November 20, 2016
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a visually and narratively incoherent mess, high on volume but low on logic, story, quality design and fidelity to the source. It was a moderate commercial hit, however, leading to this 2016 sequel. The director is new, with Dave Green stepping in to replace Brad Liebesman. At the same time it also draws a lot of material from the popular 1980s television cartoons, with prominent roles given to mutant henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady, the alien despot Krang and his giant 'technodrome', vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman.
Sadly any hope that Out of the Shadows is an improvement upon its predecessor dies quickly: this is certainly a more coherently plotted film, but that is in large because it is so weakly plotted. Not a lot actually happens here, and what does happen is not original or even particularly interested. Unlike the first film, this sequel did not make its studio much money. This big-screen iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks set to mercifully expire with this second film.
There is a small amount of entertainment value in seeing cartoon characters like Bebop and Rocksteady get recreated in live-action and CGI. That value does not ever threaten to compensate for the film's generally poor quality, but at least it's something. The film's storyline rapidly descends into a wild goose chase - a hunt for three parts of an alien portal-opening device - but the film does not even have the energy to follow its own superficial story. One piece begins the film in Shredder's hands. Another is retrieved by the villains with ease, leaving only the third to be recovered in a lengthy water chase in the Brazilian jungle. After that the film descends into an overly-long, under-developed action sequence until enough punches have been traded to buy the film an ending.
Some of the Turtle characterisation is strong, but the design remain unlikeable and unnecessarily large. April O'Neill (Megan Fox) features prominently but not in any particular ways; the film does find the opportunity to pointlessly sexualise her in a schoolgirl's uniform for no immediately justifiable reason. Other supporting characters fail to impress, whether woefully underwritten (Brian Tee's Shredder, Laura Linney's police chief) or very weakly performed (Arrow star Stephen Amell as Casey Jones). Bebop and Rocksteady are pleasingly slap-sticky. As Baxter Stockman Tyler Perry aims for comedy and misses the mark.
The film is a particular let-down when it comes to action. Shots track rapidly and feature dizzying flips and jumps around the scene. It all becomes a bit of an eye-sore: scenes that should have been action-packed and thrilling were simply chores to be sat through.
Steve Barron's 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles demonstrated the great potential of these characters. These two recent adaptations have completed failed to capitalise upon that potential. This is a bad sequel and a particularly bad film. It is a relief to see this particular version of the characters receive a well-earned retirement. Or possibly banishment. Either way this movie is no good.