Movie review: 'Ninja Turtles' sequel improves on 2014 reboot

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 02 2016 02:56 PM

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as comic book characters in 1984, later spinning off to have its own cartoon series, toys, video games, and, of course, films. There was a cartoonish film trilogy in the 1990s.

Recently, Michael Bay produced a franchise-reboot as a live action-computer-generated motion capture film. I did not particularly like this very dark 2014 film, rating it only a 5/10. When trailers came out for this sequel though, I already saw that it looked like it was going to be a way better movie than the first one.

In "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," the turtle heroes, along with old pals April O'Neil and Vern Fenwick, and new friend Casey Jones, spring back into action as Shredder was busted from incarceration. The arch-villain had inter-galactically nefarious plans as he conspired with mad scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman to bring into Earth an evil Dimension X being called Krang and his Technodrome in his wild dream of world domination.

The way the turtles looked in this new film was way better executed. In the first one, they all looked too big, ugly and unwieldy. Their appearance now is more accessible, more in tune with their personalities. Even if the story line will have their team tested, this was a truly excellent ensemble work among the four actors behind them, imbuing each one with individual charm. They are: Pete Ploszek (as conflicted leader Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (as muscle-bound rebel Raphael), Jeremy Howard (as brainy scientist Donatello) and Noel Fisher (as childlike spirit Michelangelo).

Also similarly excellent were the CG artwork, performance and the onscreen chemistry between the two comical evil side characters, warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and the rhino Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly). They definitely stole their scenes from right under the main bad guy Shredder (Brian Tee), who felt rather lackluster among the other colorful characters of the film. The pinkish brain-like maniacal alien super-villain Krang was portrayed with gruesome glee by Brad Garrett.

The unconvincing and hammy acting of Megan Fox (as April) and Will Arnett (as Vern) were fortunately buoyed up the excellence of the CGI and story around them. Tyler Perry was an over-the-top nerd as Dr. Stockman, uncomfortably funny. Veteran acting nominee Laura Linney was uncharacteristically stiff as police chief Rebecca Vincent. The best live performer of the film was TV's "Arrow" Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. His graceful physicality (with a hockey stick and skates) and smart-alecky sense of humor made him stand out.

The look of this new film is so much better than the first one, literally "out of the shadows" where the first one wallowed. There were brighter colors, a lighter mood, a more fun throwback general feel about it. The previous one was too dark and intense, and took itself too seriously, to its own detriment. With this one, we had our beloved Turtles back to the unpretentious way we knew them in our youth. Serious critics may be hard on this one, but I really enjoyed 112 minutes with it, right up to the classic TV cartoon theme song over the closing credits. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."