‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ Sticks to the Source Material… that’s not always a good thing

I get a lot of crap because I didn’t trash 2014’s Ninja Turtles reboot. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t great, it was kind of frustrating, and it most definitely will never go down as a favorite in my book, but for the couple of hours I was watching it, I enjoyed it.

I can’t really justify it or quantify it. I know that, as far as movies go, it was not great or even that well made, but it was still a lot of fun in my eyes and I really think that, when it comes down to trashing it, a lot of people get an unnecessary hate jones and go off on it without rhyme or reason. For a while, this puzzled me until I figured it out.

I didn’t grow up with the cartoon.

Sure, I’ve seen the cartoon and I appreciate it. I watched the original live action movie and liked 1½ out of three of them. I even enjoy the new series on occasion… but I didn’t grow up watching them. I didn’t buy the action figures. They were not a part of my childhood.

Maybe, perhaps… that’s why I’m a touch more levelheaded in my opinions of these movies than you are. You see? I’m not the problem here… you are.

In all seriousness, I don’t have a lot of nostalgic baggage and, so, my TMNT experience isn’t going to be full of grumbling because that looks different or that guy isn’t acting like I think he should or that’s not where that goes. I take it at face value and, at face value… I really enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

But it was not great.

So, a year after Shredder fell off a skyscraper and hit the ground in a crater (he got better), Shredder escapes from prison thanks to a teleporter and accidentally meets an alien called Krang who wants to team up to conquer the world. Thanks to an alien goop that Krang gives him, Shredder turns two thugs called Beebop and Rocksteady into mutants and sets about stealing pieces of an alien devise to bring Krang to our world.

Also, there are mutant teenage turtle ninjas.

My impression is that I just watched a live-action cartoon which is something that both works for the turtles and against them. The action sequences, for example, are very well done and deserve recognition and props for their inventiveness. The freeway chase, the plane sequence, and the Technodrome assembly were a lot of fun and I had fun watching them. What’s more, the movie had a frantic pace that kept things from getting too boring if something wasn’t working.

Unfortunately, this frantic pace was a liability in some cases. There was no depth in things that should have had depth — Krang’s introduction, for example, was extremely weak and glossed over to the point that I honestly couldn’t take him seriously as a villain. The movie’s insistence on treating him like a cartoon character didn’t help things either and seriously neutered what should have been the movie’s Big Bad.

Perhaps it’s just me – and I touched on this during my 2014 review – but I really like how they have differentiated the turtles in the reboot and, here, it looks like they’ve gone even further. Not only do the turtles look physically different this time around, but it also looks like they’ve been modified further. Donnie looks thinner, Mikey looks smaller, Raphael looks bigger and more BA. The best parts of the movie, in my humble and mostly correct opinion, revolved around the turtles just being brothers – something that was missing from the first movie and, instead of falling into their old stereotypes (Raph the jerk, Mikey the idiot, Donnie the brain, and Leo the horrible leader), they are allowed to actually grow. Here, when Raphael is a jerk, you actually understand why he’s a jerk and can sympathize with him. Mikey, often dismissed as a comic fool, actually has some pretty blink-and-you-miss-’em heavy moments when he’s called a monster. I like how, instead of Raphael stomping off like an overgrown baby, you instead have the brothers separating and ganging up on each other. It’s a smidgen of good writing, by God, and it deserves to be recognized.

While the turtles are a plus, the humans are a huge minus. Folks, Megan Fox is just… terrible at everything except being pretty. During the entire movie, she appears uninterested and half asleep. I mean, for goodness sake, she plays a reporter who can’t even read a news report without droning like an oscillating fan.

Stephen Amell isn’t that much better. Not only does he contribute pathetically little to the plot as a whole, but his delivery of lines is odd to say the least. Unlike Fox, he looks and sounds like he wants to be there, but has no idea what to do. He just seems elated to escape the brooding tedium of Arrow that he’s like a happy lost puppy on the street trying to please everyone and it doesn’t work.

At least Will Arnett is fun.

As with the first movie, there are things that work and things that don’t but, this time around, more things work and less don’t. This is by no means an award-winning movie nor is it top-ten or twenty or thirty material, but for what it is, it’s fun. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows sticks close to the source material, has no problem being a live-action cartoon and, when so many movies actually seem embarrassed by the source material… this is surprisingly refreshing and a sugar-induced joy.

It’s fun. Stupid, but fun.

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