The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back, and Ninja Turtles fans will rejoice. One of our writers, Josh Belcher, is likely very excited. He is an ultimate TMNT fan. In fact, he interviewed Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the Ninja Turtles, and even got a personalized drawing. Check out our interview with Kevin Eastman here.
So is “Out of the Shadows” any good? If you are a Ninja Turtle fan and don’t have extremely high standards for the quality of the screenplay–i.e. you’re just there because you love the characters, and any plot is secondary–then you will love “Out of the Shadows.” It’s very strong on character (on capturing the awesomeness and fun of the four Turtles) but quite weak on plot–so full of cliches and Saturday morning-level screenwriting ambition that it can be tiring. Let’s cover all of that in a little more detail before tackling any deeper layers in the film and the Content Advisory.
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The way they animate the four Ninja Turtles is extraordinary. The lifelike expressions, physique, and movement are exactly what you’d expect in our age of the Jaw Drop, when everything at the movie theater makes your jaw drop with cutting edge visual effects. And the way they capture the distinct personalities of the four Turtles is fun, too. Also, the playful combination of action and Turtle sibling banter–and their teamwork, especially–reminds me of the A-Team in certain ways. These teenage Turtles are an exciting team to watch in action.
And this film also has one my favorite characters from the Turtles cartoon days when I was kid: Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). I thought his character was a fun addition to the ensemble, though it would’ve been nice to see more sparks develop between him and April (Megan Fox).
But as far as the plot, the villains, and the conflict, it was another dredged up version of every major blockbuster plot device from the last 10 years where the primary threat to humanity is a bad guy opening up a portal in the skies that allows alien armies to warp into our atmosphere and take over the world.
Ah, really? Did you really have to regurgitate the exact plot device used in The Avengers (portal opens up over major city, aliens invade, the Avengers fight them off), Transformers 3 (portal opens up in sky over major city, aliens invade, the Transformers and army guys fight them off), and probably 3-5 other movies from the last decade?
It was just a major eye-roller, what can I say. But kids probably won’t notice or care, which is probably why the studio didn’t care. We must remember: this is corporate filmmaking, not artists creating works of art. They have their formulas.
But, as I said, if you’re a huge Ninja Turtles fan, you really won’t care either. You’re just there to see your favorite characters (and a few fun bonuses, like Bebop and Rocksteady). And this movie delivers in that department.
Redemption Storylines, Worldviews, Edifying Themes
Shockingly, the primary “redemption” storyline, in which we see a character find some sort of redemption after undergoing a setback/conflict, involves the Turtles coming out of the shadows. I know. Astonishing. Never would have guessed that. But that’s the journey that the four brothers go on in this film, and it’s a fairly decent one, as far as Turtles movies go: they finally stop being afraid of being themselves, and they stop being afraid of what humans will think of them, sort of. It’s not a dramatic unveiling of the TMNT to the world, but there is certainly some stepping out of the aforementioned shadows going on. There are also some unappreciated-underdog-finds-vindication-and-redemption themes in there too with Casey Jones.
There isn’t much else to say, frankly. The film isn’t exactly a philosophical treatise on the nature of reality and truth.
Conclusion: If You’re a Ninja Turtles Fan, You’ll Enjoy It. If You’re Not a Fan, You’ll Probably Survive Skipping It.
All in all, I felt “Out of the Shadows” was a missed opportunity. They brought to life four beloved characters in fantastic fashion with lovable personalities and amazing visual effects, and then set these four marvelous characters in a second-hand (or third-hand) plot that felt about as riveting as a 22-minute Saturday morning cartoon script.
Note: Need to de-stress? Try our relaxing new guitar instrumental album Four Quiet Guitars (Vol. 1) featuring mellow guitars in harmony and other instruments–erhu violin, organ, muted trumpet, and more.
Content advisory for this film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: Sex symbol Megan Fox stars as April, and the filmmakers made sure to leverage Fox’s, well, foxiness with a few scenes (i.e. mini-skirts, revealing tops, and a leering camera lens that likes to focus on her body). That’s about it though, as far as this category goes. No sex scenes.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: No graphic gore, though lots of punching, body slamming, kicking, and crushing. The villain, a brain-like creature who looks like chewed up bubble gum, is kind of gross and would be scary for young kids. Stick to the no-kids-under-13 rule, most likely, especially if they’re on the younger end of the under 13 spectrum.
Language: S-word, a-word, h-word, and d-word all make it into the script, and most of them are spoken by the Ninja Turtles or one of the good guys.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Characters go to a bar and are seen drinking.