Directed by Dave Green
Written by Josh Applebaum and André Nemec
Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Sheamus (Stephen Farrelly), Gary Anthony Williams, Tony Shalhoub, and Brad Garrett
Runtime: 112 minutes
Nostalgia is a tricky thing. On one hand, we want to re-experience something that gave us joy when we were younger and on the other, fear it not being as good as we remember. When a franchise re-emerges, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have in the past several years, spawning a new animated TV show and now two live-action (more or less) feature films. The show is okay, but not in the same league as the original and the films, well…they’re awful for more reasons than just not living up to the originals (of which only one of the three made was any good at all). Two years after the darkness-soaked debacle of Teenage Mutant Turtles comes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and as bad as the first one was, this one manages to top it out of lazy and unimaginative writing, directing and acting.
The story is set one year after the events of the first film, with Vern (Will Arnett) taking all the credit for defeating Shredder (Brian Tee), which was the agreement he made with the Turtles (possibly to make up for them getting him fired from his job and destroying two news vans). April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is still a TV investigative reporter, trying to link tech-genius Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to the Foot Clan, Shredder’s gang of ninjas. The Turtles (Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Pete Ploszek as Leonardo, Alan Ritchson as Raphael, all doing the voices and motion capture, though the mocap could have been done by Brendan Byrd, who is listed on iMDB as an uncredited motion capture performer) are as restless as ever to be able to walk around on the surface and have their deeds be recognized by the public.
April uncovers information that Shredder will be broken out of police custody during a prisoner transfer and the Turtles go to try and prevent it. Incidentally, one of the prison guards is Casey Jones (Stephen Amell, TV’s Oliver Queen/Green Arrow). They fail, but witness Shredder being teleported. He is teleported by Dr. Stockman, but is intercepted by Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), a large brain in a robot from another dimension. He convinces Shredder to put together a dimensional portal that crashed on Earth long ago that will let him bring his Technodrome through and conquer the planet. Shredder agrees, thinking he would rule with Krang. Krang also gives Shredder an ooze that will mutate humans so the Turtles can be defeated and prevent them from foiling their plans. Shredder and Dr. Stockman use it on Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), two convicts that were in the prisoner transport with Shredder, making them into human/animal hybrids of a warthog and a rhinoceros respectively. Following his failure to prevent Shredder’s escape, Casey is put on unpaid leave by police chief Vincent (Laura Linney, clearly slumming) and decides to become a pseudo-vigilante and track down Rocksteady and Bebop by himself, while donning his hockey mask and stick.
It all goes on from there, getting more and more detailed and layered because the script, penned by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle writers Josh Applebaum and André Nemec, is all plot with no real story and absolutely no character development at all. There aren’t even any real characters, just people saying stuff. No one is clearly defined as a personality outside of any templated stuff they got from the comics and the cartoon(s). Everything that is done or said is done or said solely to advance the plot with no room for anything else. They spend the entire film meticulously inching the plot forward, devoting every minute of horrible dialogue to it and having every character explain everything they are doing and what’s happened up to then, as if this threadbare concept needs consistent explanation, as if it were 2001: A Space Odyssey or Inception or something equally complicated and vague. The truth is that it isn’t 1/100th as complex as any of them. Meet the Parents is more complex than this film. The whole thing just plods through its nearly two-hour runtime and the only real joy is when the credits roll because then you know you can leave.
The plodding is just as much the fault of director Dave Green, who previously directed the innocuously dull Earth to Echo. Green seems to have no sense of timing or pacing at all, making this an incredibly boring film. So boring, in fact, that my 12-year-old son, a boy smack-dab in the target demographic for the film, fell asleep during the film and continued to drift in and out of sleep for at least half of the film. When you can’t even entertain a kid that practically begged to see your film, you’ve got a big problem. Green doesn’t even try to distinguish himself from previous director Michael Bay or the previous film. All of the action is blurry (in 2D, where blur isn’t usually an issue in a competent film) and incoherent; the creature design is awful, ‘roiding out the Turtles as in the first film; and a general lack of understanding of how an entertaining film should be put together.
Not only does it copy the previous Turtles outing at the end, with the final fight scene practically indistinguishable from the first film, it blatantly robs images from The Avengers, with a portal above New York City and aliens and alien tech pouring through. One group goes to stop the alien while another group goes to shut down the portal. Sound familiar? The portal is even shut down by a stick being pushed into it!
On top of the lazy, literally scene-stealing writing and uninspired direction, the actors just seem bored out of their minds. Linney is here for some reason, be it a mortgage payment or the loss of a bet, but she clearly doesn’t want to be and Fox is entirely disinterested (even more so than usual) and there likely due to contractual obligation. Even Arnett seems like he’s somewhere else. The only one that seems to be enjoying himself is Amell, likely in part because this is his first feature film and possibly because he gets to spend time not scowling, which is how he spends nearly every minute he’s on screen on Arrow. He seems to get Jones, but his limited screen time isn’t enough to effect the film in any kind of positive way.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is just the latest in a long line of cash grabs from the childhoods of the people who are now parents of demographic-aged children. In an attempt to draw in both parent and child, they mine these properties, many of whose mines were exhausted long ago. Sometimes those films are at least entertaining, but they don’t even bother to try for that here. Nothing in this film will give you warm memories of your childhood (and it won’t ruin your childhood either. People who think that must not have had a very good childhood to begin with if a poor interpretation of something they liked then can destroy it) nor with it make you eager to see any probable sequels. Do yourself a favor and find the original cartoon on the internet and watch that for two hours instead of this movie. Your time will be better spent and you won’t be paying for your children to nap.