IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 112 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Reporter April O’ Neal is investigating dodgy scientist Dr. Baxter who is behind a plan to free the villainous Shredder and has found one third of a device that, if put together when the other parts are found, can form a portal through which the evil alien Krang wants to lead an extra-terrestrial invasion. Shredder is freed, along with Bebop and Rocksteady, two dumb crooks whom Shredder turns into animal-like creatures by exposing them to a substance, also created by Baxter, which turns humans into the animals their personalities most resemble and could even make the Ninja Turtles human. As for the latter, they are regarded as monsters by some of those who live on the surface and have to contend with a vigilante named Casey Jones who has his own score to settle with the baddies….
My attempt to describe the first third of the plot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows in the above paragraph wasn’t intended to sound so incoherent; that’s just how the film’s story seemed to me. It appears to have been constructed by a six year old. This follow-up to the Ninja Turtles reboot of two years ago passes the time inoffensively enough but doesn’t come near its immediate predecessor [which, despite the usual bad reviews which have greeted every Turtles film, I found to be a decent ‘switch-your-brain-off’ action romp that I feel would have been more praised if it had been made by Marvel and not had Michael Bay as co-producer]. I’d personally place it around the middle of Ninja Turtle movies; better than the second and third films, but not as good as the first, fourth and fifth ones, which is highly disappointing considering I recall reading interviews with the filmmakers who said how the last movie didn’t work too well [how well could it really have worked? I thought it delivered in what it set out to do despite a few missteps like the unappealing look of the Turtles], and how they were going to top it with this one.
Now it’s possible that it may prove more popular with big Turtle fans than the 2012 reboot; in fact this already seems to be the case judging by comments on the IMDB. Apparently there are lots of details from the comics and the cartoons, some of them quite clever, like having the truck used by the Turtles being a combination of various vehicles in previous Turtles adventures, and I can understand how some fans are leaping for joy at the inclusion of Bebop and Rocksteady, two characters who were intended to appear in some of the previous films but never made it. But for me, who is I guess a partial fan – I really dig the concept, the characters and the slight underground nature of it all, and enjoy some of the movies though have never read a comic nor watched any episode from any of the animated series – this effort seemed like they didn’t try very hard in many respects, especially in things like script and, perhaps most disappointingly, action. They’ve also gone for a more juvenile approach – I have no idea why this isn’t a ‘PG’ rated film – which isn’t as drastic as when The Secret Of The Ooze followed the very first Turtles movie but is still disappointing especially when you consider things like there being few genuine laughs despite the increase in humour, while you still have Megan Fox [who actually wasn’t bad in the previous film] delivering lines like a porn star and shot in a very leering manner in her opening scene!
Said opening scene isn’t badly done otherwise, April’s investigating setting off the plot nice and quick, though one of the many problems of this film is that some events occur which are barely connected with others. It’s a short while before our heroes go into action but when they do we get a decent road chase incorporating a truck which has gadgets that even James Bond would be jealous of and lots of stunts – Raphael dispatching some villains on bikes is undeniably cool – though of course the excitement of such stuff, as is often the case these days, is diminished by us having the knowledge that practically all of it is done with CGI. Nonetheless the tone seems totally right here and the characters of the Turtles well sketched. Unfortunately the film soon goes downhill as random plot developments are thrown at all you or often wasted, like when the two idiot hoodlums Bebop and Rocksteady are turned into a human-like rhinoceros and warthog respectively. Though I haven’t read the comics or seen the cartoons, I’m sure these potentially interesting villains weren’t made the way they were just so they can bicker, crack awful lines and fart. They become almost as annoying and stupid as Tokha and Rahzor in The Secret Of The Ooze. Meanwhile Shredder barely does anything and even Krang, a really quite interesting villan who is a brain-like form living in an artificial body and is apparently the arch-enemy of the Turtles, doesn’t do very much either.
Around half way through, we get a genuinely thrilling skydiving sequence, a sequence which looked great in 3D [time constraints meant that I had to see the 3D version of the film but, considering that it’s a gimmick I usually dislike, it’s well done and convincing throughout, probably because so much of it involves CGI characters and actions], and some solid water action immediately afterwards, but there’s very little actual fighting, at least of the martial arts kind, and it all winds up as your typical modern comic book movie climax – I mean for God’s sake how many portals opening up above a city do we need to see – but duller than normal. Most of the special effects look fine, but there’s a real sense of going through the motions and no attempt whatsoever to try and match that brilliant downhill snow chase in the previous Turtles film. Despite the increased comedic content there isn’t much that’s actually funny, with Will Arnett’s character, who provided some great little moments in the proceeding film, largely being wasted. And why, when the director Dave Green is apparently a Turtles fan, does Casey Jones look like a pretty boy with nice cropped hair when he should be a rough, unkempt, shaggy looking tough nut? The film does give him the film’s best fight scene though, when he rescues April from a load of Foot Clan members, though don’t expect any connection between the two this time around. This film just doesn’t have any time for things like that.
At least the Turtles are generally handled well, especially the bickering of Leonardo the leader and Raphael, though they all look as odd as before and don’t always move very convincingly. The script also seems to think that the Turtles arguing how one-dimensional they are, and referencing other movie franchises [okay, I chuckled at an early Transformers reference during a Halloween parade scene] constitutes witty commentary. Their master Splinter is sidelined but he does have the film’s funniest moment when he’s undergoing a 24 hour meditation which will make him reach enlightenment, but just as he’s going through the last few seconds, the Turtles turn up to unintentionally interrupt him. There are times when this film is solid fun but it just feels half-hearted for too much of the time and isn’t often that exciting despite the fast pace and Green’s liking for filming big moments from lots of different angles, while any potentially emotional elements, like Michaelangelo’s yearning for acceptance from humankind, are rushed through and feel like they’re missing key moments. Even the soundtrack, mostly comprising of songs which have been heard too often before in films, feels half-hearted.
Apparently there are three more Turtles films planned but I think that they need to try a bit harder next time. This effort isn’t bad really, hence the star rating, and most kids will probably love it, though unless they totally suffer from ADD they’ll probably find the 1990 or 2007 Turtles pictures more rewarding and productive. I don’t regret seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, but I won’t be bothered if I don’t see it again, at least for some time, and will probably forget much of it in a few days. The formula for all these CG dominated action blockbusters [and I include some of the much-venerated Marvel pictures in this] is getting a bit rusty to us old-timers who wistfully recall the sheer variety of big commercial movies on offer in the 1980’s.