Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – Legit Fun

Written by Matt Butler June 17, 2016

teenage mutant ninja turtles, out of the shadows

Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek and Alan Ritchson (from left to right) as the heroes in a half-shell.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is, to me, an anomaly. It fits perfectly with the rest of the big dumb popcorn movies, but unlike the majority of these big dumb popcorn movies, it’s actually… fun! It’s plain and pure goofiness without a trace of cynicism, something most summer blockbusters (especially the Transformers series) has the hardest time with. Yes, it’s complete junk food, but in a cavalcade of bitter, sit-in-your-stomach, nauseating junk food movies, Out of the Shadows, despite all odds, goes down pretty well.

Now, if you’re one of the millions sick to death of the “Michael Bay childhood ruining fest”, chances are, this review isn’t going to change your mind. However, out of all the Bay films I’ve seen (which is, regrettably, a lot of them), this one, directed by Dave Green (Earth to Echo), has the least ‘Bayhem’. This means more than abstaining from an orgy of explosions and product placements, it’s also less of the sweeping circular camera movements, the dramatic lighting, and general ‘dynamicness’ squeezed into every shot. I’m not opposed to Bay’s style, just that he doesn’t know how to use it, and more importantly, when not to. Watch this insightful video from Every Frame A Painting to see the extent of what I’m talking about.

Despite having the same cinematographer as the 2014 TMNT film (Lula Carvalho), Out of the Shadows doesn’t look that much like a Bay-produced film, at least in terms of editing and staging, in that I could actually tell what was happening (a rarity for a Michael Bay joint). But one thing that isn’t a rarity is the awkward leeriness -Michael Bay finds a way to make leering more awkward than it already is- which Out of the Shadows tries to legitimize by making it look intentional, as April O’Neil (Megan Fox) has to shift outfits in order to get close enough to a man holding a hard drive with top secret information. The action of it is fine in and of itself, but the music and the tight closeups on her chest reveals an exterior intent to ogle. This is, however, the only gratuitous scene in the film, which for how entertaining the rest of the film is, makes it at least semi-forgivable.

“If you want to go down swinging, these guys hit harder than anyone.”

So yeah, a lot of what makes Out of the Shadows great is what isn’t in the film. On top of the toned down bayhem, the focus is no longer on April O’Neil trying to be taken seriously as a reporter -we’d need to take her seriously as an actress first- or Vernon Fenwick’s (Will Arnett) clumsy conquest to sleep with April -or just about anyone with Victoria Secret looks. No, the focus is where it needs to be, on the turtles, which leads me to one of the best things that’s in the film, the turtles! (Pete Ploszek as Leonardo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Alan Ritchson as Raphael, and Noel Fisher as Michelangelo)

teenage mutant ninja turtles out of the shadows

The turtles (Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher & Jeremy Howard from left to right) riding in the Turtle Van.

“What would Vin Diesel do? No regrets! No fear!”

This might be the best time to admit that I never grew up with TMNT, despite the almost inescapable waves of incarnations (tv shows, movies, toys, cookies, cereal, rock band?). Seriously, TMNT is everywhere! You’d think I was living under a rock for 22 years (or in the sewers). So no, I have no nostalgic attachment to the turtles, but from the turtles in this incarnation, I can get an idea of what makes them so likable. Since we spend so much more time with the turtles, we get to see how their personalities work off one another (something even the 1990 film never delved into). This is especially easy with how each turtle is designed to match his personality (Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but crude, Michelangelo is a party dude, you know the rest…). But I will agree with 90% of the internet and say that the turtles’ unsettling faces don’t match their amiable personalities. But for me, its less of a terrifying uncanny valley thing and more of a “Who though this was a good idea” thing. I mean, it’s just baffling how easily this could have been avoided. They didn’t even need a big fix. Just get rid of the nostrils, and widen the lips, it’s easy!

teenage mutant ninja turtles, leonardo, alternate face design

Note Image 1’s resemblance to the original design.

Really though, the faces are not a big deterrent for me, I’m just glad the one thing they did get right about the turtles was their spirited whimsy, something Out of the Shadows grants to each of its feature players, including newcomers Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), Krang (Brad Garrett) and Bebop & Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams & Sheamus respectively). If you loved these characters in the cartoon, you’ll definitely love them here, because they all act like they were literally pulled out of a cartoon. Casey Jones, though not as laughably rough and tough as Elias Koteas’ in the 1990 film, fits well as a lightweight Han Solo. Krang, though crammed into the climax, is a simple and literal criminal mastermind. Though it has to be Bebop & Rocksteady that steal the show. Again, I get the sense everyone wanted these two in particular to share the big screen with the turtles, and once again, I can see why. Just like the turtles, Bebop & Rocksteady have an indelible chemistry, both as their human and mutated forms. They’re the kind of henchmen that make the higher-up villains look boring. Best of all though, just like the craziest villains, they have no motivation, they just do what they do because it’s fun. No second thoughts, no contrived backstory, just plain and simple, balls to the wall madness. Actually, that’s probably the best way I can describe this movie.

bebop, rocksteady, teenage mutant ninja turtles, out of the shadows

Standout baddies Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus).

“When something bad happens, you want to be around the turtles!”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is as good as it could have been and much better than it should have been. It’s clear they took note of the mistakes from the 2014 run and improved in spades. This feels like a Ninja Turtles film made by Ninja Turtles fans, with every character the fans have been begging to see in the way they needed to be seen. Out of the Shadows could have easily fallen into the trap of too many characters in the kitchen (aka Amazing Spider-Man 2 syndrome), but despite the sheer number of side characters, each is given just the right amount of screen time, enough to show what makes them so appealing, but not too much to distract from what ultimately makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so appealing: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Just like the turtles, Out of the Shadows is unabashedly goofy. When I laughed, I laughed hard, and it left me with a big goofy smile that didn’t quit, and when the end credits rolled and the tv theme song played, my first thought was: “Good job movie, you earned it.”

My Rating: 8/10

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – Legit Fun. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment