At a time when the market is flooded with serious superhero films featuring gritty battle sequences and the intricate backstory and connective tissue necessary to support a cinematic universe, something light and kid-friendly like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is very refreshing.
The Turtles managed to stop Shredder (Brian Tee) in the first film, but he’s got new allies in Out of the Shadows and that makes it impossible for the authorities to keep him locked up. With an assist from mutated henchmen Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly), Shredder escapes and joins forces with the brain-shaped alien Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) who’s also hellbent on world domination.
For the most part, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a straightforward tale of heroes trying to stop villains from taking over the world. I’m no parent and am probably not the best person to designate this movie safe for the youngest moviegoers, but Out of the Shadows does have a very kid-friendly vibe when it comes to the humor, action and complexity of the narrative.
However, that’s not to say the movie is devoid of depth. In fact, director Dave Green and the screenwriters do a rock solid job of weaving in a surprisingly grounded and relatable predicament for the turtles – some of them want to fit in with society, but others don’t, and the movie does a great job of exploring what sacrificing their low profile could mean for them as heroes and as a family without laying it on too thick. The first film definitely made a point to highlight what makes each Turtle different, but Out of the Shadows takes it a step further by putting those character traits to use in more personal situations.
As far as the action goes, there are some highs and lows. The best sequence of the bunch is undoubtedly the river chase scene and the airplane shootout. Both are teased in the film’s promotional campaign, but they play even better in the context of the full film. However, there’s almost zero hand to hand combat and things get very sloppy at the end thanks to a very familiar problem – over-the-top, CG-heavy third act destruction. Out of the Shadows keeps it together better than most thanks to decent shot composition and editing, but it’s still hard to shake the feeling that we’ve seen similar imagery and heard some very similar sound effects before.
Sadly Shredder’s sinister agenda fizzles out as the movie progresses, but Bebop and Rocksteady are fun new additions. Williams and Farrelly come across as though they’re having a blast and their goofy energy is a welcomed delight. There isn’t anything too terrible about Krang, but the character definitely does a disservice to Shredder who is woefully underused. It’s tough to say Out of the Shadows could have done without Krang when so many plot points are directly connected to his involvement, but he (it?) certainly could have used a little more backstory.
As for the human characters, yet again, most are duds. Similar to Williams and Farrelly, Tyler Perry is having a ball hamming it up as Baxter Stockman which makes him a welcomed addition, but Laura Linney is useless as police chief Rebecca Vincent and Stephen Amell’s Casey Jones is a big, bland disappointment. Megan Fox and Will Arnett do a fine job reprising their roles of April O’Neil and Vern Fenwick, but they’re secondary to the Turtles here – as they should be.
Yet again our unsung heroes here are the visual effects artists and the actors playing the Turtles. The designs are all highly detailed and well integrated in the real world, and Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek and Jeremy Howard all bring a unique physicality and voice to their respective turtles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows may not be a high quality feature in many respects, but one thing it does get right is sparking the need to identify with and pick a favorite Turtle, which is key to building a whole new generation of fans.