Saturday, June 4, 2016

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

When it comes to Hollywood rebooting various nostalgic properties, fans have to be reassured that the right people are on board to make them. Since the late 2000s, the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) reboot had its fans up in arms from the very start of reports, pre-production and all the way until its release. It was one of those subjects that had endless debates between all kinds of fans on how the characters would be treated and whether the casting and character designs would properly represent the turtles today. Stepping back, the live-action CGI reboot to the original 1990 film was not a complete critical misfire but there were things about it that blatantly showed how much attention to detail was given to the production. Nonetheless the film brought in a hefty amount of money and two days later, a sequel was green lit. Of course, certain fans that already had their opinion would probably stick with it. However for this entry, there may be people who care after all. From what it looks like, things may turn around.

"Hey,...I think Raph's missing from this screenshot..."
The sequel seems to have taken note of big complaints fans had about the first and has worked to improve it. The first writers to the reboot, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec continue to pen the script here. In the director's chair is no longer Jonathan Liebesman, but Dave Green, the director of Earth to Echo (2014). The premise to the story is straightforward. After the events of the first, the Shredder (Brian Tee) and two inmates named Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) get broken out of police custody by his fellow foot clansmen and with the help of sci-fi wiz Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). Together they team up with squid alien Krang (Brad Garrett) to help conquer the planet. Thankfully the teenage mutant ninja turtles are willing to stop them with the help of Vernon (Will Arnett), April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and new addition Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). Noel Fisher plays Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Pete Ploszek as Leonardo and Alan Ritchson as Raphael respectively.

Master Splinter is still voiced by Tony Shalhoub and Laura Linney plays the Chief of the police headquarters. Here are the only problems with the script. Where were the villain connections made? When and where did Baxter Stockman make connections with the Shredder? And the same could also be said for Shredder having connections with Krang. Also it's probably safe to assume Erick Sacks (William Fichtner's role) faded into obscurity or moved out of the country because he's never mentioned. Other than that, there are noticeable improvements in how things are carried out. Character properties were a major complaint among viewers and that was fixed. The footclan - yeah, they're ninjas now, not gun wielders. The turtles themselves are also focused on more instead of their human counterparts. This entry does not have the Michael Bay schtick humor where Michelangelo, Vernon or whoever else ogling over April O'Neil's looks. The turtles are still goofy yes, but no longer with hyperactive immature humor.

The development for the turtles also brings up further questions of teamwork, trust and mistakes. All of which serve as learning curves for each and help them grow as a family. Casey Jones even has a legitimate backstory. Stephen Amell as Jones may not have the long hair but he has the right amount of geekiness and comedic timing to his performance. The action is a nice ride too. There are still CGI fights when the turtles either battle Krang or Bebop and Rocksteady but they are well put together. Another character modification was toning down the CGI on Shredder's costume. Instead of being one giant magnetized mechanized suite with flying daggers, the only metallic parts are his helmet and arm guards and it looks completely acceptable. There's only one scene where the CGI looks a bit off and that's when Bebop and Rocksteady transform into their humanoid animal counterparts. For some reason they do not look completely polished. For a big action film though, Dave Green's direction and ability to handle such scenes is noteworthy.

CGI Live-Action Bebop & Rocksteady
The same could be said for Lula Carvalho as the director of photography. Carvalho's experience with mainstream Hollywood films starts at the remake RoboCop (2014) and this installment's predecessor. There are still some issues with how close the lens will get to the CGI character's faces but there isn't much else to knock on. All action scenes were handled easily and there seemed to be more lit areas too. Surprisingly the composer to the music swapped although the choice of replacement was no shocker. Taking over Brian Tyler's role from the first film is frequent Michael Bay collaborator Steve Jablonsky. Although Jablonsky does not keep Brian Tyler's main theme that Tyler had created from the first film, the new theme that is used has its own motif as well and it is memorable. As to why he couldn't have just added those cues to Tyler's is probably an answer nobody will get (if they're even asking a question like that). The action cues are well produced and definitely help with the momentum in the film.

Originally what seemed like would be just another clunky Michael Bay influenced movie; the sequel has made some significant improvements. The script still misses on explaining certain character introductions but it also focuses more on developing the turtles. Various character designs were fixed by fans’ critiques and the music (although different) is still an enjoyable listening experience.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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