- Written by Josh Applebaum & André Nemec
- Directed by Dave Green
- Starring Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Laura Linney, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Brad Garrett, Brian Tee, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard and more…
Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael return in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows to battle bigger, badder villains, alongside April O’Neil (Megan Fox), Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), and a newcomer: the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell).
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ is in the UK cinemas now and hits cinemas in the US on June 3rd.
Back in 2014 Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon films rebooted the long running ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film franchise with a mixed live-action and CGI blockbuster which failed to set critics on fire (22% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) but still raked in $493.3M worldwide. Just days after the film hit cinemas worldwide the announcement of a sequel was made.
Two years and a new director later and the heroes in a half shell are back on the big screen in a much louder, brasher and all round bigger sequel.
Many expected that ‘Out of the Shadows’ would fail to learn any lessons from its predecessors failings, taking the franchise in further weirder and more wonderful directions. However if there is anything to take away from this film beyond its fun factor it is certainly that lessons have in fact been learnt. Returning writers Applebaum and Nemec have listened to the fans and have crammed many of the A-list characters from ‘TMNT’ comics in to the script. Despite a short running time of 112-minutes there’s room for Shredder, Karai, Krang, Beebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and Casey Jones to all appear beside the returning Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Splinter and April O’Neil.
‘Out of the Shadows’ is surprisingly franchise lore heavy albeit with some tweaks where ‘TMNT’ took liberties. Those with an in-depth knowledge of Turtles-history will be irked by the changes made to Casey Jones backstory but admittedly it writes him in to the film without wasting too much of its runtime on introductions.
Not wasting time is something that ‘Out of Shadows’ does from the outset. Where ‘TMNT’ opened with another retelling of the Turtles origin story ‘Out of the Shadows’ literally hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until after the end credits roll. My first thoughts when leaving the cinema were on how the writers focussed incredibly well on what the first film did right and cut out the moments which really held that film back. Arguably this is much more of a popcorn flick than the Jim Henson animatronic Turtles of the 90s, but cinema wouldn’t exist as it does today without these types of film.
Working in its favour is that there is still a story to ‘Out of the Shadows’. It might be story-lite but its there and it strings together the set piece action sequences with small moments of character which do serve to give the film some depth. It’s never going to be on Oscar contender but there’s nothing wrong with knowing that and playing to your strengths.
‘Out of the Shadows’ is also clever in how it continues the setup from the previous film but still overwrites the small changes that have been made. In recapping the story of ‘TMNT’ via a montage of newspaper stories and TV headlines Tohoru Masamune is cleverly replaced by Brian Tee in still shots of Shredder and the mech-Shredder suit is nowhere to be seen. Also changed without mention is the Turtles vehicle of choice, seen as a van in the closing moments of ‘TMNT’ it has handily been replaced by a much larger and more impressive garbage truck.
Larger and more impressive basically sums up ‘Out of the Shadows’. It is much more ambitious than its predecessor and in many ways it does succeed it well. High points for me were seeing Krang in ‘live-action’. Voiced by Brad Garrett there are echoes of his voice from the original cartoon series but it is by no means a carbon copy. Another highlight, connected to Krang, was seeing the Technodrome come to life. Sadly there isn’t a chance to see it in full action but all the key components are there.
A low point for me was certainly see Baxter Stockman devolve from being the smart scientist of the comics to be much more of a generic bumbling sidekick villain. Tyler Perry has proven acting ability but is given very little to work with in ‘Out of the Shadows’. The actor has spoken about the possibility of returning in a further sequel to transform in to his alter-ego of The Fly. Hopefully as with this film Applebaum and Nemec learn from their mistakes here and improve for next time.
I was also disappointed to see that the cameo of original live-action April, Judith Hoag, failed to make it in to the theatrical cut. Unless I missed her somewhere of course.
The award for most out of the box casting goes to Laura Linney as Rebecca Vincent. Other reviews have questioned how she ended up in this film. I suspect it might be chance to appear in a film that her young son will think is cool when he grows up. Despite her serious acting chops she still seems to be having fun and her character could be an interesting Commissioner Gordon type characters against the Turtles.
One lesson that the writers repeat in ‘Out of the Shadows’ is failing to acknowledge the character of Karai. She existed in the previous film played by Minae Noji and here is played by Brittany Ishibashi. The previous film failed to acknowledge her relationship to Shredder and ‘Out of the Shadows’ fails to even mention her name. The character has played a large role in comics of late so it’s a shame to see her wasted in the films.
Musically the film is also a step up from its predecessor with Steve Jablonsky of ‘Transformers’ fame taking the place of Brian Tyler who scored the first film. Some of the major themes remain but all get a 2016 upgrade. The most exciting moment in the film sonically comes during the end credits. I’ll say no more and you’ll get a kick out of it when you get there.
The special effects are, obviously, some of the best we will be seeing during the summer tentpole season. The technology invented for the first film has been pushed forwards and there are genuine moments in ‘Out of the Shadow’s’ where I had to remind myself that the lead characters were not live-action or animatronic. Krang is very well rendered, much like his voice there are echoes of the past but not carbon copies. The scale of the effects in the film again step up from the first film in the series. Taking the place of the journey down a snowcapped mountain from that first film is this time a fight on river rapids involving a tank. It takes the action a step forwards without simply repeating what has previously worked.
The fight sequences are also a good step up, the martial arts are improved and Casey Jones brings some different moments to those sequences. As do Beebop and Rocksteady.
If I had any major complaints about this will it would be that it is a little overstuffed. I wouldn’t have wanted the film to run longer but it would have been nice to spend some more time with Splinter who is barely a cameo in ‘Out of the Shadows’. Similarly April O’Neil takes a little backseat after being such a heavy focus in ‘TMNT’.
The audience was a great mixture of kids, families, clear comic book fans and those just intrigued by what the film would be and at the end there was a round of applause which is unusual for UK audiences. I wouldn’t go in to this film expecting to see a pure-comic book ‘TMNT’ adaption. If you are hoping for something that settles for the middle ground between various different incarnations of the heroes then you are in for an enjoyable couple of hours.
Checkout of the trailer for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ in the player below: