Movie Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
So the Turtles were back in theaters this summer…and very few people came. That’s kind of a shame.
Easy there internet, this isn’t going to be a resounding endorsement of the film…there’s plenty to pick at here…but at its core, this interpretation of the Turtles is probably the closest old fans of the late 80’s cartoon are ever going to get.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at times proves to be just as overly simple as the aforementioned cartoon, but also dares to incorporate elements from that cartoon that we’ve never seen in “live” action before. [Live is in quotes because this ends up being such a CGI fest that I’m really rather surprised that George Lucas’ name wasn’t in the credits. – Ed.] Sure, we’ve had evil mutants before, but this is the first time fans finally get to see Bebop and Rocksteady…and we’ve never seen any attempts at Krang before…and for the most part, they all work. There are certainly flaws, that we’ll get into later…but overall…yeah, I dug it.
Let’s just go ahead and go through the positives. First off, we actually kinda get to see what I’ll call ‘Casey Jones Begins’. In previous film adaptations, when we meet Casey, he’s already established as a vigilante…but we never really get to see why and how he comes to that decision. In this film, it’s certainly not a drawn out plot point, yet it gives us more of an origin than most other media interpretations of the character…so that’s one cookie. There are improvements from the last film: Shredder opted to tone it down on the excessive blades and Mikey dropped the really rather revolting attempts to hit on April…although if you check out that animated bit of ‘Scientifically Accurate Ninja Turtles’, maybe that’s a bad thing for April. [Really dude…really? Not only am I a bit nauseated by reading that but I’m pretty sure that’s going to kill our chances of gaining any traction on the internet. – Ed.] The biggest and best thing I can say about the film though is that it has this wonderful sense of fun that permeates damn near everything. It’s just such a powerful and driving force behind the film that it pushes you past the weak spots.
Which is good…because, ho boy. One lesson they DID NOT learn from the previous movie is not to copy from other movies. Last time, it was nearly the same plot as Amazing Spider-Man…the ‘I will shower a virus down on the city muahahahahaaaa’…this time they bite on to the whole ‘bad things coming from the portal in the sky’ trope…and they bite on hard. Sure, it makes sense for the story…with Krang coming to our world from Dimension X (not mentioned in the film though…they just say another dimension) and all that jazz…but how many ‘portal in the sky’ threats have we seen in movies lately? [Most Marvel films and, most recently, Suicide Squad spring to mind and likely others. Many…many others. Great, now I need a drink, thanks. – Ed.] Then there’s the ‘alliance for no reason’ between Krang and Shredder. It sounded something like this:
‘Hey, I’m coming to take over your planet.’
‘Give me a piece of the action and I’ll sign up…BECAUSE I’M EVIL.’
That’s it. Granted, with such a flimsy partnership, the eventual betrayal is instantly assumed…and happens like clockwork. And while about 70% of everything surrounding Bebop and Rocksteady is practically spot-on, the remaining 30% REALLY bugged the shit out of me. First, their names as humans? Bebop and Rocksteady. Sure, those might be nicknames or street names and I can get why they call each other by these names. That’s easy. But the police would refer to them by their birth names, the names of record…but no, they’re Bebop and Rocksteady. Sigh. Seriously, as writers, how hard is it to come up with a random name, huh? Look, back when I was trying to put together a novel, it really was kind of an easy process…either take last names from people that you know and then either use middle names as first names or variants/sounds-similar-to names. Hell, as a last resort, use phone books to randomly generate last names and/or first names and, if you really wanna go for broke, look at maps and use a city’s name as a last name. Like I said…NOT THAT HARD. Nope. Instead, apparently, there were two sets of parents that thought that Bebop and Rocksteady were adequate baby names. [Given how weird first names have gotten lately…this sadly doesn’t seem as odd or out of place as it should. – Ed.] The other thing about the Dense Duo…the explanation for their mutation is complete and utter crap. Dimension X Mutagen unlocking a connection to the animal world already within the subject’s DNA??? Yeah, I call sooooooo many levels of bullshit here. I mean, unless somewhere in their distant genetic pasts, Bebop and Rocksteady’s ancestors managed to fuck a warthog and a rhino respectively. [What is it with you and the bestiality today? – Ed.] Circling back to the plot, there is a subplot which fits the ‘gather the pieces of my instrument of ultimate doom quest’ trope…which we haven’t seen in a while but still falls squarely in the ‘pretty unoriginal’ department. While in said department, Steve Jablonsky’s score is, unfortunately, Standard Action Score #27. Look, I get that composers have their own styles, I can tell a Williams score from a Goldsmith score from an Elfman score…and Hans Zimmer and his ‘offspring’, of which Jablonsky is one of, all have sounds that, while not identical, definitely have a shared “BRRAAAAAAAM” to them. While Jablonsky’s score (fortunately) leaves out that overused note, it does sound EXTREMELY similar to his music for the Transformers series. Granted, it serves the story and the action well…but for any of you that pay attention to movie soundtracks [All 10 of you. – Ed.] this is going to be a bit of a disappointment.
Perhaps the best way to describe this film is comfort food with just the slightest of variations…like if someone added peas to your tuna and noodle casserole. It’s not terrible, and there’s a new little nugget here and there, but overall, it’s nothing new or spectacular, keeps you from being hungry and proves to be a recipe you can use for when just about anyone comes to visit. [Wanna put that in movie terms or are you just hell-bent on making everyone hungry? – Ed.] For every new thing offered by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, there’s at least two old things to counter it, but what keeps the movie afloat and worth watching is the overall sense of fun that is present for much of the film. In some respects, I guess you can say that the film knows what it is and what it has to do, doesn’t make any major missteps…but doesn’t venture too far into any sort of new territory either. Essentially, as I said before, this is cinematic comfort food.