For a movie about turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows rarely feels… slow.
That said, the film also rarely feels good, so… it’s a kid’s movie. This sequel to the 2014 reboot is no worse than its predecessor, but it’s also no better. Catching up with the ragtag team of Buddhist tortoises one year later, we find that all of the credit for saving New York City from the wrath of Shredder has fallen to Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), leaving the adolescent mutants—and not the X-Men this time—feeling forlorn about being banished to the sewers. However, when journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox) discovers—quite unethically—that world-famous scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is hatching a plan to break Shredder out of prison, the pizza-loving ninjas must come to the rescue.
Out of the Shadows is structured in a very similar manner as the first film:
- Act 1 – I, the audience member, am in so much pain
- Act 2 – I can feel my eyes going numb
- Act 3 – Well, that was… somewhat watchable near the end
This is all because TMNT: Out of the Shadows is ridiculously campy, and not in a good way. Sometimes it feels like the movie is aware of its nature (after all, one can’t make a movie titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without at least a little self-awareness), but more often than not I felt like I was laughing at the film, rather than with it. Substituting silliness for substance can be effective for some films, but not when the creative decisions seem to be haphazard and without reason.
A large reason for this is the weird transition between CGI and live-action. Because the turtles are so aggressively digitized and the actors are not, the movie often feels like it is split in two. On one hand, there is a certain creative artifice that is brought by the turtles and their world. However, this artifice is broken whenever the film returns to the surface and is met by the poor cinematography the non-green characters have to deal with.
Again, as the movie is made for kids, maybe it’s too cruel to insult a film that was clearly not made for those trying to critically analyze it. However, maybe it’s also cruel to subject parents to a movie that is so anti-intelligence. A kid’s movie is a genre, not a free pass. From the dialogue and plot points I don’t even want to get into (and you don’t want to hear me talk about) to the incomprehensibly dumb details (calling a Cinco De Mayo parade Halloween and not even addressing it in an off-hand comment I MEAN I GUESS THE REGULAR SEASON OF BASKETBALL STARTS BY HALLOWEEN BUT THAT’S STILL JUST SO STUPID) that surround the film, nothing seems to make sense. Instead of inserting clever nods to the audience, the movie just adds dirty humor. It’s adult-oriented, but in a gross way. However, the biggest problem of all is just that the film isn’t fun.
Things do get better as the film progresses, but only to a certain level. Certain thematic elements help ground the film, but only to a certain point. An ethical dilemma helps push the turtles past the 1st dimension (ironic for a 3-D movie), which allows for a couple interesting moments. The last few action sequences are watchable, and there’s even some decent cross-cutting. Although the ending is a bit anticlimactic, it may leave the audience even feeling a little positive about the film. It’s a long slog to get to that point though.
I’m not sure how anybody would be able to watch these movies outside of a movie theatre. While there are a few compelling themes in the second act and a couple enjoyable action sequences in the third act, there is far too much tedium before we reach this point.
I suppose the best way to watch these movies is to gather a group of your friends and watch it with them. It’s hard to watch a bad movie alone, but it’s so much fun when you get to do it with friends. TMNT: Out of the Shadows is unmistakably a bad film. Watching it with your friends, you can make it through the cringe-worthy sequences by making fun of the movie. And for the few brief moments when the movie becomes watchable, you can enjoy it.