Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) Review

Back in 2016, I gave this movie a B+ the night I watched it, the same grade as its 2014 predecessor. But then it crawled up to an A and made #4 on my Top 10 Best Movies of 2016. Well, now I think we can move that up a few more spots. I didn’t realize how much the movie was really going to colonize my emotions.

This sequel to the 2014 hit has the Ninja Turtles back and reveling in the knowledge they took down Shredder and the Foot Clan, or at least, sent Shredder to prison and have made the clan go underground. April (Megan Fox) is reporting again, and has suspicions that scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is in league with Shredder, and it’s the night before he’s due to be transferred to a different prison. Meanwhile, the one who’s taken credit for what the turtles did is camerman Verne (Will Arnett) now Verne “The Falcon” Fenwick. Leo is fine with how things are, being able to have the best seats in the Knicks games in the scorebox. But the others don’t want to just stay unrecognized and in the shadows. And a new threat will force them out of the shadows when these two new mutants, a warthog and rhino who will be fondly familiar to any fans of the TV show, and a being from a different dimension is trying to arrive in ours with a three-hundred foot tall floating war machine.

My synopsis might sound like something for 12-year-olds, but I think that as long as a kid can handle some up-close faces of mutants, all of which are either the familiar turtles or the new funny Bebop and Rocksteady, I don’t think this would be that bad for anyone under that age range. A critic said in 2016 that Bebop and Rocksteady were the cutest movie couple of that year and I can’t disagree. At first glance I found them a little squealing and silly, but looking back, the writers and animators gave them the same unique live-action look as the six-foot tall turtles but this time giving them an inseparable friendship that’s intoxicating to watch.

Something I loved about the first movie was its roller-coaster camerawork, being right near the turtles as they’re fighting without bursting our space bubble as they flip, punch and jump everywhere. This movie is at the next level, especially a climax that is the closest thing clumsy people will get to feeling like they’re skateboarding experts. And the turtles themselves; I liked them relatively in the last one but I thought Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) did burst my space bubble; he was always so up-close and jumpy it almost felt like he thought the audience was a bunch of popsicles. But here he’s a lot more handsome and laid-back. And the other turtles also have a new cuteness to them; I can’t really place it. Maybe they’re a little more mellowed-looking, able to lay back and relax and smile more.

But this is far from a relaxing film, especially when it gets into a conflict worthy of the highest-praised dramas. A disagreement to determine the fate of their future and entire being erupts, and when that did, I felt so pained and so angry I forgot for a while I was watching a fictional movie. I’ve said for a while that Leo’s not my type. He’s a kind of spoiled-brat control-freak type, and I was never on board with him during the movie, but at least there is some thought into his actions and he learns not just as much but more lessons than his brothers in the end about acceptance of difference.

Casey Jones, played by Stephen Amell, is in the movie also, and even he is more fleshed out as any general protagonist of average films. He’s a security guard who wants to be a cop putting bad guys away and not just making sure the ones caught by others stay in jail. And he feels not taken seriously by the head of the NYPD played by Laura Linney. I will admit there’s a predictable betrayal and there’s a moment where I felt Leo wasn’t thinking as much as he should’ve, but by the time the credits rolled, playing the best, most celebratory and rewarding credits theme I’ve ever heard, I had a frozen grin on my face, which returns any time I think of this film.

Out of the Shadows is a masterpiece. It’s such a perfect Ninja Turtle entry, that not only will kids and adults of all ages find numerous stuff for each of them, but if you’re already a Turtles fan, the movie will inhabit you and pin their pizza flag on your soul. I know that’s what happened for me. If only they could make one more…I was in real rage for a while when no plans were put in place for a third film, yet the Transformers series was getting ready for its fifth. I like the first three Transformers movies. I even love the second. I just feel it has gone far enough and it’s time for this series to take over. At least we have the all-new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. That filled the emptiness in my heart of not getting a sequel to this.

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