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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) – Review

With Marvel and DC trying to outdo each other in their cinematic ventures one can easily forget that two years ago Michael Bay tried his hand at a comic franchise of his own. The Teenage Mutant Turtles may not have the same bankability of say Superman or Captain America but many of today’s audience members grew up watching the 80s cartoon series and nostalgia is a powerful tool. Sadly the real tool here is Bay himself as his 2016 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie was a disastrous adaptation; Bay clearly doesn’t care for the subject matter and it showed in every silly character moment and design. Now we have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,  a sequel helmed by generic director number two, and not much has improved.


Not much has changed for the Turtles either; they are still eating pizza and zipping through the sewers like extreme sports assholes, but they are a little disgruntled with the fact that they have to “live in the shadows” while cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) got all the credit for taking out the Shredder. Why April O’Neil (Megan Fox) didn’t take any of the credit is never explained, even though the last film was all about her wanting to escape doing silly puff pieces for her station. Of course the real question here is how long Michael Bay can last before having April dress like a hooker.

megan fox 

Answer: About ten minutes.

The previous film had a ridiculous plot about the Shredder planning to release a virus on the residents of New York City, which somehow would have allowed him to take over. What the rest of the United States would be doing while a super villain took over the economic center of the country is never explained, Shredder is not big on the details.  That kind of thinking is your basic low rent Bond villain shtick and something you can expect from a guy who cosplays the Silver Samurai.  Yet this time out Shredder (Brian Tee) is teamed up with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and Kang the Conqueror (Brad Garrett) to take over the ENTIRE world. Oh, and also kill the Turtles.


Shredder at least ditched the robot Ginsu knife costume this time out.

But who are Baxter Stockman and Kang you ask? Well you obviously never watched the cartoon or you wouldn’t have asked such a silly question, and don’t expect Michael Bay to answer it. This movie is not big on explaining character motivations or plot, but maybe a movie about teenage mutant turtles doesn't require things to make sense.  I can roll with that.

The film opens with the Turtles watching a Knicks game when they learn from April that Baxter Stockman is working to break Shredder out of jail. In the comics Baxter was a mad scientist who committed crimes because it was fun, money and power were not really his thing, but here he is just a "named dropped" flunky of the Shredder.

tyler perry 

"It was take this role or dress up as a woman again."

The same can be said of Kang. When Baxter uses a teleport device to aid Shredder’s escape from a prison transfer convoy the teleportation is hijacked by Kang the Conqueror, and Shredder finds himself in Dimension X facing a tentacled brain residing in a giant robot body. It seems Kang needs Shredder's help in collecting three artifact/devices that are located on Earth which will enable him to bring his massive Technodrome though to our dimension so he can conqueror the world. Shredder agrees as long as Kang promises to help rid him of the Turtles. Does that seem like a bit of a lopsided deal to anyone else? Kang gets the planet Earth and Shredder gets four dead Turtles.  Yeah, that seems fair.


Apparently Kang is a brilliant negotiator.

In the last film there was one character glaringly missing, and that character would be streetwise vigilante Casey Jones, but this Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) isn't the wisecracking vigilante fans of the comic or cartoon fell in love with, no this one Casey Jones is a police officer who fails to stop Shredder from escaping, and when he tries to explain it to his boss (Laura Linney) that it was ninjas on motorbikes and a manhole-cover-shooting-van that was responsible for his failure, he is suspended from duty. Refusing to be sidelined he actually tells his boss that they need him, because he’s from New York and, “I know this city better than anyone.”

Question: Aren’t most New York City policemen from New York? And the only people who could possibly know the streets better than your average beat cop would be a cab driver.  This movie would have been better off if they’d made him a cabbie.

So not only is this version of Casey Jones not a vigilante but he's just a suspended cop with delusions of grandeur. There is even an idiotic scene where when he first meets April she can’t understand him because his hockey mask muffles his voice too much. I’ve worn a hockey mask before and people had no problem understanding me, so is his mask modified for intelligibility for some reason?


“Sorry, I left my proper voice modulator with my Green Arrow costume.”

The surprising highlight of this movie is in the form of Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), the two henchmen that Shredder has mutated into rhino and warthog forms to take on the Turtles. Both actors seemed to be really having fun with these two nincompoops, they and the CGI artists perfectly capture the cartoon personas. I could have done without the fart jokes but in a Michael Bay film that may be asking too much. The stupidity comes when this film version of Bebop and Rocksteady’s mutation is explained by the ooze apparently expanding and mutating their latent genes. So is this movie is trying to tell us that some humans have warthog DNA while others have rhino DNA? In the cartoon the two henchmen had come in contact with these animals when Shredder had stolen them from a zoo, and that’s what caused the animalistic mutation. Now if this movie didn’t have time to explain why Shredder was stealing zoo animals then why not just say that Kang’s ooze changes you into an animal that most matches your personality?  How hard would that be?


Origin stupidity aside they are the best part of this movie.

About the Turtles themselves; in the last film the camaraderie and banter between the Turtles was that movie’s only saving grace, but this time out they’ve amped the discord between Leonardo’s leadership and Raphael’s pigheadedness. Now those two Turtles pushing each other’s buttons has been a standard part of their characters from almost the beginning, but here Leonardo becomes just a huge dick, and for no real reason…well other than to hammer the “A team must work together” message over our heads. They looked to have had that whole team thing nailed in the last film so what happened since then to make Leonardo into such a control freak asshat? Michelangelo is still the most entertaining of the Turtles while Donatello is given all the science mumbo-jumbo expository dialog that even your average four year old's bullshit detector would have detected.  Though Donatello does provide one nice nostalgic moment in the reveal of the Turtles Battle Van.


It's a great, but the toy I owned didn't have giant robot arms.

This movie was completely ludicrous, and not in a good way. The comedy for the most part falls thuddingly flat, while the CGI actionfest is just repeats from the last film. Previously they fought down a snowy mountainside against Shredder’s goons, so this time out they will fight down raging rapids…against Shredder’s goons. The film ends with a final showdown atop Kang’s Technodrome opposed to last film’s showdown being atop Shredder’s hi-tech high-rise. Who said originality in Hollywood was dead?

Aside from the aforementioned Bebop and Rocksteady there isn’t much to recommend here, but still I found myself a little more entertained this time out. The editing isn't as choppy, and if the Krang’s plan was unclear it still made more sense Shredder’s previous idiotic one. If “Better than the last one” is enough for you, then by all means rush out to the theaters and see it, but I suggest that the simply curious film goer just stay home and wait for the Bluray.


"Rock and roll baby, rock and roll!"

Final Thoughts:

• The movie is subtitled “Out of the Shadows” but the film ends with them still living in the shadows.
• Is April O’Neil a reporter? We see her investigating Stockman but are never told why, and we never see her at the station.
• The Turtles’ battle van shooting manhole covers did bring a smile to my face.
• Like Magneto in X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Shredder becomes another villain’s flunky.  This is wrong.
• I’m sorry, but you can’t make rollerblades out of duct tape and office chair wheels.
• With Michael Bay’s permanent hard-on for the military I couldn’t help but wonder where they were during this film’s climax. When a giant Death Star is being constructed over New York City one would think the United States Armed Forces would show up.


Or at least have someone call Luke Skywalker.

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