by Michael B. Hock
At no point will anyone be clutching an Oscar for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. But one has to give props to Michael Bay who, in a stroke of genius, manages to get Megan Fox into a schoolgirl outfit within the first ten minutes of the film, all while trying to keep it as close to the script as possible.
Out of the Shadows picks up where Michael Bay’s first Ninja Turtle CGI and Explosion fest finished, with Vern (Will Arnett) taking the credit for taking down the Shredder, the man that currently requires more restraints than… well, there is no comparison. Somehow GOB took down a martial arts master. Meanwhile the Turtles, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and Donatello are still eating pizza, living in the sewer, and training to be Ninjas should the need arise.
Since it’s a sequel, obviously the need arises.
Evil Scientist retconned into an evil Neil Degrasse Tyson, Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, who may be the only one who gets it) had developed a device that can help teleport Shredder out of prison as he’s being transported by Green Arrow himself Steven Amell playing hockey vigilante Casey Jones. Shredder is transported to another CGI-zone… I mean, Dimension X where he meets Krang, a brain living inside of a robot that wants to bring the technodrone from Dimension X… blah blah blah also some other stuff about how they can turn the Turtles human.
This recap is exhausting. You know the cartoon? Basically all of that, but somehow amazingly bungled. And I loved the cartoon. Still do.
Oh, and Beebop and Rocksteady are in it as well, played by Gary Anthony Williams (Properly Purple Mohawked) and WWE’s Sheamus. Probably the most amusing parts of the movie.
I’m a Ninja Turtles Fan. I grew up in the right time, I loved the TV show, and I loved the rubber-suited movies, and I can look back on them with affection, even if I can admit that it was silly. Because it was. That was the joke, four of the slowest creatures in the world rebranded as Ninjas. Here, once again, they’re hulking masses of CGI and eerie faces.
Once again, there’s an over reliance on CGI. Let me tell you what I mean by that, because I think too often people just scream “OVER RELIANCE ON CGI” and then don’t follow up. CGI can be great. When used effectively, it can be pretty amazing. But it was the same problem with the Transformers movie: use CGI to create the characters and have the move organically, don’t be so enamored with your CGI creation that you have to keep everything in constant motion. It was difficult to follow anything in the Krang scenes because he was constantly moving around, being tossed as if to show off “look what we can do now! Your cartoon is now live with us!” The Turtles, too, while still slightly horrifying, continue to bounce around the screen without really a reason. I don’t mean in fight scenes, but actual conversations. It gets distracting.
There is an improvement this time, however, on the human side of things. Tyler Perry, Sheamus, Gary Anthony Williams, Megan Fox, and Steven Amell all seem to understand that they’re playing characters in a silly comic book, not something that should be taken extremely seriously. (And some comics should be taken seriously – this is not one of them.) They seem to have loosened up in their parts. I think sometimes we tend to forget that Perry is a talented actor when he chooses to be, and in this case he throws himself into the goofy character pretty well. It’s actually a very nice relief for a movie about Turtles fighting a brain from another dimension for someone to not take it so seriously.
The other big issue with this movie is the underlying message of “be yourself, there’s nothing wrong with you.” The ooze that Krang gives to Shredder also has the ability to transform the Turtles into humans through the power of writing. The thing is, while there is a debate: should they show themselves? Should they not? The thing is there’s zero tension in these moments, because you know there is no way they’re going to take this stuff and become human. This is a franchise that has lasted a long time. This plotline could have been picked up an adapted in other ways that didn’t involve the breakup of the team/getting back together/deciding to be Turtles.
Overall, I’m not sure what I expected from this movie that wasn’t present in the others. It may be time to take a step back from these Turtles for a bit, maybe try to get them back to what made them fun in the first place.