blonde, vapid nerd fangirl and ends up in a skimpy, schoolgirl outfit, and Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), a suspended corrections officer turned hockey stick wielding, masked vigilante, more than enough time to permanently disrupt Shredder and Krang’s World Domination Tour (until the next sequel, that is) through one of the most perfunctory, uninspired set pieces this side of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Ooze.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows wastes the talent in front of the screen, especially when the non-mo-capped actors include limited thespians (e.g., Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and Tyler Perry). The presence of an award-winning and award-nominated actress like Laura Linney, however, unquestionably counts as a waste. Linney treats her role as a police chief and occasional antagonist with all of the seriousness and gravitas it doesn’t deserve. As we’re often reminded, actors have to pay their mortgages just like everybody else, not to mention they’re driven by a deep-seated, possibly pathological desire to perform in front of cameras and audiences. Still, Linney, like the audience who’ll be surprised by her presence in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – assuming they even know who she is – deserved better. Then again, so did we.
Linney, like the audience who’ll be surprised by her presence in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – assuming they even know who she is – deserved better. Then again, so did we.