“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is here to proclaim very loudly and garishly that the insane phenomenon that started out life as a satirical comic series for teens and adults and has become a decades long franchise of multiple television shows, feature length movies and action figures is still here and intends to stick around for another few decades. And considering that the folks who watched the original animated TV show in the late 1980’s now have young kids of their own which they are bringing to this movie, it is conceivable that these mutated turtle teenage brothers proficient in ninjitsu will be around as long as there is money to be made in kids’ entertainment.
And surely this stuff has to be entertaining enough for the kids, and rest assured that most people who make movies and television shows for children has little respect for them and their still evolving tastes (and to be fair, children do indeed have terrible cultural taste), so they let the dumb jokes fly and stuff as much loud action and antics into a movie with a barely there plot and there is your recipe for a blockbuster aimed to 10 year olds.
Although the movie IS rated PG-13. So that’s kinda of weird. Because this is decidedly for children, it’s not like a Pixar movie where the whole family can get in on the action and there is something for everyone. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” has nothing to appeal to anyone over the age of 13 except for an eyeful of Megan Fox (which is kind of inappropriate for the kids, no?) and pure nostalgia. Who thinks it is funny to see characters eat food in a way that it gets all over their face? Little kids who are just a couple years removed from doing that very thing while they were dumb babies. And why is the pizza in this world SO stringy? I’ve never seen basic slices of cheese pizza look so overly gooey and messy. Kind of gross.
Actually this whole movie is weirdly off putting. Working from the production designs established in the previous “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film, these hulked out and overly detailed turtles are strange to look at. When humans see them and call them monsters based on their appearances alone, that is not unwarranted. They are gigantic and don’t actually look like turtles on first glance, they look like big green trolls. With weapons. I’d call them monsters and pull my gun on them, too. Splinter the giant mutated rat is back, doing less than ever in this particular story of the Turtles, and he looks just as off putting as in the last movie, especially with his big black dead eyes. Oof. They didn’t have to go for realism in that department, you know? Soften his appearance just a bit maybe? The action is all shot very closely with lots of edits so it is kind of hard to see, which is a shame because this is a movie about ninjas fighting, but they always devolve into blurs of CG and quick shots of people flying around.
In the 2014 movie, the dynamic between the four turtles felt very lacking, which makes that particular movie practically unforgivable, considering that is the one and only thing they really need to get right for this to work on any level. And here with this sequel, they actually kind of got that right. The movie centers on the four Turtle characters much more this time around, and they make the effort to give them their defining characteristics, both flaws and strengths, which shows how they work together as a team. This is the basic plot for about 90% of Ninja Turtle stories, so at least they got that right. The problem though (and this is totally subjective) is that I am tired of this basic dynamic – Raphael is bitter and wants to either be on his own or be the leader, Leonardo is serious and stoic and tries to hold the team together, Mickey is all about a good time, Donnie is a nerd. I get it, I really do. These characters haven’t changed since 1987.
And this is the first live action movie (out of a total of five) which features certain characters from the original television show, specifically the mutated Rhino and Warthog known respectively as Rocksteady and BeBop, and the alien-brain-inside-the-giant-robot called Krang, and introducing these characters means that someone is finally able to embrace the truly weirder aspects of the Ninja Turtles, and this movie figuratively opens the door to Dimension X, a source of some of nuttier characters from TMNT lore, and the movie ends with an implicit promise to explore this stuff more.
Which is good because there was only some of that in this movie and for the most part this movie is pretty much garbage. Krang is fun but he’s in the movie for all of ten minutes at the most, and Rocksteady and BeBop were portrayed in a way that actively annoyed me – they were constantly moving and muttering and joking and were just distracting, not bemusing. It was weird how much they bugged me. The bright spot of this movie was actually Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman, a classic TMNT villain who will hopefully come back in another movie in his, let’s say, ultimate form. Perry played this part perfectly, he knew exactly the kind of movie he was in and his Baxter Stockman was actually a delight to watch.
Oh yeah, the plot. There’s some ooze in this movie, purple this time around and from Dimension X, given to the Shredder by Krang to make Rocksteady and BeBop so they can distract the Ninja Turtles while Shredder and the Foot Clan collect and assemble pieces of crashed alien technology which can be used to open a portal to Krang’s world so he can bring this giant weapon the Technodrome through it piece by piece and put it back together in our world so Krang can take over the Earth, and old friends April O’Neil and Vern Fenwick and new friend Casey Jones, who is some cop with supposed anger management issues though he seems pretty calm most of the time, help the Turtles not only avoid the NYPD led by Laura Linney but also stop Shredder and Krang from taking over the world, and also Donnie might have a way to make the Turtles human but Leonardo does’t like that idea and Raphael and Mickey are kind of into it and this causes a schism but we know how that’s gonna turn out because this ain’t the Teenage Non-Mutant Ninja Humans.
Just because kids are dumb doesn’t mean we have to give them dumb movies. Also why is a kid’s movie PG-13?