‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ Review: Stale improvement

Oggs Cruz
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ Review: Stale improvement
''Out of the Shadows' evidently caters to boys' fantasies, the same way Michael Bay's 'Transformers' films do,' writes Oggs Cruz

Dave Green’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is most certainly better than its predecessor.

Better, not good


However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is an outstanding entertainer. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay, this big-budgeted attempt to turn Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s ’80s comic about crime-fighting anthropomorphic turtles into a movie franchise is a grossly misguided effort. Anything that has a coherent action set piece can be considered a better film. 

Screengrab from YouTube/TMNT Movie

Thankfully, Green has assembled one that is arguably exhilarating despite its gross indulgences. It’s a visual effects-riddled eye-popper that starts with the film’s heroes inside a cargo plane flying above a rainforest, then plummeting into the middle of a gushing river – forcing the turtles to fight off fellow mutants while rapidly drifting along. They end up wet and deflated at the foot of a raging waterfall. 

The rest of the film is sadly as stale as anything we’ve seen before, with only hints of promises that will never be fulfilled.

More of the same characters

Green is left with all the bad decisions of his predecessor. 

His turtles, namely, leader Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), genius Donatello (Jeremy Howard), strongman Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and charming Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher), are far from adorable. They are still the hulking behemoths whose slivers of stereotypical personality are mostly kept at bay by the limitations of digital animation. 

Photo courtesy of United International Pictures

Out of the Shadows now deals with the turtles’ desire for some semblance of a normal life. Given that the turtles look more hideous than their comic book counterparts, the character design seems to suit the plot, rather than to exhibit a whimsical desire to make the franchise more palatable for adults.

Screengrab from YouTube/TMNT Movie

Out of the Shadows improves on its roster of villains. 

Shredder (Brian Tee) remains to be a dull fixture – a villain with both the look and the personality of a can of tuna flakes. Adding a bit of flavor to Shredder’s colorless villainy are Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) – a warthog and a rhino, respectively – whose allegiance to ’80s outlandish fashion is a welcome sight in a film that is mostly set at night. Then there’s Krang (Brad Garrett), the brain-shaped alien who is also serves as the brains to Shredder’s goal of world domination.

Screengrab from YouTube/TMNT Movie

Boys club

Men clearly outnumber women in the film.

April (Megan Fox) is more a spectacle than a character. Her biggest contribution to the film is an early scene where she has to disguise herself twice in an effort to distract two men to get certain information.

MEGAN FOX. Stephen Amell as Casey Jones and Megan Fox as April O'Neil in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.' Photo courtesy of United International Pictures


In that scene, her contribution to the turtles’ campaign is reliant on her looks rather than anything else. In one of the action scenes near the end, she begs off attacking a foot soldier on the basis of her being a woman, giving the less competent Vern (Will Arnett) the opportunity for heroics. 

Screengrab from YouTube/TMNT Movie

Chief Vincent (a wasted Laura Linney), the stern police head, seems to be just a mere afterthought. Hers is a character whose convenient presence serves as an obligatory affirmation that there are women in the world who are indeed worth more than their sexuality.  

Out of the Shadows evidently caters to boys’ fantasies, the same way Michael Bay’s Transformers films do with their fetishistic approach towards fast cars, long-legged girls and loud explosions.

More importantly, it passes on issues that most socially awkward boys who prefer comics to conversations have while growing up – like wanting to fit in – but it only does so in the most elementary of ways.

Other than that, it’s mostly just noise and nonsense, and not a lot more.

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios

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