So I finally sat down and watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the second turtles film in Michael Bay’s steroidal – perhaps, hugely overcompensating – image. And surprisingly, I kind of liked it.
For the bitter, jaded old fans cursing Raphael’s Wu-Tang Clan do-rag and Splinter’s innate Antonio Scarpacci-ness, the film serves up a more-than consolatory collection of classic mutant characters. And of course, there’s Megan Fox. But with all that outrageous comic book razzmatazz – and eye candy – it’s strange that it’s the turtles themselves who play the watery, forgetful supporting roles; zeroes in halfshells.
Unsurprisingly, Out of the Shadows plays its Megan Fox hand early, switching her sexed-up, 2016 take on April O’Neil from a blonde wig and secretary glasses to a Catholic schoolgirl outfit right off the bat. It’s so in-your-face and blatant, but enough to lower even the most hardened skeptic’s guard. Then it’s turtle time.
I realise producers had to give our heroes pants to sidestep the awkward, “Er… where’s their junk, dad?” issue. But why turn “the world’s most fearsome fighting team” into toothless background characters. I’m not sure if it’s the voice actors, the CGI or the desperate-to-be-cool character modifications, but the turtles have about as much personality as a pair of old Crocs. Like empty, CGI halfshells with no charisma or substance.
Raphael’s always been the moody, sulky one, sure, but he knows how to party as well. He’s “cool BUT rude,” remember. This Raphael is a weight-lifting, steroid-pushing, neckless hemorrhoid with Christian Bale’s Batman voice, WWE shoulders and no identity beyond his ongoing (and by now, forced) fallouts with Leonardo. The clever one, Donatello, is now skinnier than the rest of his muscular ninja brothers, and he wears glasses and never seems to wield his bō staff. Michelangelo now wears a gold chain, a pair of sunglasses and sandals. Leonardo, the leader, is voiced by Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville and wears a Native American bulletproof vest. And what’s up with all that writing on their shells?
The turtles’ personality and sense of humour bypass is even more confusing when you see Bebop and Rocksteady for the first time. Contrastingly, the two mutant henchmen, who are also CGI motion-capture mashups, are faithful recreations of their cartoon selves – right down to Bebop’s purple sunglasses. And instantly, they’re larger than life and “oozing” likability. It also helps that the two goons were perfectly cast; WWE superstar Sheamus makes a great Rocksteady, even before the slime, and Gary Anthony Williams is hilarious as his pig-faced sidekick Bebop.
Like the turtles, Brian Tee’s seemingly weightless Shredder is also a massive letdown. Way too much facetime. Splinter is about as engaging as a wet sock with eyes sewn on. And Casey Jones, played by Chris O’Donnell’s 2016 incarnation Stephen Amell, is light on charisma and grit as well.
Krang, on the other hand, has been perfectly recreated – albeit with Brad Garrett’s much deeper voice. What a treat, though. He’s such an out-of-body loon I never expected to see him in a semi-live action turtles film.
The ridiculously bulbous Technodrome looks awesome as well, complete with giant eyeball. And Mad scientist Baxter Stockman was a cool inclusion. Although I was secretly hoping he’d turn into a giant fly before the end. Tyler Perry plays him so much like Neil Degrasse Tyson, though, at first, I thought it WAS Tyson. And then it’s all over.
There’s a lot of fun, eccentrically cartoon and over-the-top comic book stuff going on in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Like the new look Turtle Van, Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang and the Technodrome. It’s just a pity that Shredder and the turtles are so forgettable, like weak, paint-by-number cliches of their former selves stuck in the shadows. And Megan Fox should have gotten all of Will Arnett’s screentime – this ain’t BoJack Horseman.