Last week we had Alice Through the Looking Glass, a movie that seems like it should have been directed by Tim Burton, but wasn’t, and this week we have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to the first rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which seems like it should have been directed by Michael Bay like the first was. Instead we have relatively new director Dave Green to blame for this installment.
It’s been an indeterminate amount of time since the four turtle brothers defeated Shredder and his clan of ninjas saving New York. Now, Shredder is being transferred between prisons, the Foot clan attempts to break him out during the transfer, and it’s up to the Ninja Turtles to stop them, because obviously the police escort surrounding him aren’t equipped to. Through a series of events I won’t spoil here, the break out doesn’t go quite as planned, Shredder somehow meets a space alien named Krang, and Shredder and Krang agree to cooperate to destroy Earth. Why does Krang want to destroy Earth? Beats me. It’s never made clear why he cares about Earth or even knows about its existence at all. Why does Shredder agree to help? Because Krang asked nicely, I guess? Why do the turtles who feel the need to hide their existence from the world ride around in a glowing, transparent, gaudy garbage truck with arms that moves at race car speeds and shoots flames out the back?
The script of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the greatest calamnity to be seen here. The entire through line of the film is that something bad happens for no good reason whatsoever just so the heroes have something to do, then another bad thing happens for no reason to complicate things, and so on, until the end of the movie. Add to that the fact that even the solutions come out of nowhere and the film doesn’t even follow the rules that it sets up itself, let alone any conventional reality, and you just have a bunch of things that happen solely because they are neat to look at and nothing more.
It can be said that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ target audience is children. I don’t think this is necessarily the case since the people who loved the Turtles cartoons from the 90s are all adults now, but maybe they’re trying to get a new generation to love them, so let’s run with that premise for now. Even if 4 year-olds who are incapable of following a story are their target audience this film is still a tragedy based on the fact that there have already been quite a few films that do everything this film does in the flash and fun department and still have internally consistent story and positive messages released just this year already, let alone over the rest of this year and over the course of film history. Saying it’s a kids movie does not justify this movie’s total lack of consistency because there are so, so many kids movies that show it can be done and done really, really well.
Not everything about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (is it just me, or are movie titles getting longer and longer?) is a complete disaster. Aside from Megan Fox and Tyler Perry, neither of whom can act a lick on their best of days, the actors here really do make the best of a lousy script and director. The four guys who play the turtles them selves (Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, and Alan Ritchson) really do make them fun and distinct, Will Arnett actually adds a different angle to his usual clueless but hilarious character, Stephen Amell of Arrow fame seems to be having a ton of fun and gushes with charisma, and Laura Linney (how the heck did an actress of her caliber end up here?) nearly manages to sell the gross inconsistencies of her police chief character.
As to the visuals of the film, the special effects are well done for the most part, though a few cracks do show here and there, particularly with the non human characters that aren’t turtles, but the camera work was hideous. You really would think Michael Bay directed this movie with the number of quick cuts and tight zooms to hide the fact that nothing coherent is happening. Your visual focal points move faster than even the action does, so you are not able to focus on a thing throughout much of the film. This is entirely on purpose as the director knows that if he allows the audience to see what’s going on for even a second the entire illusion falls apart, and while this is a technique that is hardly confined to this movie (not by a long shot) it is one of filmdom’s most unforgivable sins. If you can’t keep suspension of disbelief without using visuals to confuse your audience, then you have a story that isn’t worth telling in the first place.
Obviously I don’t recommend Teenage Mutant Turtles: Out of the Shadows, even when it comes out on television as something to occupy your toddlers while you do something else. It’s downright insulting to adults and teaches children all the wrong lessons about what makes a good story making them settle for crap like this.
Rating: 3.0 out of 10 (and most of that because of the acting and it’s fun seeing turtles)