From the outset, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is at odds to highlight the differences to Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and, Donatello, just in case those of you who successfully skipped the original film were somehow convinced that the sequel would be a vast improvement. It’s not. Instead it succumbs to the same tonal issues that scuppered its predecessor, finding itself stuck in the middle ground between being too dark for kids, and too dumb for adults.
Considering that its four leading characters are life-sized mutant turtles named after renaissance artists that were raised by a rat in the sewer and munch on pizza profusely, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows is painfully derivative. This is even more frustrating considering that Out Of The Shadows is full of the Turtles’ most iconic villains. Not only does Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) help to break The Shredder (Brian Tee) free from jail, but he then creates mutants of their own in the shape of Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen ‘Sheamus’ Farrelly). The Turtles, along with the help of the returning April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), as well as a vigilante by the name of Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), combine to try and bring down this team of villains. But the stakes are raised even higher when Krang (Brad Garrett) tries to spark an extra-terrestrial invasion over New York City.
Director Dave Green actually sets-up and shoots Out Of The Shadows’ opening gambit of action in a cohesive and energetic fashion. It unfolds on a freeway and is by far the most enthralling set-piece of the entire film. In this scene, Dave Green and his team of special effects gurus are able to mix the CGI Turtles with practical effects that includes a speeding garbage truck driven by the turtles, police-van carrying the villains, and its escorts being attacked by an array of motorbikes and a helicopter.
But before too long you realize that this was the exception rather than the norm. Stuffed with a pack of villains that have seemingly been thrown together without much care or thought, Out Of The Shadows soon sets up the MacGuffins that will dictate the film’s plot, sign-posting exactly how it will unfold.
Not all of the antagonists disappoint, though. I’d want to see more of Tyler Perry’s maniacal Dr. Baxter Stockman, while Bebop and Rocksteady inject some much needed fun and light-heartedness into the proceedings.
But Shredder seems to spend most of the film pointlessly brooding in the corner, and Krang, who resembles an octopus on steroids crammed inside a microwave, pops up towards the end of the first act, only to then disappear until the finale. This disintegrates the entire conflict (which was scant anyway) from Out Of The Shadows’ conclusion, while Brad Garrett almost instantly and then consistently annoys as the voice of Krang.
Stephen Amell heroically gives it his all as Casey Jones, there’s nowhere near enough of Will Arnett, while Megan Fox’s obvious leading lady appeal is pushed to the breaking point during one outrageously superfluous scene. They’re all let down by a dire, overly expositional, and just downright dumb and unfunny script. Plus, the film's plot is unintelligible amidst the erratic chaos.
After its impressive opening, Out Of The Shadows’ action set pieces become more and more underwhelming as it progresses, too. Not just underwhelming, but unoriginal. A police station break-in, a plane jump, and then its ending where New York is overwhelmed by an invading and assembling alien spacecraft are just too similar to scenes from Iron Man 2, Furious 7, and The Avengers, respectively. Just without the charm, urgency or flair of either of them.
Not even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can make it memorable. "Teenage" is, sadly, the operative word to describe them. They’re more annoyingly moody than anything else, as they flirt with turning into humans after discovering a Retro-Mutagen. An overabundance of special effects just stops their personalities from shining through and them becoming even remotely relatable. Which, when combined with the above, makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows more half-assed than half-shelled.