Friday, June 3, 2016


Much like its comic book and TV-cartoon source material, there isn’t anything in this first sequel to TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (TMNT) that should be taken seriously. After all, it’s material which involves six-foot tall mutated turtles with the minds of teenagers doing kung-fu fighting against other mutated creatures resembling rhinos and boars and big blob things with faces. Once the business of getting past the ridiculousness of the characters and their universe is done and accepted, then the matter of looking at the movie can be handled.

One year after the events of the first film, the evil Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes from prison with the help of the brilliant but misguided Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), and aligns himself with the more-evil inter-dimensional mutant Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett). Standing in their way are the four mutant ninja turtles; Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo (voiced by Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, and Noel Fisher), their mutant rat-teacher Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), and their human-looking friends…reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), and former cop turned vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Arnell).

OUT OF THE SHADOWS draws heavily upon everything that came before it in the TMNT long history, most especially the long-running TV cartoon show. The film is packed with kung-fu fighting across and under the streets of New York City, wacky inventions, far-out sci-fi, and teenage angst and humor. Long-time fan favorites Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), and Rocksteady (wrestler Sheamus), appear as mutated thuggish animals and add to the nutball universe. It’s a packed house, and plenty for TMNT fans to consume.

What makes all the nuttiness work is the excellent job done in making true characters out of the Turtles, which is one of the great improvements from the first film. The personalities are fleshed out nicely, and the four brothers are given their own things to do and grapple with outside of battling freaky creatures and other ninjas. This time around they have to deal with being unrecognized heroes, and also dealing with the fear and hate that comes around when people have to deal with something different. The work done with the Turtles is managed so well that the film almost feels like it comes to a halt when attention is given to the human characters, who are treated fairly paper-thin, and although they assist in the eventual final battle, aren’t all that interesting to watch.

Director Dave Green keeps the pacing brisk and humor timely, and the action sequences are a thrill. The CGI work on the Turtles is outstanding, and the daytime renderings during a river chase-sequence are stunning to look at. The film does have a slight identity problem. It seems geared towards kids, but there enough light swear-words and sexed-up outfits to make one wonder exactly who the film is aimed for. Not to mention that some characters and environments may be way too scary for the little ones. The 3D is fantastic and worth the extra coin.

Acting is a mixed bag. The off-camera voice-talents are handled very well, but similar to the characters, it’s the CGI acting that seems to fare better than the humans who actually appear on-camera. Megan Fox is fine, but seems to be used sparingly and often looks like she doesn’t want to be there. Stephen Amell is just kind-of there, and Tyler Perry seems right at home acting like an idiot.

The finale is composed of a balls-out CGI sequence involving Krang bringing down a huge planet-devastating weapon down from another dimension, and even for hardlining TMNT fans, is a little much to swallow…especially since the build-up to get there was so much better to take in. OUT OF THE SHADOWS is still a TMNT film very much made for the fans. The filmmakers seem to know that audiences are fans of this material before they sit down to watch, and therefore make no apologies for what’s on the screen. Outsiders won’t understand a minute of it and dismiss it as silly crap (it is, and it knows it), but anyone familiar with Turtle Power will enjoy the ride. Non-fans need not bother, and that imbalance keeps it just a notch below a must-see.

BOTTOM LINE: Rent it  

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