'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'
Here’s the thing about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: With the possible exception of the original comic book series and weirdo 1990 live action movie, this franchise was never very good.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Nostalgia. I get it. I was alive in the ’90s too. There are photos of me wearing outfits entirely branded with the Ninja Turtles. I even had a pet turtle named Raphael. However, anyone who can watch any of the old ‘TMNT’ crap as an adult and claim they enjoyed it is either a liar or insane. So, to report that the latest entry in this never-ending toy commercial is garbage shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. That pretty much makes it an accurate representation of the franchise. In fact, it’s probably even moderately more watchable than the previous movie because more stuff goes boom. That said, it’s still a stinky pile of crap… which I suppose is appropriate for a series so centered on sewers.
Since the movie is comprised of scenes presented in order with a beginning and end, I suppose a plot summary is order (not that it matters or makes much sense).
The Ninja Turtles continue to keep an eye on crime in New York City while remaining in the shadows. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is their best bud. They work together. Apparently, she’s still a reporter even though there’s no mention of that for the bulk of the movie. She’s mostly around to track down info for the turtles and provide some sequences of actors being filmed to cut down on CGI costs.
April investigates a crooked scientist named Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, for real) whom she’s convinced is working for Shredder (Brian Tee). He is, and helps bust Shedder out of prison. During the escape, Shedder somehow ends up in another dimension where he meets Krang (Brad Garrett), who asks Shedder to help him take over the world. He agrees, then has Stockman turn two idiots that he just met into the mutants Beebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly). April sees that and isn’t impressed. Then she meets a named Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) cop who likes wearing a hockey mask . For no apparent reason, April asks Casey to join her and the Turtles. Plus, Laura Linney desperately attempts to add credibility to the film as an angry police chief.
Are you lost yet? Well, you should be. The script that was hastily compiled for this sequel makes approximately zero sense. It’s just a series of big dumb scenes that loosely connect a bunch of very loud scenes where stuff explodes. There’s very little logic involved, just a bunch of actors looking stressed out while futilely attempting to explain the plot, and a bunch of CGI characters punching each other between one-liners. It’s pretty laughable stuff, especially whenever the story tries to add poignant drama about the turtles struggling to be a team, as if anyone is actually invested enough to care.
It’s the kind of logic-free narrative that takes great pains to express how the turtles struggle to remain hidden, then shows that they have no problem getting on a cargo plane to South America when they need to stop Beebop and Rocksteady from grabbing a crystal or something. After that plan falls apart and the turtles find themselves floating in a river in the middle of a jungle, they somehow have no problem catching another cargo plane back to New York by the end of the night. Yeah, it’s that brand of lazy stupidity.
Somehow, this messy, dumb schlock is more watchable than the last ‘Ninja Turtles’ flick. That’s mostly down to the fact that director Dave Green (who made the somewhat sincere Spielberg homage ‘Earth to Echo’) shoots the action so that you can actually see what’s happening, amuses himself with silly pop-up 3D gags, and keeps things moving at a relentless pace. Although it’s tough to discern why, when, where or how anything is happening, at least it’s happening fast and furiously. That’s better than the needlessly dour tone of the last movie and its visually incoherent attempts at action. That ain’t much, but it’s an improvement.
The jokes are pathetic. The performances are wooden. The turtles are indistinguishable from each other beyond one-note personality traits. The villains have unclear motivations. Shredder barely appears. The design is a techno eye-fuck. The plot is gobbledygook. Megan Fox seems resentful about being here. And the climax is just a bunch of CGI stuff flying around New York with the CGI Turtles CG-jumping on it to jump-kick a CGI Krang in an awkward pixel explosion. These are all real problems and big ones, but at least the movie isn’t as boring as the last one. So, maybe it’s better? I don’t know. To be honest, I’m just longing for the day when the Ninja Turtles finally go away and can be remembered as a strange thing that once happened and that we all laugh about. That sure would be nice.