So, the first Michael Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie kind of got a lot of flack. To be fair, though, it’s not actually directed by Michael Bay, it’s just produced, so it’s not as awful of a live action remake as The Transformers movies are, it was however quite a departure from what people think of when they think Ninja Turtles.
The second film in this series is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and it seems to be the answer to what a lot of people wanted and expected from the first movie. Where TMNT is an updated modern take on the basic Turtles vs The Foot idea, Out of the Shadows is a very blatant tribute and Nostalgia fest for the original 80s TMNT cartoon show. It actually kind of feels a little sad with just how blatant of a tribute it is.
Rocksteady and Bebop? Check!
The Turtle Van? Check!
Baxter Stockman? Check!
The Technodrom? Check!
Also, unlike a lot of remakes and updates, things stay fairly true to the original, or at least, much more aligned with the spirit of the original. Rocksteady and Bebop for example, are pretty unmistakable. Krang is a little weird but still very much is obviously Krang with his goofy robot body. Baxter Stockman follows the original comic and modern show versions of being African American instead of a goofy white guy with orange hair, but he’s still a goofy scientist.
This movie very much feels like a response to the “This isn’t the Turtles I remember” complaints of the first TMNT film.
Honestly, I kind of feels like it makes the film better. I didn’t hate the original TMNT, but the nostalgia level of Out of the Shadows definitely does it’s job.
The biggest fault of this film is the some what flimsy plot. It’s not awful, but there’s quite a few “what” moments, one of them is a pretty crucial hinge to everything. Early on in the film, The Shredder is rescued by The Foot, amidst the rescue, he is suddenly kidnapped by Krang, who wants to recruit The Shredder to gather several McGuffin devices in order to open a portal from Dimension X so Krang can take over The Earth. Very Classic 80s Cartoon to be sure. It’s just very, sudden, however with zero build up. It’s just suddenly “Hey, giant brain man, let’s work together”. It kind of feels like it could have been massaged a little bit on the flow.
There’s also a subplot involving Casey Jones tracking down Rocksteady and Bebop which feels pretty superfluous to the everything. It seems to exist entirely so create an excuse to throw Casey Jones into the movie. He basically fills the role of Vernon from the first TMNT, someone for April O’Neal to pal around with when she isn’t hanging out with the turtles.
There’s also an ooze subplot that goes nowhere after Rocksteady and Bebop become a thing. That is, it’s there to mutate Rocksteady and Bebop, which is fine, but then it lingers around a bit until the end where a choice is made, one that never really felt like it had any appropriate build up to actually give it any meaningful impact.
The real bottom line is that the plot, or plots aren’t awful ideas, it’s more that there’s just too much crammed into one film, and as a result, nothing gets fleshed out to any meaningful level. Maybe I’m looking for too much from a movie about giant martial artist turtles, but I can’t help but think that maybe, splitting things out a across a couple of films would have helped solidify everything a bit better, giving us something much better than what we got. Maybe run with Shredder being rescued and meeting with a shadowy unknown, creating Bebop and Rocksteady and introducing Casey Jones as more of an antagonist and foil, then keeping Krang and the idea of being forced to live “In the Shadows” as a plot for a third connected film.