Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows Is Shellsational?

It was with great trepidation that I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. I still hadn’t seen the first in the reboot series since nothing about it seemed positive. If you make a TMNT movie that I still won’t watch even after I can borrow it from my library, then you’ve done something very wrong. (When you Google “Ace Duck,” as I’m sure many of you do frequently, the eighth item that comes up is an article written by me. This is why I can never be rehabilitated as a productive member of human society. My pyramid will one day have this fun fact inscribed upon it.) I was all set to ignore its sequel too, but I wound up being encouraged the trailers. Since I had exactly six Earth dollars in my wallet, I took it as a sign to go to the matinee. Much to my surprise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is actually pretty good even if its title is too long.

I saw Micahael Bay’s first two Transformers movies for free & still think I overpaid, so I was very leery about him producing this movie. Fortunately it’s a far superior product. I can differentiate between the CGI leads by both designs & personality! The human characters don’t overshadow them! I can follow what’s happening in the action sequences! The offensive attempts at comedic relief were absent! It doesn’t drag on! Bravo to director Dave Green for making a fun movie that feels like a TMNT film!

Luckily for me, this sequel is made so that you needn’t have seen the first one if you already know how the Ninja Turtles came to be. I’ve been told the last movie was an unnecessary origin story told horribly, so they really should’ve just started with this one. It has new things that fans have wanted to see on the silver screen for years done well. All you need to know is that cameraman Vernon Fenwick took credit for defeating the Shredder to avoid revealing the turtle teens’ existence. I don’t understand why April wouldn’t get a share of the laurels too, other than it cramping Will Arnett’s unparalleled smarm. Also, only Michelangelo has a flying rocket skateboard, which you’d think would be standard issue.

It took me a while to warm up to the designs of the titular terrapins though.  I appreciated that each got more wardrobe personality beyond bandanna color, but they still looked too ogre-ish. I don’t see the point of putting pants on them since their ginormous NSFW genitalia were retracted into their shells in previous iterations. (The nubbins in the original comics were tails.) For them to wear trousers, their carapaces have to awkwardly hover behind their butts. Even stranger is that their ventral muscles meld directly into their plastrons. Not only is it visually off-putting, it makes it seem like they shouldn’t logistically be able to to tuck their heads into their shells. Give me Jim Henson Workshop suits any day of the week!

The clear highlights of the movie were Bebop & Rocksteady. They were what got me to see the movie in the cinema in the first place, & they didn’t disappoint! I’ve been waiting to see those two lovable lunkheads in a film since they were replaced in The Secret of the Ooze by Tokka & Rahzar. The movie adapts these dunderheads perfectly. Although their designs aren’t exact translations of the cartoon like this fan film, they look so much better than the fab four themselves. Gary Anthony Williams & Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly have such great chemistry & comedic timing as these nitwits. The Golden Globes & Oscars will be exposed as shams when these two aren’t even nominated.

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I’m not being sarcastic. Rocksteady & Bebop are a legitimutantly cute couple.

And here comes the SPOILERS!

The film does a good setting up most of the new faces. The Shredder meets Bebop & Rocksteady during a prison transfer being driven by Casey Jones. This leads into the Foot Clan ambushing the convoy with magnetic bombs. Apparently the Foot weren’t even ninja (or at least robots) in the last movie, which you expect would’ve been a given. So kudos to this movie for getting that obvious detail right & making them less archaic than Daredevil’s Hand. The Foot are in turn ambushed by the Turtle Van. It’s a great action sequence to start with to show it won’t be just greatest hits of Secret of the Ooze.

It gets much less elegant about introducing Krang. Baxter Stockman teleports Shredder out of the convoy, but Krang intercepts him in Dimension X. “I know all about you Shredder! You will gather the missing pieces of my transmat device so I can teleport the Technodrome to Earth & conquer your puny mudball!” “I trust you & want to be part of this plan, scarily aggressive alien I just met! Give me something to defeat the turtles?” “Take this purple mutagen ooze to make henchmen!” This is what happens when two screenwriters rush through dialogue to get to lunch. If Krang’s reassembled transmat is the only thing capable of breaching dimensional barriers, how does he beam Shredder in & out of Dimension X? Donatello later finds out Krang’s a baddie by instantly hacking the Technodrome because they gave up on organically inserting Utromian exposition.

Rocksteady & Bebop get mutated into a rhinoceros & warthog when the purple ooze unlocks the animals they’re primordially linked to. This is the biggest misconception about evolution next to disbelieving it. It makes all other depictions of their origins look peer reviewed. It does get us anthropomorphic R&B quicker, so it hardly hindered  my enjoyment. Somehow their  tattoos somehow remain intact. If they had to share a steel drum of spaghetti with meatballs, they would’ve had a Lady & the Tramp moment.

The plane to river battle was probably my favorite. Though after being stranded in a Brazilian jungle, the turtles  & their mutated rivals both rapidly return to NYC. It’s the weirdest transportation plot hole since the Joker escaped Lucius Fox’s penthouse with Batman waiting outside the door in The Dark Knight.  I’m pleased that that the movie wasn’t above giving them toyetic custom motorcycles,  however, unike more pretentious superhero movies.

April O’Neil gets introduced in a weird flirting & wardrobe theft scene that’s too skeevey for a kid’s film yet not titillating enough for adults to justify her objectification. It’s gratuitous in the sense that it doesn’t satisfy either demographic & could’ve easily been replaced by something less tacky. I had my reservations about Megan Fox in the role, but she does fine with what she’s given. Sadly Judith’s Hoag’s cameo was cut. I would’ve also accepted a Paige Turco cameo.

Elias Koteas remains the definitive Casey Jones, but Stephen Amell is acceptable as this version. His lighthearted take on the character made me wish the CW would quit insisting his Green Arrow be a brooding Batman clone. He drives a suspiciously fancy car for someone on a corrections officer’s salary.

Brian Tee cuts an intimidating figure as Shredder despite missing his bladed pauldrons & greaves. I would’ve liked him to wear his kabuto longer (ditto Casey’s iconic mask), but at least he had it. Surprisingly Shredder did more fighting in the cumbersome mech-suit of last movie than he does here in a streamlined outfit an actor could actually move in. Since this is Shredder’s fourth movie, however, I didn’t mind him taking a backseat to the new villains as much.

Brad Garrett’s decidedly non-nasal voice was jarring, but Krang was a surprisingly fun final boss battle. He could telekinetically summon modular weapons from the Technodrome into his robot body. (Unfortunately his action figure doesn’t mimic this feature.) All his robot body was missing was some brighter colors & the antenna dongle on top of its head, which was much more complete in the trailers. Krang himself is the right mix of brain & cephalopod.

Baxter Stockman’s trademark Mousers are a glaring omission. I’ll let is slide since Tyler Perry is so enthusiastic & the movie delivers so much TMNT fan service. There’s a really quick scene of Krang’s frozen captives aboard the Technodrome. It went too fast for me to see them clearly, but the Interwuzzle assures me there was at least a Triceraton plus possibly General Traag & Leatherhead. Now I really want a third movie featuring them!

After becoming addicted to the superlative Nickelodeon cartoon, it sounds wrong for Tony Shalhoub to voice Splinter instead of Hoon Lee. Sadly Karai is just there. I don’t even remember how she was defeated by two non-ninja. I was hoping Bebop wielded a giant power drill & Rocksteady a sledgehammer. In another missed opportunity, Dennis Duffy sells those nitwits cell phones instead of beepers.

This may not be the deepest film, but I resent reviewers claiming it has no value. There may be a schism amongst the siblings over whether they should use the purple mutagen to become human, but they don’t resort to collaterally catastrophic fights to settle it like some supposedly more mature superhero role models I could mention. They even ask for the NYPD’s assistance in thwarting Krang rather than rebelling against authority just because it exists. Leonardo learns a lesson about respecting & trusting his teammates with more grace than Batman typically shows in these fables. Bebop & Rocksteady show that unconditional friendship is magic. Contrariwise, Shredder & Krang demonstrate why needlessly betraying your allies is bad karma. After being tempted by the purple ooze, the turtles opt to destroy it. Compare this with Days of Future Past where Professor X & Beast are junkies for anti-mutant serum & X-Men: Apocalypse where Mystique is suddenly ashamed to show her blue face. The breezy TMNT remake-sequel is better at identity politics than the “serious” X-movies.

This isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch, but it’s still a fun diversion. It’s a shame that Paramount soured everyone on the rebooted series with the universally reviled previous movie. This movie’s dismal box office doesn’t bode well for more, but I’d be down for another Dave Green TMNT flick that learns from its missteps on the condition that Bebop & Rocksteady return.

A good indicator of whether I liked a movie is whether it inspires me to rush out & buy its action figures. Fortunately for my wallet, Playmates’s offerings are sub-par. On the upside, Bebop & Rocksteady look to be the best of the bunch though I am unsure which to buy. Do I want the ones that come with motorcycles (& inaccurate helmets that cover their adorable ears) or the 12″ versions? I’ll be repainting them anyway, but I’m just not sure whether it’s worth the effort to customize them ears & Bebop’s Mohawk in exchange for spiffy motorbikes. Or is it more worthwhile to get the big ones that take up more room? Or should I just settle for the basic editions?

It may be out of print, but I still have a handful of The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose. Since these ship from me directly, I could even deface them with my autograph for you! So if you’d like one, let me know.

COWABUNGA!

 

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