I used to laugh at people who wrote things like “Michael Bay raped my childhood” about the 2007 Transformers movie, partially because I liked the first one. It was about a young boy getting his first car to impress a girl, something that I could relate to…and then there were cool sci-fi elements. And even with the abysmal sequels the Transformers, to me growing up in the 80’s, were just cool toy robots that turned into cool toy cars. When I was a few years older, it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that I really formed an emotional attachment to as characters. TMNT is about brothers who bicker with each other and who come together in times of trouble. And, yeah, Michael Bay raped my childhood again with TMNT: Out of The Shadows. Or at least liposuctioned things from it that neither he, nor the people he works with as producers and directors, fully understand.
First, the positive elements. TMNT: Out of the Shadows makes the turtles a couple heads smaller than they were in the 2014 reboot. They are less the hulking monstrosities you remember from the previous film. Does this make them better ninjas, better able to sneak around like they did in the 1990 film? It does not. They are still smacking normal, human-sized bad guys into walls with one punch, saving their actual ninja fighting for larger, equally monstrous characters, which this movie has in abundance. Second, the movie does focus more on the turtles themselves. The personalities, teasing and interaction between the four turtles was the one thing the previous movie got right and I am happy to say that there is more of it here.
But the rest of it…a bunch of visually impressive action scenes, made watchable by the aforementioned brotherly interaction of the turtles duct taped together with a story that makes no sense, gives the human characters something to do, and does not explain many of the admittedly cool things that are in it. There are many lazy explanations for more complicated sci-fi elements in this movie, especially when we get to the laughably underused Krang and how Donatello figures out inter-dimensional travel and what he is up to. It is stuff that would be better explained in a better script. Even Ant-Man had more believable explanations for a guy in a suit who shrinks.
The dialogue in this movie is horrible. Say what you will about how dated the 1990’s Jim Henson Ninja Turtle suits look and how Mikey talked like a surfer, but Splinter had better dialogue and more emotion in 1990 than in this film. “I have tried to channel your anger, Raphael, but more remains. Anger clouds the mind.” Yeah, you remember that scene. The Ninja Turtles taught me that it was okay for a man to cry when I was 11.
And then there’s Casey Jones. I have no problem with him being better looking than he is in other versions. He is an ex-hockey player who got hit in the face with a few hockey pucks, so it makes more sense if he’s not that pretty. My problem with Casey Jones in this movie is the same I had with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Great actor. Cool character, but such a drastic deviation from previous versions of said character that you don’t know what THAT character is supposed to be. This Casey Jones is a prison security guard who only wears his hockey mask and fights with a hockey stick in one scene. And the next time he fights somebody, he uses roller blades with no hockey mask so the moms who took their kids to see this movie can gawk at his handsome mug. He is not crazy. He forms no friendship with Raphael and actually seems more buddy-buddy with Mikey. And he’s underused and underdeveloped just like Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady and Baxter Stockman. Was Karai in this? Yeah, I think she was. And the ending is just stupid for a bunch of reasons I won’t spoil here.
I’ve written articles about how I feel about these new turtle movies. Real fans know the best versions of TMNT are always combinations of the more serious indie comic book and the more humorous 1987 cartoon (the 1990 movie, the 2003 cartoon, the 2012 Nick cartoon, the current IDW series). The 1987 cartoon was, like most cartoons in the 80’s, based on the toy line and NOT the comics that the toy line was taken from. This movie tries to be an adaptation of the cartoon only, going for that mindless nostalgia factor when the only elements taken from the comics were the letters T.C.R.I. and Baxter being black. And it fails miserably at being a good adaptation of the cartoon.
But the saddest part is, there are people who grew up with the 1987 cartoons, who consider themselves die-hard Ninja Turtle fans who know nothing of the comics. Try talking to them about Fugitoid or the Triceratons (or even Eastman and Laird) and get blank stares. They think TMNT is supposed to be silly, because the cartoon was the only version they are familiar with. They don’t think something like TMNT: Out of The Shadows has the potential to be a more adult sci-fi thing, (Men in Black meets Avengers). Well, those are the people who going to make this movie a hit. And Platinum Dunes will make more of them and until hopefully, Michael Bay loses the rights to someone who understands this franchise. I just have to accept it and go catch up on some good Ninja Turtles, watching season four of the Nick cartoon.
What did you think of TMNT: Out of The Shadows? Did you like the 2014 reboot? How about Armaggon on the Nick cartoon? Isn’t he awesome? Sharknado meets Boba Fett. He’s from the old Archie TMNT series y’know? Comment below.