Let’s get a few things out of the way before I dive into this TMNT 2 review. If you’re the type of person who expects an Academy Award-winning, thought-provoking, generation-defining cinematic masterpiece – then you bought tickets to the wrong movie. If you’re the type of person who has joined the fad of blind hatred for Michael Bay that many internet users share, you’ve also bought tickets to the wrong movie. Lastly, if you have some strange expectation for a cohesive, serious, edge-of-your-seat plot from a grounded, relatable villain… Well, you might as well just close this tab now. But if you’re a lover of fistbumps, pizza, shouting “cowabunga” at inopportune times, or if you just grew up watching the late-80’s/early 90’s TMNT cartoon, then read on, party dudes. Read on.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows isn’t just a love letter to retro Turtles fans, its Michael Bay as John Cusack with a boombox outside our windows, blasting the old-school TMNT theme song, beckoning for us to come outside and join the party he’s created. And if you walk into the theater expecting just that (a party), then you’ll feel right at home with all the absurd action TMNT 2 has to offer.
TMNT 2 picks up right where the first film left off. The turtles gave shredder a good, old fashioned shell-kicking (sorry, spoilers), and returned to the sewers to hone their skills and hide until the next call on their police scanner comes in. A few things have changed about these turtles since the first movie, namely being the physiques of the brothers themselves. In the first TMNT, the turtles seemed monstrously sized, and physically dominated the presence of any other characters on-screen. In TMNT 2, the turtles have much more distinct physical attributes, with Donatello being a bit taller and lankier (with plenty of gadgets duct taped to him), Raphael retaining his bulkiness and raw physical strength (and anger), a downsized Michelangelo embracing his role as the “little” brother in the group, and Leonardo with the most neat and finely-tuned “outfit” out of the four. Its clear to the viewer which role each turtle is supposed to play, and man – they play their roles well. The motion captue and special effects bring the turtles to life, but the voice actors really nail their parts as the turtles, giving the old-school voice actors from the cartoons a serious run for their
Aaaaaaand then there’s the humans. Most reviews I’ve read so far state that the human characters are the worst part of TMNT 2… And unfortunately, I have to agree. Aside from Shredder (who is super badass), Baxter Stockman (who was perfect), and the tons of nameless foot clan agents… The other three main human presences just feel bland and tacked on. I don’t hate Megan Fox as April, and Will Arnett’s character was kinda funny in the first movie, but he was a complete jackass in this sequel nonetheless. His character’s arrogance and utter obliviousness to his surroundings prompted more eyerolls from me than anything else.
And then we have Casey Jones. Stephen Amell feels like the right pick, but both him and April spend too much time brooding or being helpless to offer anything to the plot (or to the turtles). What’s more, we only get to see Casey Jones in his mask once (in the cool alley fight scene from the trailers) and even then, he doesn’t even have a cricket bat. Its my hope that he’ll find out what a crumpet is between this movie and the next, and pick one up, along with a Jose Canseco bat (as long as he doesn’t pay money for it). So yeah, Casey Jones wasn’t as cool as I thought he’d be – but hey, that’s what sequels are for right? Casey’s just getting his feet and/or hockey sticks wet with vigilantism when we meet him in TMNT 2, whereas when we meet him in the cartoons and live-action movies of yesteryear he’s already an established masked figure, ready to actually add something to the plot, and subtract teeth from his enemies’ mouths.
Back to the goodness – there’s Bebop and Rocksteady. Holy shit were they hilarious. Gary Anthony Williams and WWE’s Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly do an incredible job of playing the two half-witted, all-brawn/no-brains errand boys that the fans wanted to see. Regardless of if the plan was going accordingly or not, Bebop and Rocksteady were simply happy to be there, playing grabass, and smashing stuff. They were appropriately dumb, looked true to the source material, and were hilariously fun villains for the turtles to square off with.
The action is great, the visuals are stellar, and the turtles’ antics, stunts, and jokes more than make up for the bland performances from their human counterparts. If you don’t mind constant jumps in plot logic (for example, Donny hacks into a computer-driven battlestation from a foreign dimension like 15 seconds after discovering it exists), more action than sensible storytelling, and huge setpieces that would make the first movie blush, then please do yourself a favor and go see TMNT 2: Out of the Shadows. It’s a great time for turtles fans, young, old, new, whatever. The folks who made this movie knew exactly who they were making it for, and its great to see a flick put on two solid hours of fan service without sacrificing a shred (heh) of detail.
Too often we see spinoffs change appearances, iconic characters, or plot points to make it “make sense” in a movie, but TMNT 2 just said “nah” and made the movie that the eight year-old in all of us made in our own imaginations when we were playing with our TMNT action figures back in the day. All four key elements of this movie were done right: Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool (yet rude), and Michelangelo is a party dude. TMNT 2 kicks serious shell, and longtime fans of the franchise owe it to themselves to partake in the party. I’ll leave you with the phenomenal remix of the classic 80’s/90’s theme done for the movie by CD9. Cowabunga.