It may sound cliché to say that if you love the Ninja Turtles, you’ll dig the aptly titled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”, but that’s a pretty apt final verdict to offer the sequel to their 2014 reboot. This is a sequel that betters its predecessor in nearly every regard, a sentiment shared by a friend of mine who absolutely detested the previous film – perhaps my other good friend (an equally devoted Turtles fan) who sat out the said reboot, might finally be won over as well!
Our beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are back for their newest adventure, with Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Alan Ritchson portraying our heroes via motion capture.
Megan Fox also returns as the Turtles’ journalist ally April O’Neill, while Brian Tee steps into the role of their sworn enemy and leader of the Foot Clan, Oroku Saki aka Shredder. Tony Shalhoub once again voices their mentor Splinter, with Danny Woodburn acting via motion capture, while Laura Linney portrays NYPD chief Rebecca Vincent and Will Arnett returns in the role of Vern Fenwick.
Many additional characters from the Turtles canon make their debut in the new series here, such as the Turtles hockey stick-wielding ally Casey Jones, played by Stephen Amell of “Arrow” fame, as well as Baxter Stockman played by Tyler Perry, Brittany Ishibashi in the role of Foot Clan ninja Karai, and Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus as Bebop and Rocksteady. Additionally, the Turtles will also contend with their most formidable foe yet in the form of the megalomaniacal alien Krang, played by Brad Garrett.
Following their defeat of Shredder and the Foot Clan in the previous film, the Ninja Turtles continue to remain in the shadows while fighting crime in New York City, with the help of their ally in the media, April O’Neill.
As Shredder is transported out of the city by a police convoy, the Foot Clan arrives to rescue their leader, with the Turtles intervening, though ultimately unsuccessfully. Shredder also busts out two other convicts, Bebop and Rocksteady, allowing his scientist ally Baxter Stockman to transform them into mutant animals to add to his army.
As the Turtles and April attempt to track Shredder down, they cross the path of NYPD beat cop and aspiring detective Casey Jones, who was with the convoy Shredder escaped from and is determined to bring Bebop and Rocksteady in.
In the midst of their mission to recapture Shredder, Donnie makes the discovery that the mutagen used to transform Bebop and Rocksteady could potentially make all of them human, putting the four brothers at odds with each other over whether to be accepted by mankind and no longer have to hide in the sewers or remain turtles and reveal themselves to the world.
Whether you loved or loathed the Turtles 2014 reboot, it’s clear within the first ten minutes that “Out of the Shadows” is a significant step up, both in what’s added to the new film and what’s retained from the original but given a spit polish this go around.
By far, the most improved upon aspect from the latter is Shredder, especially in the insanely over-the-top design of his samurai armour from last time (I confess, I walked out of the theater of the Turtles’ last adventure coming up with nicknames for the new Shredder such as “Edward Shredderhands” and “Shredimus Prime”).
For the sequel here, Shredder is considerably more humanized thanks to a more pragmatic suit of samurai armour and a fantastic villainous turn from Brian Tee. Known for his portrayal of Liu Kang in the second season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, you’ll believe that he could’ve easily been an equally dynamic Shang Tsung by the time the end credits roll – heck, even his villain plot is kind of similar to what Shang Tsung usually has in mind. With that being said, Tee’s otherwise excellent portrayal of Shredder doesn’t involve him throwing so much as a single punch for the entire film.
With that villainous discrepancy in mind, “Out of the Shadows” is nevertheless a relentlessly fast-paced action comedy. Possibly the most physically adept and shredded (no pun intended!) leading man on TV at the moment, Stephen Amell trades his bow and arrow for a puck and a hockey stick for his portrayal of Casey Jones. While his two big action scenes, rescuing April from a group of Foot Clan ninjas and his later battle with Bebop and Rocksteady, are a lot of fun, it’s testimony to his versatility that he shows how well he can do comedy here: literally the first words he says to the Turtles at the first meeting is a request that they not eat him and April!
The best action sequence in the film, however, is reserved for the Turtles themselves, a sky-dive into a plane piloted by Bebop and Rocksteady over the jungles of Brazil that completely outdoes the mountainside chase of the first film.
The Turtles’ final battle with Krang is basically 100% motion capture and CGI, but it comes with a greater sense of clarity and reality than the original due to the slightly but noticeably scaled down size and frame of the Turtles’ design this time – they still tower over April like NBA players, but like Shredder’s redesign, they’re humanized to a significantly greater degree than in the previous film, and in more ways than one.
Thematically speaking, this is arguably the strongest Turtles movie yet, with the dilemma our heroes face of whether to take a shot of the purple ooze and become human, becoming the driving force behind the entire film. It makes both the action and the comedy more potent due to how much it tests the Turtles’ unity. Really, who among us doesn’t love a good “What would YOU do if you were in this situation” scenario?
While not without its own set of faults -mainly Shredder being more of a background villain, and the underutilization of Splinter to an almost criminal degree- “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”should not be missed by the Turtles’ legions of fans around the world.
Both Shredder and the Turtles themselves are significantly refined from the last film, Stephen Amell makes an outstanding Casey Jones, and we get probably the best Bebop and Rocksteady we could’ve asked for. The honor for best moment in the new Turtles series still goes to the previous film’s hilarious elevator scene, but if Stan Lee is up for a non-Marvel cameo, I can think of a way to top that next time!
- In the 2014 film, Pete Ploszek portrayed Leo via motion capture while Johnny Knoxville provided the voice. In the sequel, Ploszek does both.
- Originally, the tagline of the film was “Half-Shell”, referencing the Turtles nickname “Heroes in a Half Shell”.
- Like Stephen Amell, Alan Ritchson has also portrayed a DC Comics character, specifically the role of Arthur Curry aka Aquaman on “Smallville”, which coincidentally is produced by the CW Television Network, the same network as “Arrow”!
- This is the first live-action Turtles movie to feature both Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady.