Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
|Featuring:||Stephen Amell … Casey Jones
Megan Fox … April O'Neil
Will Arnett … Vernon Fenwick
Tyler Perry … Baxter Stockman
Tony Shalhoub … Splinter (voice)
Laura Linney … Rebecca Vincent
Alessandra Ambrosio … Vernon's Girlfriend
Alan Ritchson … Raphael
Noel Fisher … Michelangelo
Judith Hoag …
Brian Tee … Shredder
Fred Armisen … Kraang (voice)
Pete Ploszek … Leonardo
Stephen Farrelly … Rocksteady
|Director:||Dave Green—“Earth to Echo” (2014)|
|Producer:||Gama Entertainment Partners
Prequel: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2014)
In “Out of the Shadows”, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael struggle to save the world from the shadows with no one knowing who they are… well, except for April O’Neill (Megan Fox) and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett). At this time, the villainous Shredder (Brian Tee) is broken out of prison by some mysterious ninjas and a teleporter run from a different dimension by commander Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett).
Enlisting the help of two other criminals, Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly) and a kooky scientist named Dr. Stockman (Tyler Perry), Shredder begins finding the pieces to create a teleporter that would allow him and Krang to rule over Earth. And, in order create worthy opponents for their enemies (the Turtles), Shredder and Stockman turn Bebop and Rocksteady into giant mutants using a purple ooze.
All battle and action sequences are entertaining and impressively put-together. They might seem a bit more cartoonish and fake than some of today’s superhero movies, but it is a cartoon adaptation. I liked the fact that the film didn’t take itself too seriously, and wasn’t always focused on mindless action and destruction. Many times, I felt the film was close in feel to a Saturday morning cartoon, which is both to its benefit and detriment (some humor and dialog feel a little too juvenile).
Director Dave Green also pauses a few times to give the turtles a little bit of characterization. I will get more into this in “positive messages.” We, at least, get a sense of purpose and understanding for the turtles and how they feel about their “in the shadows” operation.
The film touches on the ideas of physical appearance acceptance and staying true to yourself. The turtles struggle with the possible idea that the purple ooze (that turns Bebop and Rocksteady into mutant animals) could make them… human. This theme reminded me that it can be very dangerous to attempt to act differently than what we really are. The turtles, despite being called “monsters” and “freaks,” learn to appreciate themselves for who they are on the outside. And the humans learn to not judge them on their appearance. For us Christians, it is important that we are thankful and appreciative for our uniqueness, like it says in Psalms:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. —Psalms 139:14
Towards the end of the film, the turtles come to terms with the fact that having a “normal life” isn’t as interesting as it seemed to be.
The turtles’ sensei, Splinter the Rat (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), makes a good point about teamwork and sticking together through conflict, saying, “Keep the team unified, and you will always succeed.” Despite their disagreements and differences, the turtles later learn that they work better and much more efficiently together than apart, and that their different strategies work together to help the greater good. 1 Corinthians 12 gives a good example on this:
As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” —1 Corinthians 12:20-21
Content of concern
Language: Profanity includes “oh my g**” (3), d*mn (2) and “what the h***”. We hear one use each of “son of a b****” and “a**”. The s-word is blurted out once. We also hear “idiot.”
Adult Content: April wears formfitting tank tops and outfits, at times. At one point, to get information from a guy, she bares her midriff and cleavage to blend in with a group of women. The camera focuses on her body for a few seconds. In a more weird moment, after they transform into mutants, Bebop and Rocksteady check their private areas.
Violence: The violence in line with most superhero movies, and, while bloodless, it is oftentimes too intense for younger children. An early action sequence involves explosions, a car flipping, people falling off motorcycles and the like. An incident in a laboratory involves two people being hit by a tranquilizer gun (of sorts) and transforming into mutants. Krang is slammed forcefully into a robot (and his image may frighten some younger kids). April is confronted in an alley, and multiple bad guys are hit by hockey pucks, kicked, etc. The turtles fall from ominous heights (including a waterfall). A tanker shoots cannonballs at the turtles. The turtles and Bebop and Rocksteady pummel each other. A plane later splits in half, catches on fire and nearly (somewhat violently) crashes. Cars hit a blockade and nearly flip over. New York City is nearly destroyed by a weapon.
Drugs/Alcohol: One or two scenes take place in a bar. Bebop and Rocksteady drink cups of beer.
Other: Bebop and Rocksteady are as annoying as they come. They show very bad eating habits. One of them passes gas and picks his nose. One of the turtles tells a lie. Vern sells his “breath” to people in plastic bags. The turtles shoot spitballs. Characters break into places illegally. Sensei Splinter practices Eastern meditation, and an audiotape mentions a “spiritual nirvana.” Stockman believes he and Shredder will be “gods to a new generation,” when their plan is complete. Evolution and “animal ancestors” are mentioned as a result of humans mutating into animals.
It’s safe to say that I wasn’t really into these characters growing up. And partially because of that, I didn’t find “Out of the Shadows” to be anything special or fantastic. The words that came to my mind repeatedly while watching this were “there are certainly better things to see”.
But that isn’t to say the film is a bust. There is merit to be found here. The CGI action sequences are impressive. A few cast members (Laura Linney and Tyler Perry, in particular) do give fun performances. And, the film does have a few very appreciative moments that touch on relevant issues such as adolescent insecurity, acceptance and what exactly “normal” is.
From a Christian perspective, the film doesn’t present much of a spiritually-offensive worldview (save for a few isolated lines of dialog here and there). However, in terms of overall content issues, I felt this film struggled with trying to figure out if it wanted to be a big action movie, or a movie aimed at kids and families. Because “Out of the Shadows” is often too violent for younger kids (not to mention the brief inappropriate outfits and completely unnecessary uses of language). Granted, it is a cleaner and less intense film than “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman v. Superman”, but at the same time, its Saturday morning cartoon-like feel may not prove to be enjoyable for teenagers that would presumably be a better fit for the PG-13 rating.
For parents with kids clamoring to see this movie, I would highly recommend using caution and discernment before taking them. This is more “Transformers” than the less-violent and more kid-friendly Nickelodeon cartoon version of these characters. For ages 9-10 and under (particularly those that haven’t seen superhero or similar CGI flicks before), perhaps sticking to the cartoon might be the best idea.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild to moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…Considerably better than its predecessor, the central four may give it their all but the people behind this franchise sadly don’t seem all that interested in their crime-fighting, pizza-eating heroes. …[2/4]
—Emma Thrower, Empire [UK]
…Every bit as noisy, brain-numbing and lowbrow as its predecessor, the Michael Bay production never strays from basic blockbuster formula. It’s fast food entertainment destined for a short run atop the box office charts and an even shorter lifespan in the pop culture zeitgeist. …
—Geoff Berkshire, Variety
…while the final result is anything but a cinematic masterpiece, it’s at least an improvement over the original… it’s certainly a lot more fun. [C+]
—Devan Coggan, Entertainment Weekly
…TMNT fans will be pleased by the appearance of many of the familiar characters… Better than the last one, but still doesn’t rate a “Cowabunga!” …
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
…Slickly digitised …Our former heroes in a halfshell have become hulking, cold-bloodied bullies, demanding our pocket money and offering nothing in return – save a joyless, two-hour noogie such as this. [1/5]
—Mike McCahill, The Guardian (UK)
…contains a strong moral worldview but also some references to meditation, brief foul language and some scary villains…
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…In the original animated series, April O'Neil (despite sporting some cartoonish curves) never flaunted her femininity like her live-action counterpart does here. …And the cursing we hear is totally foreign to the beloved kids' show. …
—Paul Asay, Plugged In
…The newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bloated, obnoxious, mess of a movie, and it knows it. While the film tries to compensate by embracing its flaws with gusto, a few bright spots can’t stop the utter catastrophe which follows on screen. …[1½/5]
—Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk
…This teenage turtles sequel was cowa-bungled… It’s a bummer, dude. [2/4]
—Sara Stewart, New York Post
…overshadowed by noise and sludge… Ultimately, any sass, sentiment and personality are obliterated in the noisy chaos of the climax, which is a grayish brown blur of flying spaceship parts, whirling turtle shells and shouts of “the beacon!” It’s more cacophonous than cinematic and loses the quirky charm of the cartoon in the avalanche of computer-generated violence.
—Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service