Thursday 9 June 2016

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is notable improvement over the first, but that wasn’t much of a challenge to begin with.

Ever since they made the transition from their original comic book form to animated cartoon in the late 80’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been treated like a license to print money. So, when the critically panned 2014 reboot went on to earn nearly half a billion dollars worldwide, a sequel was all but guaranteed.

Said sequel, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, sees the reptilian quartet forced to lurk beneath the streets of New York in fear of exposing themselves to the world. With plucky journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox) by their side, the four teens – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) – fight crime under the cover of darkness, but a dastardly plot by their arch-nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee) and an extra-terrestrial threat called Krang the Conqueror (Brad Garrett) soon forces the Turtles to step up to the plate and save the city once again.

Firstly, Out of the Shadows does signal a stark upturn in quality from the original film. A notable criticism of the 2014 reboot was that the Turtles themselves were overshadowed by Fox; thankfully, Out of the Shadows quite literally sees the foursome step into the limelight and take centre stage in their own film. We get to see more of their team dynamic and their individual quirks, an aspect that is bound to please fans.

Fox continues to feel woefully miscast as April and never seems to break free of the tight constraints (or do I mean costumes?) her character is lumbered with. In essence, her role is to deliver exposition and look good in jeans and a tank top. I’m not saying she doesn’t do those tasks well, I’m saying that it would be nice for April O’Neil, a reporter, to actually do some reporting. Arrow’s Stephen Amell swaps his hood and quiver for a hockey stick to play Casey Jones, a daring vigilante who teams up with the Turtles and endlessly flirts with April. Amell’s natural charm seeps through the corny dialogue to make his character a worthwhile addition to the ensemble.

But the addition of Casey isn’t where the slavish fan service ends. In essence, Out of the Shadows is a $140 million cartoon hopped up on a potent mixture of sugar and steroids. Every set piece is moulded to sell shit-tons of toys to hyperactive 12-year-olds. 

A car chase in the first act sees the Turtles piloting a neon-soaked garbage truck that shoots manhole covers from the front grille at ninjas driving supercars; it’s a sequence that practically begs to be converted into tiny Lego blocks and line the shelves at Target. Outlandish characters like Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) are plonked into the plot to further satisfy fans, but their obnoxious banter will test the patience of most.

Director Dave Green never does anything with the camera to excuse himself from being labelled a hired hand that was parachuted in by Paramount. A lot of the camerawork is choppy and frenetic, particularly during the finale where all manner of ugly CGI metalwork is flung across the screen. Aesthetically, the film shares a lot of DNA with Michael Bay’s Transformers series; every surface is polished and glossy and all the colours are vivid and garish. It’s boisterous, brash and guaranteed to keep kids hooked from start to finish, even if it feels like white noise to anyone old enough to graduate from high school. 

The Verdict: 5.5/10  

Out of the Shadows isn’t a great movie, that much is obvious; but it’s also unquestionably fun, especially if you lived and breathed Ninja Turtles back in the day, or if you have sons and daughters or nephews and nieces who do right now. Flippant yet forgettable, it’s a sugar rush that’ll leave kids buzzing but adults burnt out.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is in cinemas across Australia from today
This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.



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