Friday, June 3, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

Two years ago at this exact time, I was dreading the idea of Michael Bay taking my beloved Ninja Turtles franchise and giving it the Transformers treatment. The turtles looked ugly. The movie looked awful. They cast Megan freaking Fox as April O'Neil. Shredder looked like a giant evil transformer. It was just a disaster waiting to happen. Then August 2014 came around and I gave it a chance. No, I didn't like it. It had a lot of issues. But much to my surprise, I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would. I guess Michael Bay as a producer is not quite as horrible as Michael Bay as a director. Fast forward in time a bit. Stephen Amell from Arrow is cast as Casey Jones and he gives frequent updates via his video chats that he believes that they have made a good Ninja Turtles movie. I became conflicted at that because my mind had been programmed to be worried about this movie and now Stephen Amell says its going to be good? Fast forward even more to the point where the trailers are released and suddenly I find myself warming up to the idea of this movie because it looked fun. Now return to the present. I have seen the movie and in a surprise twist of events, I'm going to give this movie a positive review. I had a good time with it.

Before I dive into my reasoning for this, let's stop for a second. If your story is much different than mine and you hated the first movie with a fiery passion and you think that the trailers for this one have looked awful beyond reason, then do yourself a favor. Skip this movie. There's zero reason for you to see it because you are not going to enjoy it. I also want to make it clear that when I say I am giving this a positive review, I fully admit that this is not a great movie by any means, so it's not like I'm saying this is a candidate for my favorite movies of 2016 list. I'm just saying I had a good time with it. Yes, the turtles are giant and ugly. Yes, they're voices are weird. Yes, they're more annoying than funny. Yes, they have a funky back story where they started as Megan Fox's pets. Yes, the villains have zero depth to them. Yes, there are a lot of useless side characters. But with all the horrible things that the first movie set up, everyone involved here, on and off camera, felt like they did their best job to give us a fun sequel to a below average movie. They can't change what was done in the past, but they can do their best to make a fun movie for their target audience and that's what they've done.

As far as the story goes, the movie relies on a whole lot of fan service to make things work and it kinda does. At the beginning of the movie, the turtles ride around in the classic turtle van. Shredder escapes and is the villain again, but this time he's without his mask for most of the movie, thus making him feel slightly more human. They take a page or two from the 90's sequel, Secret of the Ooze, by using purple ooze as a key element of the movie. Shredder experiments on two thugs with that purple ooze, turning them into a giant warthog and a giant rhinoceros. Bebop and Rocksteady! Casey Jones joins the team. Shredder starts working with another crazy villain named Krang. Fan service! It was a lot of fun seeing all of this. One or two of these elements did show up in the old movies, but for the most part these are popular elements from Ninja Turtles lore that were taken straight from the cartoons and comics that haven't shown up on the big screen yet and were here to please Ninja Turtles fans. It worked. For me at least. Speaking of the Ninja Turtles cartoons, this movie felt like I was watching a Ninja Turtles cartoon. In live action on the big screen, but that's what it felt like to me and I enjoyed that.

Granted, at times it also felt like I was watching a new Ninja Turtles cartoon written for a 7-year-old because the dialogue and script was super cheesy and pretty awful at points. It took them a while to get into the groove of things. I don't have kids of my own, but I do have a lot of nieces and nephews around the age that I said and I got the feel as I was watching this that this would be a movie that they would really enjoy. There is a little more language and violence than I would personally feel comfortable showing to kids because they felt the need to make this PG-13, but if you took your kids to the first movie and they loved it, then I would say this is a must see for them. I would say older kids and not younger kids, but this is a judgment call for you. If your kids like all the Marvel superhero movies and they are fans of the Ninja Turtles, I'm guessing they'll enjoy this movie. Yes, this movie is getting destroyed by the critics, but did you know that every Ninja Turtles movie ever made has been destroyed by the critics. The highest a Ninja Turtles movie is on Rotten Tomatoes is 40 percent. That's the original 1990 movie that I personally love. So these are movies that are obviously not for them. And for the record, the score for this one has gone up. When I submitted my June movie preview yesterday, it was at 18 percent. Right now it's moved up to 34 percent, which is higher than the 2014 movie.

Lets talk about the characters in this movie. There was only one character that was consistently awful throughout and that was Tyler Perry. He played a wannabe villain of sorts that Shredder was manipulating and he was a complete cheeseball throughout and was completely useless to the plot. Outside him, everyone else did a decent job. And yes, that's including Megan Fox. Of course we had to get our Megan Fox boob shot in. If you've seen the first two Transformers movies, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But there was only one of those and it was the one in every trailer. Outside that shot, she actually played a useful human being that had good chemistry with the turtles and did things to help the forward the plot. She wasn't amazing by any means, but these things I mentioned are a few steps forward for the girl as she's normally only cast to look sexy. Making a surprisingly good partner in crime with Megan was Stephen Amell. I love Stephen Amell as an actor. Arrow has gone downhill, but I still love him in it. I use the word "surprisingly" in the last sentence not as an insult to him, but just because I wouldn't think of teaming him up with Megan Fox in a movie, but it worked. As Stephen Amell does great as Casey Jones. Do I buy him as Casey Jones? Not really. It still felt like he was Oliver Queen in this movie. But hey, that's not a bad thing. Nothing wrong with an Arrow/Ninja Turtles crossover, right?

I suppose I should mention Will Arnett. He was in the movie again. I don't know why and I don't know if he even knew why because his character was useless. That said, he had a lot of fun with everything and put some humor and passion into his useless role, which I appreciated. As far as the villains go, we had a lot of them. I already mentioned I didn't like Tyler Perry. The others are fine. We still don't have much of a backstory for Shredder, which is disappointing, but he does feel a little more human in this without his mask. His two henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady, are a ton of fun. I want to see them back if this makes enough money to justify future movies. And finally we have Krang. If you don't know the comics or the cartoons, you might be horrified by this dude as he is one of the ugliest looking villains. He's a talking brain coming out of the middle of a robot stomach. If you do know the comics or the cartoons, you'll be happy to see this guy. It's pure fan service with his character. As a villain, he is strong and crazy, making for a great final battle between him and the turtles, so I can't complain too much. But we have less backstory with him than with Shredder and he's barely in the movie. He collaborates with Shredder for a minute or two in the middle and then he shows up to fight the turtles at the end. That's it. Useless character, but fun fan service. Voiced by Brad Garrett, which I didn't realize until... now.

Last but not least, I have to talk about our turtles, because a turtles movie obviously hinges on them being good or not. I still like the classic look from the 90's for the turtles, but I suppose I've gotten used to this giant, unique look for them. What I was really hoping for was good turtle moments in this movie. One of the great things about the 1990 movie is not only does it have a lot of fun, turtle action, but it has a whole lot of heart and depth to these turtles. They're family. As family, they have natural conflicts with their different personalities and they have to learn to work together, especially once Splinter has been kidnapped. There's emotion and there's depth. I love it. I was hoping for something like that in this movie because that was lacking in our previous movie and thankfully we got it. There's some great turtle moments with this group. I suppose I won't spoil these moments, but lets just say that partway through they all have a difference of opinion and the two strongest personalities, Raph and Leo, butt heads. They also struggle with who they are and what their role is in the city. Because of all this, while they are strong individually, they don't work well as a team and they have to learn to work as a team and accept who they are. This movie doesn't go as deep or emotional as the 1990 movie, but it went deep enough to make me smile.

In the end, I had enough fun with this movie to make it worthwhile. No, I didn't like the 2014 movie, but I also ended up hating it a lot less than I thought. I didn't expect to be excited for the sequel. In fact, I groaned inside when they announced it. But then Stephen Amell was cast and talked up the movie. Then the trailers were released. In an odd turn of events, I became excited for the movie and I ended up enjoying it last night. The turtles had several good, emotional turtle moments. Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, and Will Arnett made for a decent team of human partners for the turtles. Splinter was actually a good mentor to the turtles this time around in his limited role. Our team of villains, outside Tyler Perry, were good enough. Krang was cool, Bebop and Rocksteady were a blast, and Shredder was slightly more human. Yes, the movie was really cheesy with some very poor dialogue in the first half of the movie. But it was jammed full of fan service, which in this case was a positive thing. The movie also manages to be bigger, louder, and funner than the 2014 movie and thus I had fun with it. It's nothing epic or deep, but there is fun to be had. I gave the 2014 movie a 5/10 when I reviewed it. If I were to re-grade it now, I might be slightly nicer and give it a 6/10. For this sequel, I'm going to go a little higher than both of those numbers and give it a 7/10.

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