Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

(PG) Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney

The heroes-in-a-half-shell were never meant to be taken too seriously. Throughout their tenure in the realms of comic books, cinema and TV, these reptilian brothers have captured the hearts of multiple generations as cult crime-fighting figures. They made their first venture onto the big screen in the early 1990s, but then went dormant for many years. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returned in 2007 with a full-length animated feature but it wasn’t until a remastered outing in 2014 that they made something of a notable comeback. That big-budget, live-action origin story turned out to be an enjoyable but flawed CGI adventure. The franchise reboot became a world-wide hit and it did not take too long for a sequel to be commissioned … and, finally for Turtle fans, it has arrived.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is helmed by director Dave Green (Earth to Echo). He honours the nostalgic tradition of the turtle siblings and re-introduces some of the more whimsical elements of the parallel New York City they live in. And his decision to do this does work, surprisingly. Not that Out of the Shadows is anywhere near to representing ground-breaking cinema, but, come on, dude, is it really supposed to be? Green brings back Shredder (Brian Tee) and his minions, with the assistance of mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Through their evil partnership, Stockman is able to create Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) — the infamous rhinoceros and warthog henchmen from the back catalogue of Turtles comics. Bebop and Rocksteady are swiftly brought in to assist Shedder in his goal of global domination. Then, to add to the ridiculous mix within this turtle adventure, audiences are introduced to one of the most grotesque and laughable adversaries in comic-book history,  Krang (Brad Garrett).

But while all of that may sound like a mess, Green does deliver an entertaining journey out of it.

In this era, we almost can take for granted the high quality of the computer-generated creatures we see in movies, but it would be wrong to not acknowledge the incredible effects in this sequel. The CGI team and the turtles are what really save this film on multiple levels. Understandably, CGI cannot do all the heavy lifting, but these characters are so believable it is easy to think that they actually exist in some form of reality. What gives life to these state-of-the-art special effects is the scripting for the turtles. The overall script is predictable and anaemic, but the dialogue between the turtle brothers makes for good fun. Despite their size, they are able to expose their teenage angst. They have superhero powers, but they still work within the realm of teenaged boys who are finding their feet in the world. When the turtles are on the screen, things make sense and make for an enjoyable experience. However, these positives magnify the weaknesses of the film.

The flaws come in the form of the human element. Similar to the first outing in this franchise reboot, most of the human cast is relegated to weak scripting, prat falls, exposed body parts and caricatures. In a film like Out of the Shadows, the expectation for excellent scripting or strong performances from the support cast might be a stretch. Yet, with the comedic talent pool of Will Arnett (The Lego Movie), Tyler Perry and the dramatic inclusion of the Arrow’s Stephen Amell, you will scratch your head about why they were not more effectively utilised in their roles. Megan Fox (Transformers) provides the eye-candy for the film, but little else to support the action. It is unfortunate that amid the preposterous components, Dave Green did not capitalise on the talent pool he has. They don’t get enough to work with, to then lift this production above the forgettable and predictable. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows proves to be for the fans of the series. It is better than the 2014 effort but fails to stand up against the multitude of other superhero-inspired films on the market.

Was it fun? Sure. Did it stay true to the original Turtle Power story? Pretty much. What the producers need to determine for the next outing, though, is whether they want to fully embrace the most ridiculous direction — or consider adding some depth to the story, to provide something more valuable for the viewer.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

The whole film is centred on the theme of identity. What was refreshing was seeing the Turtles come to realise they should be satisfied with who they are — and to make the most of the lives they have been given. This is something that is addressed throughout the Bible. Ultimately, do you find your identity in the world — or in Christ? A question worth pondering.

  1. Is it wrong to have heroes?  (John 3:16-17, Romans 12:17-21)
  2. What does the Bible have to say about identity? (Genesis 1:27, 1 Peter 2:9)
  3. Can mankind’s hearts change from evil to good? (2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Timothy 2:21)

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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