TMNT: Out of the Shadows - Movie Review


* SPOILER-FREE *

On Sunday, May 22nd, I had the pleasure of attending the movie premiere of TMNT: Out of the Shadows, held at Madison Square Garden in NYC. With attendees ranging from A-list celebs (not me) to die-hard fans (me), the event was oozing with Turtle Power. It was a mutated carnival, with a bunch of activities, photo opps & free merch on-hand.



It was easy to get caught up in the buzz of excitement. The festivities were booming. My usual partner in crime, and movie premiere date, somehow listened to my suggestion of getting her face painted. She mutated into Michelangelo while I sadly stuffed my pockets with free swag. That's true love.


But, what about the film itself? That's the biggie here. Cheap parlor tricks can't mask a bad movie. We ventured inside the theater, took our seats & waited for the sequel to begin. After a surprise introduction by Vanilla Ice (along with a performance of Ninja Rap), the lights dimmed, the crowd exploded with thunderous cheers & the movie began.

When the credits rolled, what did I think? Let's look at the key elements of this mutant flick.


Out of the Shadows
The Turtles might be in the shadows, but in this sequel, they're totally in the spotlight. They're the primary focus of the film, the show-stealers of every scene. Each Turtle gets a decent amount of screen time too - no one is left out. The film does an incredible job of juggling all four characters, even when they're all in the same scene. This dynamic serves as the backbone of the film - giving it an enthusiastic boost of fun. 

No Helmet, No Problem
Shredder's most iconic trait is absent for most of Out of the Shadows - his iconic helmet and mask. Fans will be divided over this creative choice, but I liked it. It's an attempt to give our favorite villain more depth. Instead of looking at a lifeless hunk of metal, the audience gets a human face for a change. And this human face belongs to Brian Tee - who does a solid job portraying old chrome dome. The source material prevents Shredder from being anything more than one-note, but Tee's venomous performance is a refreshing spin on the 30+ year old character. In Out of the Shadows, we see Shredder in new situations thanks to ditching the constant use of a helmet and mask.

The Humans
April, Casey & Vernon all handle their respective characters well. Their interactions with the Turtles are some of the movie's best moments - especially Casey Jones. No actor could ever dethrone Elias Koteas' legendary performance as Casey in the 1990 film, and Out of the Shadows doesn't even try. Instead, Stephen Amell gives the character a fresh spin with a different brand of humor. I would never say he's better than Elias Koteas, but his performance is so different that the comparison seems trivial. Experience Casey for who he is in this movie and you'll enjoy it.

The Mutants
The main bad boys of this flick are Bebop & Rocksteady. Their humor is exactly what you'd expect - brainless stupidity. This formula has worked for decades, so why change it? The big difference in Out of the Shadows is that they aren't endearing like their original cartoon counterparts. These boneheads are pretty gross. They act like actual animals. Without giving too much away, there are a few scenes that will leave you saying "eww." An interesting take on our favorite warthog and rhino, but was it a needed one?

Krammed
Krang is one of the biggest draws for Out of the Shadows. Marketing has been purposely slim for the pink blob from Dimension X. Brief glimpses of the squishy dude have only drummed up more excitement. The good news is audiences will get a good look at this ugly guy throughout the movie. He has a decent amount of screen time and plenty of squirm-worthy close-ups. Unfortunately, his character seems crammed into the film. His introduction, evil motivations & allegiance with Shredder all seemed forced. Fans were clamoring to see Krang on the big screen, and many of them will walk away happy. But as a sucker for a good backstory and strong characters, Krang is underwhelming. He's only there as a visual, an ode to fans - not a driver of the story or an engaging presence.

Action Overload
Action-packed is a descriptor for most summer blockbusters. But Out of the Shadows is 112 minutes of pure octane. Don't get me wrong, I love a solid action sequence. But victims of motion sickness beware, this is one wild ride. The movie is like a juiced up, blockbuster version of The Blair Witch Project. The camera movement is relentless, swooping and shifting in (what seems like) every shot. It's often hard to gauge what's happening on-screen, especially towards the film's climax. When the ending credits eventually rolled, I was exhausted and in need of a nap. Am I just getting old? Maybe. But, the brother-sister duo sitting in front of me were often hiding their eyes and holding their ears during the big action scenes.


Conclusion
Out of the Shadows has heart. Although the film isn't perfect, it's clear the filmmakers followed an outline to ensure fan respect and appreciation. All the crucial boxes have been checked, but a couple storytelling basics slipped through the cracks. Some of these flaws can be chalked up to pacing - assuming everyone already knows these characters and their backstories, not needing to dive deeper into them. Despite these shortcomings, the movie has several scenes that I genuinely loved. Each Turtle's personality is at its truest form and it's bona fide awesome. Mikey brings his best jokes, Raphael isn't dumbed-down to a hothead, Donatello does more than "just machines," and without spoiling anything, Leonardo leads in a way that's one of my favorites to date. The story explores a few new elements in the Turtles universe and it's a surprising success. No, this movie isn't the holy grail of TMNT cinema, but it is pure Turtle Power.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows hits theaters June 3.


ALSO - I walked away from the premiere with a few fun pieces of junk - a sewer lid bean bag & a TMNT-branded pack of Tastycake Minis. I also had 2 movie-themed cans of Crush soda in my pockets, but alas, the security team forced me to toss those beauties. Too bad, but still worth it!

9 comments:

  1. Was there a post-credits scene?

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  2. Count me as one of the few that actually enjoyed the first flick. I didn't think there was enough Turtle action, but it was still fun. Having said that, this looks at least 15x as ridiculous, which means it might be an opening day viewing for me.

    Great review buddy!

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    1. Thanks! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well!

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Glad to hear this one is worth giving a shot. The visual excess of the previous film (everything from the action to costumes) sorta put me off, but I can't help but be excited about seeing Rocksteady and Bebop on the big screen. :)

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  5. Finally saw this today and had to check out your review! I thought this movie was a lot of fun. Nostalgia aside, it may actually be my favorite of the TMNT movies all around, but I'd have to let that sink in some more. After all, that rooftop Raph/Leo scene from the 2007 movie was pretty epic...

    The best part for me during Out of the Shadows was when I realized Bebop was Stevie's dad from Malcolm in the Middle.

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    1. I'm glad you brought up that rooftop scene from the 2007 flick. That movie (and especially that scene) don't get enough credit. I really enjoyed it at the time - lots of action & probably more ninja-like moves than any of the other films!

      And anyway we can connect Malcolm in the Middle to TMNT is a win.

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  6. Released on May 16, the movie would go on to gross $156,013,879 with three days still to go in the month. Paramount has already expressed interest in a third installment, but the franchise might have to move on without director Abrams, who's now focused on his new Star Wars film for Disney.moviebox app

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