Before I review this movie, I’m just gonna go on a little tangent (which often tends to be the case in anything I talk about on this blog) about something. I saw this movie while I was in Washington D.C. after going to Awesome Con, ya know just to kick back, relax, have a little fun and all that. Then when I go into the theater and the movie is playing, there’s kids running around, making noise, and even a baby crying. This doesn’t affect my opinion of the movie itself, but it did kinda affect my experience with it. First, who brings a baby into a movie theater? If you’re gonna watch a movie with a baby, then do it at home, not at a theater where they’re obviously gonna make noise and annoy people by crying, and if you’re seeing a movie but don’t want the baby to be alone at home, then hire a sitter. Or just don’t go at all and be with the kid, I don’t know. Second, if there’s a little kid running around in the theater making noise and causing a scene, annoying people and distracting them from the movie they’re seeing, then clearly someone isn’t doing a good job in getting them under control. I know I wasn’t a perfect kid growing up, but I do try to restrain myself from really bad habits that even I got sick of as I’ve gotten older, and so when I go watch a movie, I go WATCH A MOVIE, not have to put up with loud annoyances while trying to see what the heck is going on with the movie I’m trying to watch. And this is all systemic of the kind of mindset some people have with these types of movies as well. They think that “oh it’s just a kids movie, so it’s alright that we bring in our kids who are obviously going to be loud and obnoxious and make it almost unpleasant for everyone”, which is bullshit. I know that this movie may seem like it’s a kids movie on the surface, but this is a movie where it can be watched and kinda appreciated from people of all ages, so it should be a good experience if they like what this movie has to offer. I’m sorry if I offended anyone with this, parents or otherwise, but it’s just something I had to get off my chest. Anyway, on with the review.
Michael Bay tends to be the butt of a lot of people’s jokes in the world of filmmaking or just storytelling in general. They can be warranted at times, but other times they can be a bit too mean-spirited, especially when there are people out there worse than him that make much worse stuff. Heck, I make jokes about Michael Bay, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like any of his movies, he has made good movies in the past. It’s just that for a while he’s pretty much been doing the same thing over and over, a lot of showing but hardly much to tell with it, barely any style or substance, and even when he does try to break away from that, what seems to be expected of him, given some of his past works, tends to override anything new he’s doing. This not only goes for movies he’s directed, but also movies he’s produced, because it doesn’t matter that it’s someone else directing it, as soon as it’s revealed his name is attached to it, it’s automatically assumed that it’s a Michael Bay film. Basically Michael Bay fulfills the idea of entertainment as escapism in a way where you can sit back, relax, have a good time, laugh, and not think too much about what’s going on because it’s a lot of nonsensical stuff happening that’s just fun to watch, though even that can get tiresome when it tends to repeat itself with little to no changes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows seems to be a step in the right direction for him in regards to all this, yet at the same time it’s kind of an uphill battle.
So when it was first announced that Bay was going to be producing the reboot of the Turtles movie franchise, naturally this got a lot of negative feedback, and when the movie itself came out in 2014, it was okay, despite some “Bayisms” attached to it like product placement, Megan Fox being objectified, gross adult humor, and a couple other things here or there. Growing up, I was probably a casual Turtles fan, might’ve watched the 80s cartoon with vague memory of it, played the arcade games, watched Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation (something I kinda liked as a kid but nowadays it’s pretty meh), watched the 2003 cartoon from time to time, saw bits of the old live-action movies and most of the 2007 TMNT animated movie (which was ok and pretty underrated), read some of the IDW reboot comics (which are pretty awesome I just haven’t read it in a while and it’s still ongoing, even has the Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman doing it), and I like the current animated series whenever I get the chance to watch it. What I have noticed though is that the Turtles franchise, like a lot of others, has been through many incarnations and will continue to have more in times to come, and the one seen in the new movies is no different. It’s even been made clear since the day the Turtles were created by Eastman and Laird, especially by Nostalgia Critic and Angry Video Game Nerd in their review of the 2014 film, that they were basically created as a parody of Frank Miller comics at the time and to sell merchandise. That’s not a completely bad thing in and of itself, since there are others that do this, and a good thing can come out of it depending on how it’s done and how it’s received. It’s worked for the Turtles since their creation, subsequent adaptations or alternate versions, and it’s no different here with this movie and the one that preceded it.
For something with Bay’s name attached to it, this has gotta be the best thing he’s involved in since either the first Transformers movie or The Rock (the movie not the actor/wrestler Dwayne Johnson, though I haven’t seen Pain and Gain yet which stars him but I hear good things). This movie manages to address problems people had with the previous film and manages it pretty well. There’s more focus on the Turtles themselves and less focus on April (and like with the previous movie, Megan Fox does a pretty good job, given the material), the humor is not as gross or childish but actually pretty smart and funny, the action is good and gives the movie momentum, the special effects are pretty neat and the Turtles look pretty good too with more distinction for each of them in order to tell them apart unlike other versions (also, for all the flak people give the new movies about how “freakish” the Turtles look, just remember the word MUTANT is in the friggin title, meaning they’re supposed to look different or like freaks of nature), and the addition of characters that are well-renowned in the franchise here such as Casey Jones (played by Stephen Amell), Baxter Stockman (played by Tyler Perry), and even the new actors playing Shredder and Karai replacing the actors who played them in the previous movie, are worked in pretty well, though it does make the movie a bit overcrowded at times. With more focus on the Turtles this time around, there’s also focus on their relationships with one another, how they operate as a team, function as a family, and how they live in the world they inhabit and how others see them, be it friend, foe, or just the average citizen. The performances from the actors playing them does help in this regard (and how cool is it that Pete Ploszek gets to do motion capture AND voice this time around?). It did seem a bit forced at times with the whole “cure and be normal” thing, but it’s not something that detracts from the overall film itself, just a bit off-putting is all.
The best addition for me, though, of popular TMNT characters in this movie is probably Bebop and Rocksteady (played by Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus). Again, I have vague memories of the 80s cartoon, but I know that these characters are fan favorites and for good reason, and the movie doesn’t hide it. These two are pretty much THE henchmen, the kind of characters that are muscle-bound idiots at times, usually workhorses for the “big bad”, but they are also forces to be reckoned with in their own right, and also provide a lot of comic relief. This is no different here with this movie. I loved every scene that featured them and they are awesome no matter how nonsensical the movie gets. Even though they’re convicted criminals and they take gleeful pleasure in the crimes they commit, whether it was before their mutation or after, there is a sort of bromance between the two that is sweet and endearing, though it’s clear that their destructive antics do need to be stopped. It’s also through them that some of the “humor” that’s known for Bay’s movies can be worked into and it fits given their nature, which is also a relief too that they’re not portrayed as offensive stereotypes that certain other Bay movies are known for (looking at YOU Transformers sequels).
Of course, what good there is to be found with all the things people wanted to see in a Turtles film, which is actually put in this movie, can also be bad. The Turtles have A LOT of villains and supporting characters, no doubt about that, and in this movie it feels like they’re crammed in at times despite being welcome additions. Stephen Amell does a great performance as Casey Jones and manages to distinguish this character somewhat from how he portrays Green Arrow on Arrow, having more of a sense of humor and bewilderment at everything going on around him and what kind of a situation he’s brought into, yet this movie portrays him as less of a badass (not to say he isn’t badass at all in this movie, just not as much as other renditions) and more of an earnest guy trying to make something of himself, even outrightly proclaiming he’s “gonna be a detective” someday, in which the movie makes it seem like that might not really happen for him, if you get what I mean. There’s only ONE scene in which he wears the iconic hockey mask he’s known for, and that’s right, it’s the one in the trailer in which he beats the shit out of the Foot Clan ninjas (though I’ll admit, regardless of whether or not that was just done for the trailer, it’s still awesome both in that and in this movie), and correct me if I’m wrong, he does interact with the Turtles, but I can’t recall any scenes in which he fights ALONGSIDE them. I get how some people may give him flak in this movie, but I think he does a good job with the material given here. I know this movie is meant to introduce Casey Jones to this universe, but it’s more like this movie is just simply introducing him and not enough of him being the character people love him for. It’s there, just not enough of it here. While it’s great that there’s a more comprehensible Shredder this time around, he barely wears his outfit and doesn’t do so until near the end of the movie. Karai barely does jackshit in this movie, though probably more so than in the previous one, yet also stupid she gets her ass kicked by April and Vern (played by Will Arnett) of all people. And as for Bebop and Rocksteady, as great as it is to see them in this movie and clearly being the breakout characters of it, they only encounter the Turtles ONCE in this movie and again, it’s the one from the trailer. There are a lot of good ingredients in this movie, especially stuff that caters to fans, but it’s not exactly mixed right. And seriously, there has to be a scene in which Megan Fox dresses up in a sexy Catholic school girl outfit and blonde wig? Well, at least it’s only used once in this movie and not overly done like other Bay movies.
The biggest problem of this movie is the addition of Krang. Again, this is a character that I have vague memories of, any of his 80s cartoon appearances I’ve seen in reviews, recent comics by IDW, and even the current cartoon. Basically this whole movie boils down to Shredder and his goons being obviously manipulated and betrayed (after Shredder himself betrays Stockman, and this movie handles betrayal in a way that Game of Thrones would say is happening pretty fast) so he can be saved for being the mutated fly creature in the next film if that ever gets made) by Krang so he can enter Earth via wormhole (once again, the giant “hole in the sky” plotline being put into play here like pretty much a lot of movies these days) and bring with him his Technodrome and, you guessed it, take over the world [insert M. Bison saying “of course” meme here]. I do like the look of Krang, being gross-looking given how he was in the 80s cartoon which this movie tries to emulate to various extents, and Brad Garrett does an over-the-top performance that’s nicely done and warranted for it. What’s wrong with him being in this movie is that he seems like he’d be for another movie. There’s already plenty of bad guys in this movie, all of them big enough either together or alone in their own right, and Krang feels like the movie is adding in a bit too much. It’s like how Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had too many villains. I think it was Black Nerd or somebody else that said that Krang should’ve been used in a manner similar to Thanos in the MCU, in which at one point in the movie and in a post-credits scene, it’s hinted at and later revealed that Krang was the mastermind all along and that he’ll be the one the Turtles will have to face in the next movie. It’s not a bad thing to have him at all in this movie, just not in the way it was done.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad movie. I think this movie just suffered from what a couple other movies over the summer suffered from, which is a lot of “big” movies competing with each other in a time when it feels kinda meh and there’s not a lot of enthusiasm at the moment for them. They’re not terrible, just not that much energy exactly, if I’m phrasing this correctly. It certainly shows in this movie’s box office numbers, grossing $245 million on a $135 million budget. It could make bank on home media, but who knows. I do hope another movie for this series does happen in the future, because this movie was a major step up from the previous one and probably the best that Michael Bay has put his name on in a long while. What else can I say other than to quote the Turtle kid, “I like Turtles”.