Main cast: Megan Fox (April O’Neil), Stephen Amell (Casey Jones), Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Will Arnett (Fenwick), Tony Shalhoub (Splinter), Brian Tee (Shredder), Tyler Perry (Dr Baxter Stockman), Gary Anthony Williams (Bebop), Sheamus (Rocksteady), Brad Garrett (General Krang), and Laura Linney (Police Chief Rebecca Vincent)
Director: Dave Green
Now this is a pleasant surprise. A year has passed since the events in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and our four turtle heroes are still doing their thing, taking down villains and trying to be fun-loving teens whenever possible, although they have to stick in the “shadows” to do all this. April’s photographer buddy Fenwick takes credit for taking down Shredder – a necessity to explain much of the events in the previous movie to the authorities – and as Falcon, he is enjoying the limelight as a superhero. The turtles occasional chaff at this, and I can’t blame them.
The plot thickens when April discovers that Dr Baxter Stockman is actually a loyal minion of Shredder, and the man is planning a daring breakout with the remnants of Shredder’s Foot Clan to break Shredder out of captivity. The turtles show up, naturally, to spoil the fun, but Shredder managers to escape nonetheless using a teleportation device assembled by Baxter. Things don’t go as planned, however, as Shredder is sent instead to the brain-like alien General Krang’s place. Krang explains that the teleportation device is actually one part of Krang’s grand device, sent to Earth to allow Krang to open a portal and come to Earth. Guess what Krang wants to do once he gets here. Shredder is like, okay, they are partners now. Krang tells him to retrieve two more pieces of his grand portal-making device, and have Baxter assemble everything to activate the portal. He also offers Shredder some purple goo serum that the ninja dude uses to transform two idiots Bebop and Rocksteady into mutated henchmen.
Casey Jones, the guy in the police truck that was carrying Shredder when the man broke out, wants to recapture Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady, and he eventually meets April, who in turn leads him to the turtles. But can their powers combined – oops, wrong show – anyway, can they work together to stop Shredder and Krang?
Some minor internal drama arises when Donatello, our nerdy turtle, discovers that the purple goo can also be used to transform them to humans… allowing them to finally have a chance to fit in with the world outside their sewer HQ. Leonardo is against the notion, but Michelangelo and Raphael beg to differ, although Raphael seems mad mostly because Leonardo wants to make this big decision without consulting the others.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is an unexpectedly fun movie. Unexpectedly, because of how dire the previous movie was. This one is like an apology, and it can even be seen as a reboot of sorts, as aside from the inevitable references of Shredder being defeated by our heroes in a half-shell in the previous film, this one can stand alone perfectly. More importantly, everything seems overhauled. Instead of being violent and gritty, this one is campy, ridiculous and brimming with irreverent humor. It’s closer to the tone and spirit of the original comics and cartoon series, in other words, and they even bring Krang and Casey Jones in here for good measure. Also, to my pleasant delight, April O’Neil gets a huge intelligence upgrade here – while she understandably isn’t some kung-fu ninja babe, she can actually do her disguise-and-investigation things here without flailing like an idiot like she did in the previous movie. Megan Fox also shows some PG-13 cleavage for ample measure. Meanwhile, Michelangelo, Beebop, and Rocksteady all steal the show by being just so hilarious and dumb (in a good way).
Really, this is like a new movie. They even switched out the actors that played Leonardo and Shredder in the previous movie, and I bet most people won’t notice the difference. Okay, I didn’t until I examined the credits.
There are many chases and fights and crashes, including a truly insane scene involve a crashing plane. Bad science is everywhere, but the movie is so unapologetic and audacious in being so ridiculous that the end result is a sublime kind of fun. Even better, this movie doesn’t bother with too much internal drama or characterization. The whole thing is basically loud, flashy, and crazy CGI action scenes piled on one after another, only this pile-on is done well enough to be oh so entertaining rather than tedious or monotonous. As a result, this movie is a welcome change after all the vapid and tedious deep angst and brooding that plague many superhero movies of late. This one just wants to show things blowing up and getting torn apart, and bless it, it does all these things so well.
The only downsides here are that Stephen Amell is showing here what a boring one-note actor he can be, while Laura Linney really should have a nice long talk with her plastic surgeon on the things done to her face that make her expression to be frozen in what seems like perpetual shock. Oh, and the villains get defeated way too easily after all the build up. Strangely enough, the grand showdown with the big bad is the only thing done better in the previous movie.
Still, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is such an upgrade in so many ways that I am more than happy to embrace the vibes of this movie. If future movies manage to stay on a similar path in such an entertaining manner, bring on the cowabunga. My body is ready.