HOLLYWOOD—A lot of people might be surprised to know that as a kid, I was a HUGE fan of the cartoon and action figures for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” I mean I had every single action figure; one of my faves was Donatello. I recall the first live-action films of the 1990s quite well, as they were entertaining, but recently the TMNT returned to the big screen and the latest installment, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is an impressive entry into the franchise.
Why do you ask? The level of action is amped up quite a bit, and it doesn’t hurt for fans of the series to see some familiar faces in Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly) appear in this movie. This time the turtles Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) are still living beneath the surface, when the escape of their nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee) after being transferred between prisons causes them to be put back in the spotlight.
I will admit seeing Tyler Perry take on such a manic and over-the-top performance as the whacky Dr. Baxter Stockman was a hoot to watch. Determined for ultimate power, Shredder finds himself aligning with the alien Krang (voice of Brad Garrett) who promises him ultimate power if he locates three components connected to a machine that will open a portal to his dimension to inhabit Earth. What works so well for “Out of the Shadows” is the comedy element.
Not only is the chemistry between the turtles top-notch, but it also works between April O’Neil (Megan Fox), Casey and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett). It’s light-fare comedy that appeals not only to the younger members in the audience, but also to the adults who will also be dragged to the theater by their kids. It doesn’t hurt that Amell and Fox have great chemistry as the lovebirds that will soon become an item as we all know in the turtle universe.
An important element of the narrative is the revelation that the mutagen vial that Krang provided to Shredder could give the turtles the opportunity to live normal lives as humans above the surface. The movie taps into that notion of an identity crisis, some of the turtles wonder how life will be living out of shadows, while others embrace their differences. It’s a similar issue that was acknowledged in “X-Men: The Last Stand” when the mutants had to grasp with the possibility of losing their powers and being ‘normal.’
Yeah, that is a heavy question to say the least, just what does normal mean, it’s about conformity and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” looks at that dynamic. The action-sequences in this sequel are stellar and fun to watch unfold on the big screen. We’re not just talking about the battles between the turtles and their enemies, I’m also referring to Casey’s ability to wield a hockey stick unlike no other, and even April gets in on a bit of butt-kicking as well.
For kids it’s a treat to see these unlikely heroes, for adults it’ll bring you back to your childhood, especially young men and older men who grew up with the iconic characters. “TMNT: Out of the Shadows” proves with the right elements, characters and a fun narrative, a sequel can indeed be better than the original.