Out of the Shadows focuses on this idea of acceptance, both within and out. Despite destroying most of the crime in the city, including the first big battle against Shredder in 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they’re only known to two journalists: April (Megan Fox) and Vern (Will Arnett). Since these CGI turtles were honestly nostalgia-crushing and terrifying to look at in 2014, TMNT spent a lot of time on these humans and their stories, and Out of the Shadows rectifies this by putting the turtles front and center. Out of the Shadows does a lot better than it’s predecessor: it introduces two of the series' most-lovable henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady, and lets the turtles have fun skating through the sewers with each other first and foremost, generating a short-lived but palpable sense of authenticity from these computer-generated beasts.
It’s really hard not to tell how computerized the turtles and the whole movie is, which begs the question why this reboot couldn’t just be animated like the rest of the lovable series. While being bombarded with the constant Michael Bay explosions in Out of the Shadows, I began to think about 2015’s summer blockbusters, specifically Mad Max: Fury Road and Ant-Man. Ant-Man was given the same background as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles minus the larger nerd fanbase: an inane topic that can be catered to children and also be a summer blockbuster hit. Ant-Man had excellent use of photography and amusing action sequences despite its largely formulaic story. Fury Road, on the other hand, had all the car and tank explosions that Michael Bay now has wet dreams about, but with meaning; with each decimated truck, Imperator Furiosa was one step closer to her goal of defeating the patriarchy. Looking at a list of summer 2016’s blockbusters, it’s surprisingly limited. Besides Civil War in theaters right now, the major industry pulls in July are Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters, and the industry seems to mostly be banking on Suicide Squad in August. I guess that’s what makes Out of the Shadows a release that deserves to be noticed if only for how it emphasizes how dry this box-office season is.
There’s nothing else to notice about Out of the Shadows. While the turtle bros are more of the focus now, Out of the Shadows decides to have a turtle plot and human plot run simultaneously with the characters, and the human side is so lacking and cringey. Tyler Perry plays a Neil DeGrasse Tyson-like mad scientist who wants to destroy the Earth and teams up with Shredder (yeah of course he’s back again) before Shredder disappears again and Laura Linney’s also there as a police chief trying to figure things out and spends most of the movie just gaping. As a personal Will Arnett fan (s/o Bojack Horseman), he’s given very little like the rest of the cast and doesn’t fulfill the complete asshole personality he so masters. The turtles crack jokes and often take time to have familial drama and go through some weird turtle-puberty where they discover self-consciousness, but it’s all completely trivial by the end as the turtles look to the city and loudly burp once again. Their nihilism is admirable, but I couldn’t remain apathetic to a release like Out of the Shadows whose hollow existence only makes this season feel emptier. Summer ‘16 is going to need a lot more than turtle power.