Only One Team Can Save Us All
In the year that passed since the events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the four mutated brothers, Leonardo [Ploszek] Donatello [Howard] Raphael [Ritchson] and Michelangelo [Fisher], continue to watch over New York City from the shadows but when a prisoner transfer of their old adversary Shredder (now being played by Brian Tee) is under threat of attack from loyal members of the Foot clan, they are forced to unite with live-wire police officer Casey Jones [Amell] to retrieve him. Meanwhile, TCRI scientist Baxter Stockman [Tyler Perry] is charged by Shredder to create henchmen who would be able to dispatch the Turtles with ease. Using a purple substance from another dimension, Stockman is able to mutate two eccentric criminals, Bebop [Gary Anthony Williams] and Rocksteady [Stephen Farrelly], into a giant rhinoceros and warthog respectively, hell-bent on mayhem and destruction.
Two years ago, I received a lot of flak for stating that there was no golden age of TMNT and that the first film wasn’t that bad. I stand by that opinion and still maintain that these films are better than the billion dollar grossing Transformers sequels. Out Of The Shadows very much feels like it’s trying to fix the problems of the first film. Curiously, people never really wanted a faithful adaptation of the comics, they wanted a faithful adaptation of an unfaithful adaptation (i.e. the 80’s cartoon series). Bringing in characters like Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang while focusing more on the Turtles than the human characters is clearly the studios attempt to give the people more of what they want. In doing so, the film feels more focused and stands out from a barrage of dark, gritty comic adaptations by giving us something light and completely silly.
Again, the key to this film feeling like an acceptable addition to the sprawling franchise, is the tone of character, which continues to be the highpoint. The four lead roles gel nicely and allowing Ploszek to voice his own character, rather than being dubbed by Johnny Knoxville, was a welcome change. Megan Fox returns and the script desperately tries to prove her ingenuity and relevance but still comes off a little flat. Pairing her with Stephen Amell as fan-favourite Casey Jones was a decent touch and while there is heavy flirtation, at least we’re not subjected to a concluded relationship by the film’s close. Speaking of Amell, he’s not bad, admittedly there’s not a great departure from his role as Oliver Queen in Arrow (maybe a little less moody) but that’s why he was cast, so I can’t say I’m that surprised. The new digital characters take the form of Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang, which fans have been crying out for since the first live-action film. Firstly, Krang is such a ridiculous over-the-top character and this rendition, while fucking annoying, is supposed to be fucking annoying. He’s brought in without any foreshadowing or build-up, he just appears and we’re all expected to either know exactly who he is or just go along with it. Then we have Bebop and Rocksteady. In both their human form and mutated bodies, they’re pretty good. I mean, dumb as hell exhibiting base-level humour but that’s what they’ve always been. People crying out for a loyal rendition of 80’s Saturday morning cartoon characters shouldn’t bemoan them because this is pretty much what they are and were. Part of me really wants to bitch about a scene that takes place in every trailer and query the logic of driving a tank under water but as it’s driven by a Rhino, I won’t.
Out Of The Shadows picks up where its predecessor left off, Lula Carvalho returns as director of photography and everything is clearly lit and followable. The visual effects also hold up again, albeit in a cartoonish way that will no doubt age horribly as the technology evolves. Replacing Brian Tyler with Steve Jablonsky’s was interesting. The score is good but doesn’t have the same impact as Tyler’s, taking the established theme and morphing it to feel a little too close to his work on Transformers. But it’s perfectly serviceable either way. The film is far from perfect and if the first one annoyed you, you will no doubt also hate this one. But for those who could stomach the new character designs and overall comedic direction, this serves as a decent follow-up. For those that couldn’t, probably best to steer clear.
3rd June 2016
The Scene To Look Out For:
This film performs at its strongest when the Turtles are effectively messing around. A particularly nice mini-moment is when Casey is being introduced to the ninja’s subterranean lair. Catching sight of Splinter, Casey panics and warns the group about the giant rat. Seeing an opportunity to haze the new addition, the brothers play up that the mysterious creature has been lurking for days but the trick is to tackle him head on. Casey naturally attacks the ninjutsu master and receives a summarial beating, to the amusement of the teenage mutants.
The human/mutant ratio strikes a better balance than before but inclusions of Tyler Perry’s madcap scientist and Laura Linney as the stern police overseer, Rebecca Vincent, are pleasant touches. But really the fact that Bebop and Rocksteady deliver everything they are supposed to is a noteworthy highlight. The only other thing I would like to touch on was the choice to recast the actors playing Shredder and Karai. I had no particular problem with the previous actors and wouldn’t speculate on motive or justification but these faces perform acceptably, despite the fact their characters are given very little to do.
“We were sent by the supreme leader to eat delicious humans and dip them in ranch dressing”
In A Few Words:
“Another acceptable Turtles film that finds a decent, if sophomoric, balance between comedy and action”