By Thomas Simpson
In 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles we saw the series undergo another reboot. Although the franchise underwent many refreshes on the small screen, Jonathan Liebesman’s film would be the first theatrical live action incarnation since 1993’s woeful Turtles in Time. Blending motion capture CGI with live-action performances, TMNT exceeded box office expectations and a sequel was greenlit given the eventual title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Dave Green would replace Liebesman in the director’s chair with Arrow’s Stephen Amell revealed to be playing fan favorite, Casey Jones.
A year has passed since the Turtles saved New York from the Shredder (Brian Tee) but not much has changed for our heroes. They still live in the shadows, fearful of not being accepted by the citizens they watch over. Instead they’ve allowed Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take the credit, which catapults him to super-celeb status. When the Shredder escapes custody, the Turtles must face their old foe who has teamed up with Krang (Brad Garrett), an alien who looks to enslave the world with his war machine, the Technodrome.
The amount of CGI featured in TMNT: Out of the Shadows makes calling it live action a little disingenuous. While the motion capture effects of the Turtles are impressive, the set pieces are so utterly cartoonish that it has the feel of a fully animated film. Green’s overuse of virtual camera angles present the action as a video game for much of the movie making it difficult to invest in due to the feeling of detachment.
The relationship between April (Megan Fox) and Casey (Stephen Amell) is as underdeveloped as the characters. Green appears to think that by having them share screen time is enough for their chemistry to smoulder. It isn’t. Not that TMNT: Out of the Shadows is intended to be a romantic tale, however the same issues plague the rest of the film. Shredder is never portrayed as a credible threat to the Turtles with the story lacking a villain for the most part. Krang is supposed to be the big evil here but his on-screen absence is notable. The Turtles have their hands fool with the footsoldiers and the introduction of fellow mutants Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus) but they lack a nemesis and as such there is no sense of danger.
Out of the Shadows is a peculiar family film in that it looks too dark for kids but offers little for older audiences. There is nothing unsuitable in the context of the film for younger viewers, but the overall tone and look of the film suggests otherwise.
There are many characters credited with the comic relief role but for all the attempts at humor the script offers little in the way of laughs. What should be an exciting and fun action comedy comes across as bland and dull.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.