Franchise films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows continue to work because of the large pre-existing fan bases continually feeding into them. Obviously, suspending disbelief isn’t hard for those of us that grew up watching, wearing and even playing Turtles related products. Large adolescent reptiles being raised by a rat under a watered-down version of the Bushido code doesn’t seem as strange as say, Trump becoming president. Most fans will find it impossible to suspend the disbelief of just how monumentally bad this iteration of the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) comes off.
Although not directly from Michael Bay, this film reeked of his bombastic, oversized reptilian wet dream. Every cell oozed testosterone and each frame rippled with unnecessarily muscular CGI. If the scene is not directly about men or masculinity, it is usually meant to be for them with its references and sexually suggestive imagery. Director Dave Green takes a big step forward career-wise, but a monumental regression as far as aesthetic choices. His charmingly minimalistic sci-fi Earth to Echo had more character than both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films combined. There was no sign of individuality on Green’s part because he felt more like an extension of Bay’s nightmarish vision. Every action or decision from Green feels like an echo of Bay’s directorial voice. Every element of it felt borrowed or overwhelmingly overused in earlier films. The best example is the climax of the film, where the city is under siege and all you can think of is how much it feels like the climactic battle in The Avengers, only with half-shelled heroes.
The only minimally redeeming message in this creativity consuming black hole involves self-acceptance and embracing what makes you different and an individual. Ironically, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows practices absolutely none of what it preaches, unless that gospel includes a constant bombardment of current cultural references in a vain attempt to appear relevant. By that point, any goodwill earned by the film was much too late. For most of you, the film would have lost you within the first 10 minutes after you see Megan Fox used as a sexual set piece, being forced to be dressed as a sexy librarian and then immediately change into a oversexualized school girl. The Michael Bay fan base, unfortunately, tends to thrive on over-masculinization or blatant female objection, but the rest of us aren’t so fortunate.
The writing team of Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec continue their childhood-crushing crusade with this sequel that proves to be worse than their first attempt at the franchise. Despite the names of the turtles, there is no renaissance in their character development. They remain hollow shells of the characters that are represented in the source material. No amount of pizza references or uses of “cowabunga” can hide the lazy story writing. The motivations are never made clear or even explored as you find the main villain from the previous film inexplicably falling into line as he briefly meets the new villain. This inciting factor seems to be thrown into the film just as a careless way of driving the story into a confrontation with the new baddie.
The action sequences and visuals this film attempts to live off of come off as stale regurgitations from the first film. Aside from the outrageous stunts and a few visual gags done just to feed into their unnecessary 3D gimmick, nothing new was introduced. Even most of the returning characters were underutilized, like Shredder and Splinter. The most noticeable being Shredder, who is given such a treatment that they completely underused Brian Tee’s full potential. The new characters received a just as bad treatment with Laura Linney and Stephen Amell stuck trying to bring life to the stereotype-ridden characters they are forced to portray. Tyler Perry using his best Steve Urkel impersonation isn’t even worth mentioning.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a 3D blunderbuss that shoots its frantic vision all over the place in hopes that it connects with the audience on some level. The only added depth to the film comes from the pointless 3D, but even then you might swear it engages another one of your senses based on how monumentally it stinks. Hold on to your childhood memories because the approach of this film franchise will make you question if TMNT is still worth your time.
Rating: ★ (1/10 stars)