Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, 2016.
Directed by Dave Green.
Starring Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Gary Anthony Williams, Stephen Farrelly, Tony Shaloub, Brad Garrett and Laura Linney.
The Turtles face off against Shredder, who this time has help from genetically-engineered henchmen and intergalactic villain Krang.
I have a confession to make – I saw the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at the cinema TWICE. Not because I thought it was great, but because it was, for me, the perfect kind of terrible (I mean, how can you truly hate a film that contains the line “Drain every single drop of their blood – even if it kills them”?). As someone who grew up loving the TMNT cartoon, the arcade game and the action figures, I should have been heartbroken and offended by the soulless, glossy remake, but for whatever reason I found it to be easy-viewing – if Citizen Kane is a gourmet dinner, the TMNT movies are a big bag of Cheetos. So, would the second outing prove to be more of the same? For better or worse, yes.
The plot, such as it is, involves Shredder (Brian Tee) escaping from police custody with the help of scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Shredder ends up face-to-face with a robot-alien hybrid called Krang, who tasks him with locating some technological items than will open an intergalactic portal so that Krang can send an enormous war-machine through to destroy Earth. He also gives him a canister of ooze that transforms Bebop and Rocksteady (two convicts that escaped with Shredder) into a rhino and warthog – which is helpful for some reason, and apparently they’re okay with! These two ‘classic’ characters may be making their movie debut here, but it’s hard to see what the fans love about them so much when all they seem to do is fart, charge into stuff and bicker annoyingly (Rocksteady’s accent also seems to veer wildly from Brooklyn to Dublin). Krang himself is an utterly bizarre creation – he looks like a cross between a jellyfish and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Davy Jones, and Brad Garrett certainly doesn’t hold back with his vocal performance, which sounds uncannily like the Tazmanian devil doing a Yoda impression.
Michael Bay may have only produced the two TMNT movies rather than direct them (Jonathan Liebesmen helmed the first instalment, and relative newcomer Dave Green made this one), but his influence and style is all over them – the dialogue is cheesy as hell, the villain’s space MacGuffin is directly stolen from the third Transformers movie, and every swirling CGI shot or ultra-tilted establishing shot is set to a heroic yet generic score by Steve Jablonsky. Although, credit where credit is due, the Turtle’s lair is a pretty cool set, there’s some impressive stunt work and car-nage, and the integration between the CGI and live action elements is superb. It’s only in the final set-piece, when everything is computer-generated, that the frame-rate seems to change and the whole thing starts to resemble a great big video game.
The Turtles themselves continue to be pretty one-dimensional – although, to be fair, their introductory character profiles (The Leader, The Muscle, The Brains, Pizza Lover) warn you not to expect any more from them than that. If you’ve seen any other TMNT film before, you’ll know that at some point Leo and Raph are going to butt heads over leadership of the team, Splinter will interject with some vague wisdom about brotherhood, Donnie will figure out the villain’s plan and how to stop him, and Mikey will refrain from his constant wise-cracking for one scene to look vaguely hurt. Given how repulsed I was by their new design when the first film came out, I’m surprised to admit that I’ve actually warmed to them now – however, I still maintain that the voice actors were miscast (in my mind, the guys who voiced them in the early 90s movies will always be ones who suited the roles best). As for the human cast…
Megan Fox’s job isn’t to portray April O’Neil as a realistic young journalist (her occupation is literally only referred to in the film’s final scene), it’s to spend all her screen-time sporting a tight tank-top and jeans, and to have hair and make-up that remains flawless no matter what life-or-death scrape she winds up in. That being said, at least she convincingly sells the ‘Mean Girl’-esuqe nonchalance her character requires – Tyler Perry doesn’t fare so well. Although he can be a likeable screen presence (his turn in Gone Girl, for instance, was great), his performance in this film is so ridiculously hammy it’s only slightly less embarrassing to watch than one of his ‘Madea’ films. Pretty-boy Stephen Amell (from TV’s Arrow) does a passable job as cop-turned-hockey-vigilante Casey Jones, but he had a strange tendency to smile when his character should be angry or frustrated. Anyone who’s seen Will Arnett in Arrested Development (hell, anyone who’s seen him as LEGO Batman) knows that, given good material, he’s is utterly hilarious. Unfortunately, apart from a couple of slightly amusing scenes involving bags of air and a hidden camera, his talents are mostly wasted in this film. And speaking of wasted talent, what in God’s name is Laura Linney doing in this? I can’t imagine she’s a fan of the material, so either she owes Michael Bay a big favour or she desperately needs to pay her bills.
You only have to glance at a synopsis of this film’s plot and characters to realise that a serious critical analysis of it is both impossible and unnecessary. This is a franchise that is fully aware of how dumb it is, and has chosen to revel in that dumbness for (hopefully) crowd-pleasing effect. Well, on those terms, the movie is a success – if you can completely disengage your brain, and put aside any precious nostalgic feelings you may have towards these characters from your childhood, you might just enjoy yourself as I did.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★