… Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, as it’s known on my ticket stub. The market success of the first film made this sequel an inevitability. I have seen the first one a while ago, and I honestly do not remember much of it. All I remember is that it was underwhelming half of the time, tiring the other half of the time, and unmistakably watermarked by Michael Bay’s style of camerawork and directing style the whole time, despite the fact that he’s only credited as a producer.
This sequel is pretty much the same.
I’ll touch on what I mean by Michael Bay’s style in a bit, but first I’ll talk about the general elements of the movie.
To say that “Casey Jones” is in this movie is deceptive. Stephen Amell of “The Arrow” only wears the mask-and-hockey-stick combo once in the entire movie. The rest of it, he plays some guy who’s only definable traits are that he’s a good guy and he’s nice to look at.
At the beginning of the movie, I quickly gave him a nickname: Captain Exposition. There are parts of the movie where he needlessly, incessantly blurts out information for no real reason other than to inform the audience of something. He’s in this car and he’s reading off a list of all of Shredder’s crimes and gawking at the long record and then talks about how he loves hockey (This movie is horrendously unsubtle).
Then, in another scene, this police chief woman is yelling at Casey for a reason explained in the movie, and she finally stops talking to him after calling him “Mr. Jones”. He then corrects her by saying “That’s OFFICER Jone…… and I want to be a detective someday.” And it took all of the strength that I had not to bust out into uproarious laughter. I was sincerely hoping that he would just shout out exposition like this the whole movie, but after that one scene with the hockey mask, he basically becomes an uninteresting blank slate.
The casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil never made much sense to me. There are a few scenes where she actually does some “reporting”, but aside from that, she just plays some girl who’s only definable traits are that she’s a good guy and she’s nice to look at.
Shredder might as well not be in the movie, and I felt that the script made him so unbelievably unintelligent that no tension was felt from him being there at all.
As for the rest of the cast, they were all basically the same thing. Will Arnett’s character was an obnoxious cartoon, Bebop and Rocksteady were obnoxious cartoons, and Tyler Perry (of course) was an obnoxious cartoon.
That just leaves the Turtles and Splinter.
Splinter’s CGI was horrendously lifeless. I’m not saying any of the CGI was fantastic, because none of it was, but all of the turtles at least felt like they had characteristics and life to them. Splinter, on the other hand, was designed in a way that allowed no sort of facial expressions. There was nothing interesting about him whatsoever.
Finally, the turtles were the only enjoyable part of this movie. And even then, they mostly just demonstrated this movie’s utter lack of self-restraint. This movie, like all of the other animated kids films I have seen this year, does not know anything about humor in regards to pacing or delivery. I mean, they’re not obliged to because it’s made for children, and children have extremely low standards for comedy, but considering TMNT was a thing when my generation was young, you’d think they would try to put stuff in the movie that would appeal to a mature audience, you know, aside from Megan Fox’s midriff and Bebop and Rocksteady making a subtle “my-genitals-are-huge-now” joke.
But there’s nothing here for adults, nothing that would appeal to people like me at least. There’s no intelligence to how anything is done in this film.
Honestly, my favorite part of this movie was when no one was cracking dumb jokes; Donatello finds out something important and tells Leonardo about it, and Leo makes a decision that affects the entire group, and I felt like I was learning something interesting about all four turtles in this scene. I felt there was legitimate tension to be felt in that small, five minute sequence.
Whoever made that scene and put it into the script, thank you, because it was the only scene in the entire film that did not feel surface-level and juvenile.
Now I said at the beginning that even though Michael Bay didn’t direct this movie, his style was watermarked into the entire thing: juvenile humor, attractive female characters, a massive use of CGI, and larger-than-life camerawork filled to the brim with explosions, heavy lighting, and/or things falling from the sky. This last bit is the most important to focus on: the larger-than-life camerawork. This always struck me as a problem in these movies because TMNT, as I remember it from the cartoons and live-action movies of the 90’s, was not a story that fits into the Bay world of world-exploding-sky-falling hysteria. But because Bay’s childhood-ruining hands are all over this movie, the turtles are forced to fight giant metal robots with ninja weapons, and it all just feels so forced. The vast majority of the time, I felt like I was watching Transformers but with CGI turtles. If Michael Bay and his ilk were capable of toning things down and bringing things back to earth, we would probably have a much better live-action TMNT movie.
I cannot recommend Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows to anyone that isn’t a child. There are some things that I enjoyed, but most of the movie was either obnoxious or tolerably mediocre. It’s honestly a shame that we cannot give this franchise to someone with some freaking self-restraint, because I for one would love to watch a TMNT movie that didn’t feel like a recycled version of Transformers. Until then, I guess I will have to settle for the cheap-looking 90’s live-action films, and I’m giving this movie a 4 out of 10.