The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a prime example of how not to reboot a beloved franchise. It was a weak attempt to shoehorn our heroes in a half shell into a lackluster and simplistic story that completely failed to capture the joy and humor of the comics, cartoons, and earlier films. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows shines more light on our pizza-eating turtle brothers, and while it’s substantially better than its predecessor, it still suffers from many of the same problems as before.
Not much has changed since Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael saved New York City from Eric Sacks and The Shredder. The turtles still live in hiding in the sewers below the city for fear of how people would react if they saw them. Because of this, Vern (Will Arnett) has agreed to take credit for defeating Shredder and has become somewhat of a celebrity as a result. April (Megan Fox) meanwhile is still chasing news stories with the help of Donatello’s tech. Her latest intel reveals that renowned scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is working with Shredder to free him from prison using an alien teleportation device. Once again, it’s up to the turtles (not Vern) to save the day and protect the city they call home from being destroyed when a new enemy, Commander Krang, comes out of the resulting intergalactic portal. This time, they’re going to need all the help they can get.
Out of the Shadows does a much better job at portraying the ninja turtles this time around. They finally seem to have their own individual character, and there are a few jokes that are actually funny, although there are still plenty that end up falling flat. The new additions to the cast are also hit and miss. Muscleheads Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus) are fun despite their idiotic behavior and feel like an accurate representation of their animated counterparts from the small screen.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said of Stephen Amell’s Casey Jones. While he excels as superhero Green Arrow on TV, Amell completely falls apart as one of the franchise's most iconic characters outside of the turtles. In the film, Jones is this cookie-cutter cop who aspires to make detective and rid the city of crime one bad guy at a time. He also happens to be good with a hockey stick. Every scene with him is just over-the-top cheesy, and not in the good pizza kinda way. Amell’s acting feels painfully forced and his dialogue will have you squirming in your seat. It’s simply bad all around.
The story isn’t that much better, either. Like the first film, it suffers from any real plot and simply goes through the motions of going from one action sequence to another. It doesn’t matter that Baxter Stockman already has an extraction machine for an alien substance he just found out about second earlier or how Vern’s so-called celebrity can make practically everyone forget how to do their jobs whenever he walks into a room. Basically it’s whatever’s the quickest way to get the story to move forward, regardless of how much it makes sense. It’s all rather ridiculous, even for TMNT standards.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is an improvement over the first film, but that was a fairly easy bar to jump over. The film handles its characters much better this time around, and the action is entertaining if you can get past its absurd storytelling devices. It’s like having a mediocre pizza; it’s not amazing, but it’s still pizza.