By Kyle G. King. A large thorn in the abdomen of comic book movie franchises has been keeping the growing number of hardline fanboys placated and happy (and yes, I’m gendering that group intentionally). These 20-30 somethings have a tendency to decry any rebranding or alterations made to their sacred childhood passions — even if it’s done as a means to attract even younger fans to the material. “Spidey has to have non-organic webshooters, podracing makes no damn sense, and don’t you dare try to make a character something other than the straight white man he was originally written as over 25 years ago!” — no doubt they’re a tough crowd to please. But Nickelodeon Movies — who have never really given two craps about fanboy backlash — have put forth yet another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that is intentionally designed not for a generation of neckbeards, but for Generation Selfie. Re: The Turtles are for kids again.
After saving their beloved New York City but never receiving proper credit, our Turtle brothers (Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael) now spend their days training and romping around the undergrounds of the Big Apple. But when they uncover a conspiracy involving an imprisoned Shredder, teleportation, and other dimensions (insert fan theory here), these heroes decide to finally step (you guessed it) out of the shadows. What they find outside their sewers is a world they’re not completely prepared for: a super-warthog with purple sunglasses and a jacked up rhino in a leather vest are the least of their Turtle worries. Their teenage insecurities get as much screentime as their ninja-like violence, primarily because of a substance that can turn them from turtle… to human. As the Fearsome Fighting Team finds themselves at odds with each other and their desire to fit in, they must race to save not just their city, but their entire dimension (and all the pizza that comes with it).
A team of 6-foot tall martial arts trained talking turtles is a large pill to swallow — you’ll be happy to know that Out of the Shadows has fun with the ridiculousness of the concept — but it’s that exact ridiculousness that sets the turtle franchise apart from its superhero contemporaries. Even among X-Teens, Justice Chumps and bickering Avengers, mutant ninja turtles have had a hell of a time fitting into the cinematic superhero landscape. So Out of the Shadows — with its bright colors, slapstick shenanigans, and more cartoony action than its predecessor — never lets its audience think for a second they’re watching a gritty superhero film of yesteryear. If anything, it’s adapting to the times.
Though Michael Bay may have soured the legacy of Transformers, he remains just far enough in the periphery of this TMNT sequel so that the movie can still retain a sense of childlike fun without being weighed down by his hollow, somber action tropes. (Yet he still manages to sneak in a gratuitous, oversexualized Megan-Fox-in-a-schoolgirl-outfit shot.) Out of the Shadows certainly isn’t challenging or original (it borrows liberally from Marvel Studios’ output). But to hold a film about fighting talking turtles to standards of superior originality is to completely misunderstand the point of fighting talking turtles. Simply put: it’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s for kids, shut up. If you’re looking for a remake of the 1990 live action movie, abandon hope; embrace your fond memories of the 1987 animated series and welcome younger fans to this pop culture phenomenon.
Because the adrenaline-spiked fun that comes with shooting manhole covers out of a garbage truck and jumping from airplane to airplane at 36,000 feet is exactly how we played with our TMNT action figures. So what’s the problem, fanboys? Is it possible older fans have completely forgotten how to cowabunga? Have we become too shell-shocked to the idea of growing older? Out of the Shadows promises more fun with our beloved turtle brothers, if and only if you’re open to the idea of openly having fun with them in the first place. If you loosen up, sit back, and let it wash over you, you’ll find your inner child will be the better for it.
Directed by Dave Green.
Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Scott Mednick and Galen Walker.
Written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec.
Starring Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Brian Tee, Tyler Perry and Laura Linney.
Rated PG-13 because manhole covers get shot out of speeding garbage trucks.
6 out of 10