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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

The four musketeers. Image  ©  Paramount Pictures

The four musketeers. Image © Paramount Pictures

Before I get into my review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows I feel that it’s important to share my beliefs and biases concerning remakes/reboots.

If you are an adult, they do not retroactively ruin your childhood.

They only way your childhood could be retroactively ruined is if you discovered a horrible family secret, like your parents were actually cannibals and that wasn’t really pork chops they served up every Tuesday.  If nothing like that happened, please shut your face hole.

Like many of you, I grew up with some very well-loved media.  I had G.I. Joe and Transformers toys to play with, TMNT cartoons to watch and the Ghostbusters game on Commodore 64 to keep me occupied.  Hell, when I was 18 I would come home from school and watch Power Rangers because it was mindless entertainment (and it let me put off doing homework for 30 minutes).  I have fond memories of all these things, all of them have been resurrected in recent years, and none of those remakes did anything to affect my positive memories.

So then there’s the question of why Hollywood constantly resurrects old titles?  Well think about how many kids loved them 10, 20, 30 years ago.  Why wouldn’t they try to respark that joy in a new generation of children and make mad $$$ off of the merchandise sales?  If you think Transformers cartoons in the 80’s were made by people who just wanted to bring joy and entertainment to the world and not sell a ton of toys that could also double as murder weapons then you’re fooling yourself.

So yes, remakes and reboots are more often about the money than a genuine love of the property.  So the only thing anyone should care about is if it’s good….which is the only genuine complaint as far as I’m concerned.  I have yet to see a reboot that I enjoyed more than the original.  But oftentimes that’s just because I’m too old for it.  I can’t watch something with the same childlike wonder (and still-developing taste for what is good or bad) as I did when I was 10. I loved 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze.  Because I was 10 when I saw it.  I watched it again two years ago and, while still entertained, was perfectly capable of admitting that it was a dumb, dumb movie meant for kids.

My only real concern with Out of the Shadows comes not from the fact that it’s a continued reboot property, but because I really, genuinely disliked the 2014 film.  I thought it was badly written, poorly acted and just all-around terrible.  Did it ruin my childhood?  Hell no.  I wasn’t a child when I saw it.  Did I think it was a good way to refresh a franchise?  Absolutely not.

But this one...this one showed some promise.  Bringing in Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and even Krang, well that felt like they were at least attempting to make the movie as entertaining as the old cartoons were.  Since they had already done the origins film, maybe this one would be able to focus on character development while also bringing in a decent plot.

I was half right.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is better than its predecessor in every way.  There is better character development, less crudity, no creepy sexist jokes that I noticed and a relatively fun, if rushed, story.

Taking place a year after the events of the first film, our four heroes are still doing their best to hide from the world while also helping New York City whenever they can.  However, both Raphael and Michelangelo are chafing at the fact that they cannot come forward as the heroes who stopped Shredder’s reign of terror.

Things go wrong when Shredder (Brian Tee) is freed from imprisonment while being transferred to an upstate penitentiary by the police, including Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) who in this iteration is a cop who wants to be a detective.  It turns out that not only is dorky super-genius Baxter Stockman (a never-better Tyler Perry) helping out, he is also working on a teleportation device which would make the Foot Clan even more dangerous.  

However that teleportation device doesn’t work as planned, and Shredder is temporarily transported to a different universe where Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) gives him the task of collecting three items from around the globe, which will allow Krang to invade earth and Shredder to share in the conquest.

Naturally April O’Neil (Megan Fox) finds out about it, but not before we see the creation of rhinoceros Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly, a.k.a. the WWE’s Sheamus) and warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams).  What follows is, naturally, lots of action and plenty of infighting between the turtles.

The film did do some things really well.  This includes the fantastic and oft-hilarious Bebop and Rocksteady, whose friendship and low intelligence lead to them always complimenting each other even when they fail miserably.  Having Raphael still butting heads with Leonardo was a good idea, as making the ‘hot-head’ in the group fully cooperative makes no sense, even if he has learned his lesson countless times over the course of history.  Donatello, too, felt decently fleshed out.

Now, the problems.  Leonardo is still a one-note character, and Michelangelo was still kinda creepy.  Despite being the heart of the team, the new films make him out to be an idiot who just wants to parody pop culture all day.  Additionally, I did not like the new Casey Jones.  This most likely comes down to personal bias, but he lacked the confidence and hot-headed swagger that Elias Koteas brought to the role 26 (damn I’m old) years ago.  Although I will give the film credit for at least trying to create some friendly competition between Casey and Raphael.

When it comes down to it, the plot is just too busy.  Between Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, the NYC police department, Casey Jones, Krang, the Technodrome and Baxter Stockman the movie did not take any time to breathe and develop a good narrative.  It was simply jumped from one set-piece and danger to the next.

With all that being said, I still think it’s a decent film, and I’m not against seeing it again on a streaming service.  I would rank this as the 5th best film out of the 7 that have been made, putting it above the 2014 reboot and Turtles III.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Brian Tee, Tyler Perry, Brittany Ishibashi, Laura Linney

Directed by: Dave Green

Written by: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec

Running time: 112 minutes