An action packed, cartoon-y, and often times silly ride, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a wholly fun and entertaining way to spend an evening. Where the first installment worked hard to flesh out the spirit of the main characters, at the expense of the rest of the film, Out of the Shadows finally gets villains and heroes back to their comic roots.
I have loved the turtles ever since my first play set when I was very young so the prospect of a film fit all of the nostalgic triggers for me and director Dave Green decided to use all of those triggers to his advantage. The turtles are back and up to their usual hi-jinks when the recently incarcerated Shredder (Brian Tee) is broken out during a prisoner transport by the foot clan currently being lead by the overzealous Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Shredder is freed using inter-dimensional technology but is brought face to face with the villainous Krang (Brad Garrett) who wants Shredder to help him bring the technodrome to earth so he can rule the world. If this sounds like a ridiculous plot to some action comic book you would be right and it’s what makes this movie wonderful.
Where the first film focused on corporate intrigue and an attempt at a grounded and realistic plot, this movie throws out the book and digs deep into the fandom to create a really fun experience. The villains are ridiculous and larger than life, the heroes take on life and death situations making jokes, and the city of New York is saved for the billionth time. This movie embodies what summer franchises are supposed to do which is distract us from reality and make us suspend our disbelief. There’s not a moment in this movie where you are wondering how the science of Shredder’s plan is supposed to work or how Mikey can fly around on a rocket propelled skateboard because it doesn’t matter, you’re having fun.
Speaking of having fun, at many points the focus switches to that of the bumbling baddies: Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE Wrestler Sheamus), ex cons who are mutated into a warthog and rhinoceros but retain their unique personalities as unintelligent muscle. These guys white water raft in a tank and somehow get personalized animal motorcycles at the end of the film but it never matters, they are ridiculously fun and prove that source material can be respected and still show amazing results when transferred to film. Green seems to have set out to fix a lot of TMNT’s faults from giving Shredder back his iconic costume to focusing the majority of the film on the titular heroes.
This attention to the heart of the turtles allows one to gloss over the weaker parts of the film as I would normally do if I were not tasked with reviewing the movie. As these big budget character movies often do, the film spends several scenes on the human characters who attempt to serve as a lens for the audience. While she had several important moments used to further the plot, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) comes across as a completely unnecessary character. Honestly, I don’t really blame the character as she is often used to support the heroes and bridge the gap between human and turtle. Personally, I would have loved to see a strong April come out in this film. But I am having a hard time believing Megan Fox even wants to be in this movie and the director seemed to have the same feeling as she had very little screen time. What time she did have she spent as a mannequin or delivering whiny lines about how close she is to the turtles.
I have to admit that I was impressed with the first TMNT film’s attention to the spirit of the main characters and the fact that it reigned in the usual action mess that accompanies Michael Bay’s films but Out of the Shadows proves that attention to detail, care for the source material, and preserving the fan base of a property is the way to go when adapting such an important piece of pop culture. It has fun to bring in the new generation with plenty of throwbacks and inside material to keep fans happy. Personally, I think this is a super fun film and a solid installment in the TMNT franchise.