One criticism leveled at the various incarnations of Ninja Turtle movies that’s come down the sewer pipe over the years is that a lot of the material seen in the beloved, 1987 animated series simply wasn’t utilized. Obviously budget restrictions and rights issues are far more successful deterrents to man/animal hybrids and megalomaniacal space brains than a quartet of jacked-up amphibians twirling ninja weaponry, however even armed with this knowledge, fans were desperate to see the franchise’s extended cast take a bow on the silver screen. After the Michael Bay produced 2014 reboot accumulated enough dough at the box office to make enough pizza to rupture Michelangelo’s stomach lining, it seems that a sequel could finally introduce more of the Turtles foes and in 2016 that’s exactly what we got… and then some.
Two years after the Turtles thwarted the evil Shredder’s convoluted plan to hold New York to random, the four brothers still remain unsung heroes, lurking unseen in the sewers and striking out at evil doers like a quartet of poo-smelling Batmen. Leonardo, ever the stoic leader, forges on by the code of the ninja, but his brothers are tired of this life of pungent anonymity and wishes to walk around above ground like they weren’t hulking, green reptile men but the guys have to snap into action when they get word that Shredder (incarcerated and still surprisingly spritely after his multi storey plunge in the last movie) is planning his own jail break.
Teaming up with hugely irresponsible scientist Baxter Stockman in order to build a working teleporter to whizz him out from under the noses of his armoured convoy, Shredder somehow ends up in another dimension and makes a deal with cosmic warlord Krang, a giant alien brain who rides around in the torso of a chonky robot. Returning to earth, Shedder rallies his foot clan and recruits dopey thugs Bebop and Rocksteady to become a mutant warthog and rhino respectively in order to square up to his shelled nemesis’, but he needn’t have bothered as in fighting between our adolescent antagonists is threatening to tear the turtle teamwork apart. As the brothers split, reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vernon teams up with disgraced corrections officer turned hockey-themed vigilante Casey Jones in order to get to the bottom of the villain’s plot, but a revelation involving alien mutagen provided by Krang means that the Turtles might have a genuine shot at becoming human, something that threatens to drive an even bigger wedge between them.
Admittedly, Out Of The Shadows may not be the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie ever made, but it’s certainly the most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that’s ever been made; and it’s this frenzied desire of the filmmakers to fling as much of of the beloved animated series onto a cinema screen as they can that makes the movie initially so curiously watchable. It’s all here whether it makes sense or not and it’s suprisingly accurate – beastly brain Krang and his lumbering android ride is here, as are fan favourite hench-animals Bebop and Rocksteady (think if Dr. Moreau needed muscle for his loan sharking gig), but the film goes further to include mad scientist Baxter Stockman (no Brundlefly-esque transformation for him sadly), a half-hearted redux of Casey Jones, a fucking sweet manhole cover launching Turtle-Van and the Technodrome; Kang’s Death Star-style dreadnaught (it even has that damn giant eye on top). However, as legitimately cool it is to see all these characters finally in a film together, the result is, predictably, a movie that ricochets from scene to scene like someone jabbed a needle full of caffeine into the eyeball of Sonic The Hedgehog and just watched him go. Obviously, it’s the flesh and blood humans who come off second best with Megan Fox virtually having nothing to do for the second half of the movie after being made to do one of those creepy flirting-with-a-nerd scenes early on and Arrow’s Stephen Amell making almost no impact as Casey Jones 2.0 despite belting everyone he sees with a hokey stick. Tyler Perry manages to stand out, chiefly because you’re openly confused as to why Tyler Perry is in this movie, but not even Shredder (now played by a completely different actor in Brian Tee) can resist succumbing to the problems of the crowded cast and the plot even sees fit to bench him early just as the climatic battle is about to start leaving the CGI heavy climax devoid of anything but pixels.
For some, the movie is just gonna be too much and those with a distinct aversion to computer generated imagery will most likely develop hives as the relentlessly digital climax plays merry hell with your retinas. It’s certainly impressive; watch open mouthed as the Technodrome beams itself over to our world in pieces and then builds itself like some kind of LSD infused version of Tetris – but eventually you can’t help realise that you’re watching CGI heroes fight a CGI villain in a CGI arena that’s hovering over a CGI city in a live action movie and it soon starts to wear a little thin.
However, the film scrapes through thanks to the same reason the first one squeaked by and that’s the four main performances of the Turtles themselves; that and the fact that this film manages to have a stonking action scene two thirds of the way through that, while it doesn’t quite measure up to the break-neck mountain chase from the previous film, is still ridiculously huge as our heroes skydive from one plane to another, wreck and crash it while fighting Bebop and Rocksteady and then carry on their fight down a some roaring rapids in the middle of Brazil.
Bold but brainless, funny but flawed and energetic but ultimately empty, TMNT:OOTS bets the farm on going full animated series with it’s use of every single main character the show had to offer (no Mouser robots, really?) but unfortunately crapped out at the box office. So here is where the franchise stops for now as we await news of a future animated movie that apparently has Seth Rogen attached to it, but for all it’s goofy flaws (and ironically considering our leads are reptiles) one thing you can’t fault the film for is lack of scale.