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‘Turtles’ Step ‘Out Of The Shadows’ For An Improved Sequel (Movie Review)

tmnt shadows thumbThe turtles are back and actually better than ever. Sometimes you have to say something along the lines of, “if you didn’t like the first one then this will be no different,” but that really isn’t the case here. TMNT: Out of the Shadows has both packed itself with all sorts of new characters best known from their cartoon origins and done all it can to make the film more palatable for all audiences. The results are quite fun, granted you accept the CG-fest that you are in for.

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If it does come down to how willing you are to accept a film that is filled to the brim with special effects and computer generated characters, then there really isn’t much to do for you if the decision was made to see a film about 9ft tall turtles interacting with humans and practicing ninjutsu. For those who are on board, the immediate takeaway is how much more agreeable the turtles seem to be on screen visually. The first film introduced us to this new look for the turtles and they were pretty ugly. Whatever ILM went through to smooth things over (or perhaps we’re just more used to what we’re seeing) has worked, as the visual effects are quite impressive throughout this film.

Getting down to the plot, Out of the Shadows plays a lot like a cartoon come to life. We quickly establish the turtles and throw them into a story about how The Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes from prison with help from Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and gets involved with a plot to take over the world by joining forces with a creature from another dimension. This would be Commander Krang, voiced by Brad Garrett.

We need to talk about Krang. Best remembered from the 80s cartoon, Krang is a monstrous-looking creature that resembles a large piece of slimy, chewed up bubble gum. It is housed inside of a giant android and is smarter and more annoying than anyone. I could not contain myself during scenes involving Krang, because seeing it come to life was ridiculous in all the best of ways.

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Ridiculous is an easy way to describe this movie, but that is not a negative. Director Dave Green (Earth to Echo) and writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec are not creating fine art or even the best a summer blockbuster has to offer, but they do seem to get what is needed to make a live-action TMNT film work in the world of today. The effects are in overdrive and the film is stuffed with characters and plot, but it never really lets up in pace or becomes incomprehensible to follow.

For all the additions to really pack this sequel with value, it never becomes overcomplicated. Stephen Amell joins the cast as Casey Jones and he provides a welcome outsider view, while also working as a likable character. 25 years after disappointing fans with merely a false tease in TMNT: Secret of the Ooze, Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly) are finally on screen and they basically deliver the ludicrous villain element one would expect. In a year where a studio heavily relied on building an entire cinematic universe in one ‘versus’ film, it is impressive how simple Out of the Shadows manages to make it all look.

While the bar is clearly not very high to make a film like this all that successful and I am not beyond acknowledging how ridiculous the story really is (it amounts to chasing after a bunch of McGuffins and battling a big boss in the final, most epic level), it does get points for keeping the turtles important to the story and giving them personalities. This is where the 2014 film made some missteps, but Out of the Shadows seems to have a better understanding of how to contain its cartoony-ness at times in an effort to make sure we care about what is happening.

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As I’ve alluded to, the film is in no way perfect, though it is more than sufficient. I have a major issue with (of all things) the score by Steve Jablonsky, who seems to be working with the B-sides from his Transformers scores. I get the scale of a film like this, but a TMNT movie really doesn’t need a bombastic hero theme. There are plenty of other things I could dig into as well when it comes to the way this film throws exposition at us and the extended finale, but what does it matter when the film feels so alive and creative?

The action is consistently inventive and the interactions are a lot of fun. Even the human actors, which also include a returning Megan Fox and Will Arnett, do plenty to provide the film with a light-hearted tone. I mean, Laura Linney just has to be a huge Turtles fan, given how she hurls herself at scenes in an over-the-top manner fitting for the spirit of this film. It is all silly stuff, filled with effects (that will get nowhere near the praise they deserve), but it works about as well as it can for being the 5th attempt at making a live-action TMNT movie. It may lack some of the character-driven heart found in the original (and best) 1990 film, but this was a fun time at the movies.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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