If you saw 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’re probably wondering why there’s a sequel. Because it was bad. A CGI-monster, Michael Bay-produced pile of shit that somehow managed to become a Transformers movie and make creepy dude-bros out of once beloved heroes. But, as always, the answer to the “Why make a sequel?” question lies in that sweet, sweet blockbuster money.
But the money motivation behind this is hilarious. Not only was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles genuinely loathed by critics and moviegoers, but it also performed terribly at the box office in the summer of 2014 (by “blockbuster” standards). It made $191 million in the U.S. In case that number means nothing to you, most blockbusters make that in the first weekend. Captain America: Civil War, for example, made $179 million its first weekend. Now, here’s the catch. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was big with foreign box offices, specifically in China and Japan, which helped it hit about $500 million worldwide. And since Paramount is used to mediocre success, that was enough for them to push the greenlight button.
The good news is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows isn’t nearly as unbearable as its predecessor (That’s not saying much since the bar wasn’t exactly set high, but still). That credit goes to director Dave Green, who helmed kid-friendly action/sci-fi Earth to Echo (2014). Green took the mess left in the wake of the first film, cleaned it up a little, and pulled out an action-packed movie with a family-friendly story about brotherhood and teamwork. Cheesy? Perhaps, but it’s much closer to the roots of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles we know.
Also, the sequel managed to tone down the roided-out creep factor Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) had in the first film. It helps that two of the villains are douchier than the turtles, making them seem better by comparison. That’s rhino Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) and warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), who fans of the TMNT cartoon will recognize. They fist-bump and say “My man!” every two seconds. Excluding the awkward dick joke they make, it’s decent comic relief.
Don’t mistake my “It’s not as bad” view of this movie as a glowing recommendation, though. Out of the Shadows is a garbage fire at best—entertaining to watch, but in the end, it’s still flaming trash. I mean, Michael Bay’s hands are all over this franchise, so it’s a byproduct of his Transformers wet dreams. Car chases with explosions, Megan Fox dressed like a naughty schoolgirl, borderline Asian appropriation, product placement. You know…all of the things that make the Transformers films awful.
Oh, and I didn’t even tell you my “favorite” part about Out of the Shadows! The only semblance of a plot is about the turtles stopping Shredder (Brian Tee) from using a portal device to open a black hole above New York City so Commander Krang (Brad Garrett) can travel through with a weapon that will enslave the human race. Which, hi, yeah, that’s basically The Avengers. But hey! Kids won’t know the difference, and this movie is meant for them, right? RIGHT? (I actually don’t know the answer to that.)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows: C
Listen to my review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 45:44).