'TMNT: Out Of The Shadows': More Turtle Power Than The First

turtles 2
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!


Finally, a TMNT movie worthy of the name. It’s by no means a great movie, but it was certainly an improvement from the first. 

Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey are back. Along with April O’Neil, they continue to protect New York City from the shadows. But when their biggest threat, Shredder, escapes from custody and enlists the help of two classic mutant villains with strength that rival the Turtles’ own, our heroes in a half shell may need to adjust their status quo and get some help themselves.

Stephen Amell's Casey Jones is the new member of team Turtle.

Eherm, Casey Jones, eherm.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows was a homecoming for the franchise of sorts. A no frills family adventure, some extra-dimensional sci-fi elements, the simultaneous brotherly rivalry and exuberance, and an overall easy tone was very reminiscent of the late 80’s – early 90’s TMNT series and Vanilla Ice-era movies. While the first movie, in its attempt to introduce us to a contemporary version of the Turtles and their origins and their world, ends up being convoluted and painfully bizarre, the sequel on the other hand was a lot more nostalgic in its simplicity. (Minor spoilers to follow!)

bebop and rocksteady
Bebop and Rocksteady!

Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, the Turtle truck, Krang(!), it was fun to see them all again, and without the complicated backstories that provoked much of the appalled grunts and eye-rolling in the first movie. (Well, Casey Jones wasn’t as bad ass as I’d want him to be, but I’ll get to that later.) Bebop and Rocksteady were simpletons who gravitate towards the nearest big bad dude, Krang was an extra-dimensional alien looking to conquer the planet, and heck, they even fixed Shredder! No more of that robot armor crap; just a leaner, bossier, grumpier Shred-head. And his now relationship with Krang brings back old childhood memories of the two bickering about whose fault it was that their plan was foiled by the Turtles yet again.

That said, I’m not going to pretend that this was some complex, adult movie; this was definitely for kids (especially with all the silly and lengthy cartoon “science” expositions.) But as soon as you accept that and set your mind to that predisposition, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy the film as much as I did.

There wasn’t a dull moment. If the Turtles weren’t zipping and zooming all over New York’s rooftops and sewers, or kicking major baddie butts, or posing for the camera in what could arguably some of the coolest hero shots done in recent years, there was plenty of family-friendly quips and sibling drama and existential undertones to go around.

New York's Heroes in a half-shell turns it up a notch!

The ninja action beats were sharp, energetic, and staged beautifully and their team-up moves were twice as awesome to watch. A couple of them were cut a little too quick, made things a bit jarring and dizzying, but it was negligible. I found myself laughing at most of the jokes (What would Vin Diesel do?) and there were some really great heart-tugging moments from the characters. Raph’s anger and frustration is staple by now, but Michael Angelo, after a certain police station scene, was particularly heartbreaking to watch.

A whole lotta heart!

And TMNT does a great job balancing all its elements. The story unfolded at just the right speed, with just the right amounts of action, comedy and drama, and with just enough attention on the humans so as not to lose focus on the stars, the Turtles.

Okay, time to pull on the breaks for a second. People might start to think I’m giving the movie too much credit, but I don’t mean to. Out of the Shadows was an enjoyable movie, but it’s not without its flaws.

My favorite turtle was bastardized!

For one, Leo felt like he took two steps backwards. We already saw him rise to become the leader he’s meant to be during the first movie, and now he’s suddenly a total tool of an older brother? Granted though, we seldom see the infallible Leonardo be so…fallible, so that’s fresh, I’ll give them that, but it wasn’t organic and just felt like a plot device to manufacture conflict between the brothers.

Stephen Amell was too....Stephen Amell.

Casey Jones’ altered origin as a laid back correctional guard wasn’t very appealing. The character’s charm traditionally comes from his rebellious spirit. He was an outsider, much like the Turtles, which became the foundation of their affinity towards each other. There was a beautiful harmony between his tough exterior and cool, defiant attitude. But you couldn’t feel that here. He was rebellious, sure, going on his solo manhunt, but his perpetually jolly and wisecracking persona just felt weird and inconsistent with his mission and Stephen Amell just couldn’t quite nail the balance between gritty and playful. That was no “Casey Jones”. That was a random character who happened to also be named Casey Jones. That’s not to say it was a complete misstep though. His affiliation with the authorities at least kept the story tight and focused on the NYPD until the conflict between the turtles and the city comes full circle during the pay off.

Speaking of the pay off, their “out of shadows” moment with the NYPD was great. I liked it. It was a very cool moment and it even echoed Spider-man 2’s train scene, but it was still lacking. I think it could have been more emotionally resonant, could have been given more depth. The buildup was there, but there was really no pivotal confrontation or realization; Leo and Raph just suddenly “grew up”. Missed opportunities there for some great coming of age and family drama. They could have been more ambitious with the material.

It's getting there!

Missed opportunities and a couple of character lapses aside, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows was still a fun watch. I very much appreciated all the course correcting they made. There was an overall decrease in face palms and an increase in whatever stuff makes TMNT work. Out of the Shadows is a step closer to TMNT that I loved as a kid; it still has a ways to go but I have faith it’ll get there with the self-awareness they’ve shown here and a little more Turtle power!


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