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

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of
Paramount

More witless action antics from producer Michael Bay.

The heroes in a half shell return for more halfhearted fun in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.” Every bit as noisy, brain-numbing and lowbrow as its predecessor, the Michael Bay production never strays from basic blockbuster formula. It’s fast food entertainment destined for a short run atop the box office charts and an even shorter lifespan in the pop culture zeitgeist.

Although the franchise has remained active in animation and video games through the years, the heroic quartet named after famed Renaissance painters — Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo — went dormant in live action films for two decades, until 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” resurrected the phenomenon. At the time, some longtime fans took issue with reinventing the turtles as motion capture-animated heroes, especially in the context of a sleek, soulless, steel-crushing action extravaganza à la Bay’s “Transformers” productions. But worldwide audiences didn’t seem to mind one bit, and the film brought in just under half a billion in global grosses.

Even with that success, a few (arguably) notable changes were made for the follow-up. Director Dave Green (a relative newcomer whose only feature credit is the family sci-fi pic “Earth to Echo”) assumes helming duties from Jonathan Liebesman, the roles of villain Shredder and his henchwoman Karai have been recast (with Brian Tee and Brittany Ishibashi, respectively) and Johnny Knoxville no longer voices Leonardo (the duties are assumed by his mo-cap portrayer Pete Ploszek, with Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Alan Ritchson back as Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael). Not that any of it matters much when visual spectacle still takes precedence over coherent plotting, and the human characters retain all the gravitas of generic placeholders who accidentally made it into the shooting script.

The basics of the plot — a term that can only be used very loosely — go something like this: Shredder enlists the help of nerdy mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, trying to have fun and getting nowhere) to open up a portal to another dimension, where the nefarious mutant blob Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) plots to escape and take over Earth. But enterprising journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox, seemingly even more disinterested than before) catches on and alerts our turtle heroes to fight back.

Unfortunately, even after they saved the city in the last film, the turtles are resigned to living a secret life in the sewers, and April’s wisecracking cameraman Vern (Will Arnett, the most dignified human here) becomes the public face of their actions. Still, they’re visible enough that they catch the eye of aspiring detective Casey Jones (Stephen Amell, nothing but sarcasm) and eventually police chief Rebecca Vincent (Laura Linney, who must have lost one hell of a bet).

But really, everything that happens in the movie is just an excuse to pile one CGI setpiece on top of another. Audiences will see cars flying through the air, turtles skydiving and an alien invasion cribbed directly from “The Avengers” playbook. And they will meet additional cartoony foes including the moronic mutant lackies Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly).

The turtles are even more central this time than they were in the last film, as the humans become deserved afterthoughts to their brotherly squabbling and bonding. And yet the screenplay by returning writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec still does little to flesh out the basic personalities that turned these unlikely superheroes into enduring icons (their roots in alternative comics having long ago been bowdlerized by their success as a commercial enterprise).

Anyone left unimpressed by the surface-level shenanigans typical of Bay in the previous film won’t find anything to change their minds here. The technical contributions are as slick and shallow as any random “Transformers” entry, and the obnoxious soundtrack especially grates as it veers between cacophonous explosions, shrill line deliveries and thuddingly predictable song selections from Edwin Starr’s “War” to Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.”

Originally planned to have the subtitle “Half Shell,” the sequel instead goes out with the same “Out of the Shadows” moniker as a quickly forgotten “Turtles” videogame from 2013. Call it a subliminal signal to the franchise faithful that this too shall pass, soon enough.

Film Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'

Reviewed at TCL Chinese 6, Hollywood, June 1, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 112 MIN.

Production

A Paramount Pictures release of a Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies presentation of a Platinum Dunes, Gama Entertainment / Mednick Production / Smithrowe Entertainment production. Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Galen Walker, Scott Mednick. Executive producers, Denis L. Stewart, Grant Curtis, Eric Crown, Napoleon Smith III, André Nemec, Josh Appelbaum.

Crew

Directed by Dave Green. Screenplay, Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec. Camera (3D, Deluxe color, widescreen), Lula Carvalho; editor, Bob Ducsay, Jim May, Debra Neil-Fisher; music, Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Martin Laing; art director, Miguel Lopez-Castillo; set decorator, Debra Schutt; costume designer, Sarah Edwards; sound (Datasat/Dolby Atmos), Tom Nelson, Peter Fonda; supervising sound editors, Jason W. Jennings, Nancy Nugent Title; re-recording mixers, Terry Porter, Anna Behlmer; special effects supervisor, J.D. Schwalm; visual effects supervisor, Pablo Helman; visual effects producers, Crystal Dowd, Susan Greenhow; visual effects, Industrial Light & Magic, Ghost VFX, Atomic Fiction, Base FX, Whiskytree Inc., Animatrik, FX3X, Virtuos, Bot VFX, Shade VFX, Lola VFX; stunt coordinators, Spiro Razatos, Jonathan Eusebio; fight coordinator, Jon Valera; associate producer, Lori Scowley, Basil Bryant Grillo, Bret Rowe, Marc Pappalardo; assistant director, Alexander H. Gayner; second unit director, Razatos; second unit camera, Jacques Haitkin; casting, Lisa Fields.

With

Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams, Brittany Ishibashi, Dean Winters, Brad Garrett, Tony Shalhoub.

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  1. Paully says:

    If only we could go back in time and stop Lucasfilm from hiring Bay as the coffee “boy”.. We all would be better off..

  2. I just saw it. It certainly felt like an extended episode from the 80’s animated series. I don’t think it was as bad as Phil suggested, but of course mileage will vary. First of all, it could’ve been PG rated with a couple of very minor tweaks as it seemed more geared for kids than the last one. There wasn’t as much ninja fighting in this one which was a bit of a bummer because I love watching the turtles use their weapons and there wasn’t much of that. There was plenty of action, but more cartoonish. I didn’t really care for the Casey Jones in this movie. He wasn’t really a vigilante or rough enough around the edges or intimidating and he talked too much. Having an actor like Laura Linney in a movie like this does more damage than good because watching her say “turtles” or “Shredder” is cringe inducing. It just doesn’t gel. In the first movie, the turtles are shot with assault rifles and realize they’re bullet proof. In this one, a few cops point their handguns at them and they freeze like deer in headlights out of fear. Inconsistencies like that bother me. Bebop and Rocksteady were pretty awesome and probably my favorite thing about the movie. Shredder looked really cool, but did nothing. Krang was just as batshit as in the cartoons. Donatello has a lot more to do this time around. The ending felt a lot like the last movie. They’re high up in the sky and getting their asses kicked by the big baddie. Aesthetically, not very different. Overall I had a good time, but definitely felt this was more of a younger kid’s flick, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might turn off some viewers. The little kid to my left loved it.

  3. Occultology says:

    Megan Fox seems to have a terrible Agent.

    • cadavra says:

      On the contrary, she has a great agent. He keeps getting her jobs in big pictures despite her uncanny ability to remain stubbornly untalented.

  4. Dennis A Lopez says:

    Geoff Berkshire – worst article you could’ve wrote about a movie review. Clearly you did not grow up a TMNT fan. I’ve been watching TMNT since I was 4 and I love every movie and cartoon made about them. Bays version is just a newer version of it all and it will continue to be that way as long as movies and TV exist. If you dont like Bay, stop being such a hater cause we unfortunately have to ready your anti Bay articles. GO write something you like and are passionate about cause you seem like you hate your job.

    • Nick says:

      No one cares. Your nostalgia doesn’t count to anyone but you. What a sad childhood you must have had to have fond memories of THIS crap.

    • Chris says:

      Shut up fantard, and stop supporting these garbage movies.

      • TacoSalad says:

        So cause it does not appeal to you people should stop supporting this . I watched the film . It was fun . Was it a good movie nah . But It was entertaining for what it was and it was a Live Action version of a early 90s cartoon . Don’t need to get all abusive towards a guy cause he liked it .

      • X says:

        you mean like the shitty marvel disney movies you fat tards seems to enjoy? same repetitive crap over and over again? give me a break idiot, keep sucking disneys dick loser!

    • Responder says:

      It’s because Bay completely sucks and Berkshire recognizes it, a 9-year old could direct movies in the fashion he does, they are designed specifically for the stupefied and small-minded masses who can’t detect intelligence or emotion in movie either because their too lazy or too dumb.

    • Responder says:

      How old are you now?

    • nobody important says:

      Oh no, an actual opinion that disagrees with yours! If you don’t stop them from talking, you might actually have to think rationally! And you can’t have that. You need everyone to agree with you or else, maybe, you might be wrong! Horror of horrors!

  5. irwinator1992 says:

    I’m so sick of Michael Bay. His antics are completely out of place in TMNT.

  6. Bea of FakeABaby says:

    Oh boy. I just hope that we still get to have something to look forward to, no matter how huge or small it is. I love Megan though!

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