By Jack Dignan
The 2014 live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths. It was, and this is putting it generously, received rather poorly. Personally, I enjoyed the film for what it was. It wasn't anything amazing, but neither are the original films that people seem to hold so dearly to their hearts. It was a fun and entertaining new interpretation of a classic franchise (and TV show and comic book). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the follow-up to the poorly received first installment, and while this one hasn't gotten the best reception either, it's definitely a big step up from the first film, and once again, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
This film follows the story of four pizza loving turtles, Leonardo (Pete Pioszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson), living in the sewers of New York City. When their old nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes from prison, it's up to the turtles to stop him, but what they don't realise at first is that Shredder has back up. And this back up comes in the form of Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), two criminals who are experimented on and turned into mutant animals. Thankfully, the turtles have some back up as well. Not only are they still in cahoots with April O'Neil (Megan Fox), but this film also introduces us to fan-favourite Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), a wannabe cop with some serious hockey skills.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a fun, lively and entertaining movie, even more so than the first. The film is more tonally focussed this time around, realising it's a movie about talking turtles who know ninja. The occasional seriousness of the original is gone, replicating the feel of the TV show and original movies a little more, all while still creating something of its own. It's a unique take on these iconic characters, but it has just enough energy to work, and it uses this energy to its advantage, creating some iconic turtle moments.
The visual effects, for the most part, are exquisite. The turtles look and feel real, even if Splinter still looks... off, to say the least, and Krang, one of the villains, also looks extremely cartoony. But since neither of them are in the film for too long, I can happily report the effects are great, blending in seamlessly to the world around them. There are countless moments where the turtles interact with human characters, and it never once looked fake.
While the action is a tonne of fun, it's who's taking part in this action that's always questionable. When the turtles are kicking ass, it's a delight. They're talkative, hilarious and can pack quite the punch, but not once in this film do they take on Shredder. Bebop and Rocksteady could've been a worthy opponent for the Turtles, but, like Shredder, they're hardly used, only facing off against the turtles once. It's mostly turtles vs ninjas, and while that is rather entertaining, it can also be repetitive from time to time, as we've all seen it in every single Turtles film up until now.
Speaking of villains, that's where a lot of this film's problems come from, excluding its predictability and formulaic narrative. Bebop and Rocksteady have, quite possibly, one of the stupidest origins in comic book film history. The explanation as to why they are the animals they are is insanely dumb, to the point where the entire audience, myself included, burst out in confused laughter, trying to process just how stupid it is. Shredder is given nothing to do, despite having a rather intimidating presence, and the alien Krang is underdeveloped and random. I didn't necessarily hate him, but he was just so pointless.
I've seen the first season of Arrow and I have mixed feelings about it. Stephen Amell, who plays Casey Jones in this film, didn't seem to be the most charismatic actor around, but watching him in this movie, I was proven wrong. Ignoring how two dimensional his character is and the terrible lines of dialogue he's given (to be fair, most people were given terrible lines of dialogue), he's a likeable actor who gives a performance far above what I expected from him. It works. In fact, it works extremely well, and he may even be the best thing about this movie, after the turtles, of course.
To sum up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a big step up from the previous installment, ramping up the humour, the energy and the action. It's formulaic and predictable, and it's got plenty of villain problems, but at its core, it's just a lot of fun.