Michael Bay and his explosion-filled blockbusters have been developing something of a reputation over the last decade for taking beloved childhood franchises and “rebooting” them into vapid, heartless interpretations of themselves. After flogging the lifeless corpse of Transformers into the ground, many were rightfully concerned that his studio’s production of the much loved eighties classic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, would end up going the same way.
Despite dividing critics, 2014’s first installment of this CGI-laden reimaging managed, for the most part, to placate the fans with its generally true-to-original take on the reptilian heroes. When it was announced that a whole new hoard of iconic characters would be joining the ensemble in this year’s inevitable sequel, Out of the Shadows, an unsurprising mixture of excitement and concern rippled through the internet.
Picking up a year on from the turtles’ heroic saving of New York from Shredder’s evil exploits, Out of the Shadows sees the team still hiding from the public eye, with geeky photographer Verne (Will Arnett) taking credit for the rescue.
Of course, as 2007’s TMNT proved, a turtles film without Shredder is nothing, so cue a jail break in which the infamous villain, along with newfound henchmen Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWF’s Seamus) escape to wreak havoc on the city and, for reasons most tenuous, bring Krang and his technodrome upon the world.
Now, let’s face it; if you’re going into a Turtles movie expecting something akin to Fellini, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. If, however, like this weary critic, you’re hoping for fun and silliness with a good kick of nostalgia, then Out of the Shadows will far from disappoint.
Because in this film, fan-service is key.
Bebop and Rocksteady, making their movie debut, are simply perfect (if perhaps occasionally plasticine-y in 3D), capturing their slobbish, pea-brained animated counterparts to a tee. Green Arrow Stephen Amell is fantastic as Casey Jones, managing to merge the duncey slacker of the comic books with the kick-ass hero of the animated series, and yet still make the iconic character very much his own. The turtle van, complete with manhole cover cannons, is a fan’s wet dream, and there’s even a mash-up of the original theme tune and Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ninja Rap’ over the closing credits.
The main let-down, however, is Krang (voiced perhaps somewhat too menacingly by Brad Garrett) who, rather unsurprisingly for a giant pink brain, just doesn’t quite work in the real world.
Megan Fox still doesn’t cut the mustard as April, being far too much the sex icon than the street-smart reporter we all know and love, and the turtles themselves are four broadly drawn character tropes as opposed to a team of believable heroes, but then again, weren’t they always?
Despite its rather nonsensical story and somewhat two-dimensional characters, Out of the Shadows is a damned good romp, with plenty of laughs, some great action sequences, and more loyalty to the fans than all hundred and twenty seven Transformers films put together. For the kids, it’s big, it’s loud and it’s fun, and for the dads that have been dutifully dragged along, there’s a grin-inducing trip down memory lane to be enjoyed.
And a darn sight better than the other mutant-based movie of this month…
Dir: Dave Green
Scr: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Laura Linney, Will Arnett, Brian Tee, Gary Anthony Williams, Seamus, Tyler Perry
Prd: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Scott Mednick, Galen Walker
DOP: Lula Carvalho
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Runtime: 112 mins
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is out now in cinemas nationwide.