6.0 out of 10 (add 2 if you’re a fan of TMNT in general)
Megan Fox – April O’Neil
Directed by Dave Green
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review:
This is one of those reviews where a number rating will be next to useless. If these characters were never significant to you (the TMNT craze hit at that age when I was just discovering girls, so none of this ever took with me), chances are that this movie will be insufferable and quite the endurance test. But, if you’re a devout fan of these characters, created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, I have the feeling that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows will make you very happy indeed. This is a movie made for you, especially if you loved the cartoon in the 1980s, because Out of the Shadows feels exactly like that. Imagine sitting on the couch, bowl of cereal to your right full of sugary goodness, on a Saturday morning, parents still asleep, the cartoons about to begin. If that appeals to your inner child, then boy do I have the movie for you, because Out of the Shadows delivers on that front. So as someone who isn’t a fan of these characters, I gave this movie a 6. But if you love them, add 2 or even 3 points to that, based on your degree of adoration.
Dave Green’s previous film, Earth to Echo, was a sweet throwback to 1980s Amblin sensibilities shot through a modern first-person lens. Out of the Shadows is more traditional, but Green turns out to be the perfect director for the material due to his sense of nostalgia and fun. Unlike the previous Turtles movie, this time the foursome are front and center, with April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) put to the sidelines. And that’s fine – we came to see the Turtles, after all.
Since the events of the last film, the Turtles have been content to stay in the dark, doing their good deeds while Fenwick takes the credit for apprehending the notorious Shredder (Brian Tee). But Shredder has nefarious plans of escape, and with the help of mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, only missing a villainous mustache to stroke), Shredder will unleash chaos on the world in the form of the alien invader Krang (Brad Garrett). Along the way, Shredder genetically modifies a couple of henchmen to become a formidable foe for the Turtles – giant warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and rhino Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly).
Storywise, that’s pretty much it. We are taken through action set piece after action set piece, as pixelated characters bounce off each other in spectacular fashion. And for those people invested in them, that will be enough – Green and cinematographer Lula Carvalho shoot the action sequences with skill and not the customary Michael Bay-produced visual cacophony. When the Turtles are on screen, there’s a real visceral punch to the proceedings and the movie’s rhythms take over. A sequence in the Brazilian rainforest is especially thrilling, as the camera swoops and dives throughout. The 3D is well done here, and the action sequences are well served by it.
It’s when the humans are onscreen that Out of the Shadows becomes ponderous and awful. Again, we’re not here for them, but these actors could have made the movie just a little tolerable. Megan Fox does her customary bad work here – she’s inert and lifeless, and a scene where she tries to use her charms on Stockman flops like a dead fish. Arnett isn’t much better, but at least he knows exactly the impact he has in these kinds of movies and plays it appropriately. Tyler Perry is actually entertaining. His weird stylings work for the character of Baxter Stockman and his maniacal evil-scientist laugh works. He’s the only one of the live actors who is having fun with the part, and he’s practically a live-action cartoon himself.
I feel like I have to dedicate an entire paragraph to Laura Linney, who should be as far away from this kind of movie as humanity should be from an atomic blast It was extraordinarily depressing to watch her here – she’s one of our greatest actresses, and this kind of movie simply doesn’t suit her at all, and I’m fully aware that she once starred in Congo, but she’s grown past these kinds of roles. All I can think is that she needed a new deck on her house, or she has nieces and nephews who begged her to take the role. Simply put, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is beneath her. Maybe this is endemic of a larger issue for older women in Hollywood, struggling to find relevant roles while taking parts like this. That’s a discussion for another review. But here, she was painful to watch, and while I will not begrudge Laura Linney her paycheck, I wish it was for a role more worthwhile. Such is modern moviemaking.
This is a conflicted review – most of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was grating and unpleasant for me, but I can also recognize that this material just isn’t suited to me, and I cannot deny that Dave Green has successfully made a film that will work on all cylinders for its fanbase. If you love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you will love this movie, hands down. Out of the Shadows is a course correction from the previous film, getting everything right that the fans love. If you’re a 10-year-old boy, this will likely be the best movie you see this year. But if your sensibilities are skewed a bit older (and this is coming from a guy who loves Star Wars and the Marvel movies here), you may have a miserable time. As I said, number ratings are pointless on this one. You know where you stand.