Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Everyone’s favourite heroes in a half shell have charged back into theatres to save the planet from threats terrestrial and otherworldly alike in their latest cinematic escapade, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. This affectionate follow-up to the 2014 reboot draws from the franchise’s earliest animated incarnation to deliver a delightful nostalgia-laden adventure that is essentially the eighties cartoon come to life.
The plot picks up a year after the events of the first film as the fearless foursome are ensnared in a sinister scheme to enslave the earth with weaponry from another dimension. This sets the scene for the introduction of an assortment of iconic characters from Turtles mythology, all of whom are incorporated into the narrative very naturally.
Opening with a ludicrous but enlivening romp across the Manhattan skyline, there’s no shortage of exciting set-pieces to keep the momentum moving. The truck chase teased by the trailers is tremendous fun, while outlandish antics involving a plane and a tank are just as enjoyable. It all culminates in a climactic battle revolving around a technological terror that’s likely to leave long-time fans with smiles on their faces.
For viewers who grew up watching the original cartoon, their inner child should be thrilled by the fact that most of the set-pieces feel like they’re lifted right out of the show. The action is over the top, ridiculous and, above all else, relentlessly entertaining. Out of the Shadows openly embraces its absurdity and deserves praise for being so self-aware and unpretentious.
That isn’t to say the story is in any way shallow or devoid of emotion. Where this movie really excels is in how it develops the turtles themselves. The script does a fantastic job of fleshing them out as individuals, as well as exploring their relationships with one another. This affords the film a lot of depth and makes the titular protagonists very easy to invest in.
One particularly powerful scene features an instance in which the turtles are referred to as monsters. Mikey’s reaction to this assertion is absolutely heartrending. It demonstrates that even the most happy-go-lucky of these heroes is not without his vulnerable side and Noel Fisher plays it perfectly.
No one turtle steals the show though. The focus is split fairly evenly between all four siblings. Pete Ploszek impresses as Leo by successfully conveying both his maturity as the oldest brother and his frustration at having to lead such a dysfunctional team. This plus some admirably earnest exchanges with Splinter result in one of the most well-rounded renditions of Leonardo to date.
Alan Ritchson’s Raph is as impulsive as ever, making rash decisions that have unfortunate consequences. His proclivity for impetuousness doesn’t mean he always comes across as being in the wrong, he’s just obstructed by his lack of level-headedness. This gives the character a complexity that makes him extremely compelling.
Jeremy Howard is splendid as resident wiz kid Donatello, who is much more pivotal to the plot than he was in the previous movie. In a fitting homage to his animated analogue, Donny has a whole host of handy inventions at the ready and is basically the backbone of the team’s entire operation.
Characterisation aside, the four turtles look great too. Marvellous motion capture work provides the characters with amazingly expressive faces that make them appear all the more real.
The same is true of Shredder’s inept underlings, Bebop and Rocksteady. It’s wonderful to finally see these two bumbling buffoons brought to life on the big screen. Actors Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly capture the characters’ essences beautifully by bestowing them with a sort of childlike innocence, despite their nefarious nature.
They’re not the only villains who are very much in line with what eighties enthusiasts will remember either. Brad Garrett expertly channels Pat Fraley’s eccentric inflections as Krang. The deranged Dimension X despot is superbly rendered in every way.
Megan Fox does well headlining the human cast as April O’Neil. Stephen Amell’s cheery take on Casey Jones, on the other hand, is a little hit and miss. The Arrow actor isn’t unlikable in the role, it’s just disappointing that he doesn’t display much of the turbulent temperament for which the beloved vigilante is famous. He and April also join forces with Will Arnett’s Vern Fenwick for a couple of key sequences. The narcissistic cameraman spends most of his time taking credit for accomplishments that aren’t his own, which actually recalls his cowardly cartoon counterpart quite nicely.
Brian Tee endows Shredder with a magnificently maniacal demeanour. While old tin grin plays a substantial part, he could have been given a chance to showcase his combative skills a bit more considering how strikingly intense Tee is as the notorious antagonist. Unfortunately Brittany Ishibashi does nothing of note as Shredhead’s second-in-command Karai, but Tyler Perry is suitably insane as his personal scientist, Baxter Stockman.
Taking into account how charming most of the major players are though, what filmgoers have been given here is a well-intentioned tale that remains warm and riveting from start to finish. Adults who adored the cartoon as kids will get a kick out of all the nostalgic nods – up to and including the captivating end credits – and children will be enthralled by the lighthearted tone and colourful characters, meaning that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a treat for fans of all ages.
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