Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the follow-up to the 2014 TMNT reboot, but the sixth overall film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. As far as I’m concerned, it’s also the best of the lot. Sure, like any TMNT movie, it’s not exactly great filmmaking, and you can easily point to its many flaws. But it’s also the most “Ninja Turtles” of any of the Ninja Turtles movies yet made. If you’re a fan of the franchise, young or old, Out of the Shadows is hard to top in terms of fan service.
Let’s put it this way, after five previous films, two reboots, and twenty-six years after the Ninja Turtles’ first big screen outing, Out of the Shadows finally brought characters such as Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman to the TMNT movie universe. It also marks the return of Casey Jones, it has the Technodrome in it, and it captures the feeling of the franchise better than any of its predecessors.
Again, Out of the Shadows isn’t what I would traditionally label as a “good movie,”and like any of the more enjoyable Ninja Turtles films, it’s a guilty pleasure. But it’s also the one I feel the least guilty for enjoying, because as a TMNT fan, Out of the Shadows is a fun ride.
The story here is that the Shredder (Brian Tee) is being transferred to a maximum security prison, but is planning a breakout via (wait for it) a teleportation device discovered by the mad scientist, Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). The Ninja Turtles Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) discover this news with the help of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), and try to prevent the Shredder from escaping.
Try as the Turtles (and the cops) may, the Foot Clan manages to successfully retrieve Shredder as well as two criminals being transferred alongside him, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly). Shredder’s teleportation is intercepted by Krang (Brad Garrett), a brain-like alien from another dimension. Krang has plans to dominate the Earth, but needs Shredder’s help to do so. Krang has been trapped in this other dimension, and informs Shredder that Stockman’s teleportation device is merely a piece of one of Krang’s inventions, with another two pieces being lost on Earth some time ago. Krang and Shredder form an alliance, with Krang sending Shredder back to Earth to retrieve the remaining pieces of the device to open a portal large enough for Krang’s moving battle fortress, the Technodrome, to make its way to Earth for Krang to declare war on the human race.
Shredder recruits Bebop and Rocksteady to aide him in this mission and, using a canister of alien mutagen given to him by Krang, transforms the two bumbling criminals into a mutant warthog (Bebop) and rhinoceros (Rocksteady) to combat the Turtles.
Naturally, the four Ninja Turtles, as well as Master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), April O’Neil and cop-turned vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) try to prevent the schemes of the small army of villains.
There are also some notable sub-plots this time around, with the turtles discovering that the alien mutagen could hold the power to turn them human, allowing them to live life outside of the sewers and be accepted by the people of New York, which actually gives the film some heart. There’s also a fun side-story revolving around Vern (Will Arnett) – April’s former cameraman – gaining celebrity status, as the Turtles allowed him to take full credit for defeating Shredder in the events of the first movie, as to keep their own identities secret.
Look, there’s a lot going on in the movie. When the story isn’t gobbledygook, it’s nothing short of insane. But again, if you’re a TMNT fan, it’s a whole lot of fun. Out of the Shadows may be nonsense when it comes to traditional storytelling, but it succeeds with flying colors in being a love letter to all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
If I have to be serious and point out the obvious issues with the story, the sub-plot involving the Turtles’ yearning to be accepted – while well-intentioned – is a bit underdeveloped, with this narrative thread being forgotten for lengthy periods at a time before being brought up again. And of course, with so many characters, most of them don’t get a whole lot to work with.
Perhaps a notable quibble in continuity is that Erick Sacks, the evil businessman who aided Shredder in the 2014 original, is nowhere to be found, not even being mentioned in dialogue. Sure, he wasn’t a great villain, but he played a large enough role in the first film that his nonexistence in this sequel is noticeable.
Maybe I’m just overthinking things a bit, however. This is a Ninja Turtles movie after all, it isn’t exactly trying to tell a compelling story. It’s just here to have a good time. If you’re a fan of the franchise, TMNT: Out of the Shadows greatly succeeds.
Fans who have grown up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or young fans who are currently growing up with them, should have a really fun time. It’s obviously a flawed movie, not just in narrative, but even some of the jokes are a bit juvenile (do all kids’ movies that don’t come from Disney really need fart jokes?). And being a sequel to the 2014 film, the Turtles unfortunately keep their ugly character designs from that film (Bebop and Rocksteady’s animal forms are more humorous and fun to look at, however).
There’s a lot to gripe about if you’re looking at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows from a more analytical view. But for TMNT fans, it spoon-feeds them almost every detail they’ve asked for from Ninja Turtles movies for the better part of three decades. It includes the majority of the franchises most iconic characters, has some surprisingly enjoyable action scenes, and the actors seem to be having a fun time with it (particularly Tyler Perry and Will Arnett, who ham it all up in the best way). It even includes a Vanilla Ice gag, and the end credits feature a updated version of the classic theme song from the 80s cartoon series!
I seem to be repeating myself quite a lot, but I can’t stress this enough. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is not the kind of movie I would usually recommend, but if you consider yourself a fan of the franchise, Out of the Shadows pretty much plays out like a greatest hits of all things TMNT.