Director: Dave Green
Starring: Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson
I’m a fan of this series and have been since I was a kid, and I honestly can’t even fathom how popular it’s been for as long as it’s been. Since the late 80s/early 90s, this franchise has captured the imaginations of kids and been a marketing bonanza. It’s seen 3 long running cartoons, plenty of toys made, a good deal of video gaming, and 5 movies thus far. They started in comics, but in a tone pretty different than what they became known for. Once they took the turn towards kid friendly, very few properties could touch it’s success. But it’s so fundamentally silly and weird that it doesn’t really make sense for it to be as wide spread as it is. Maybe it’s because it’s about fun kids that are all very distinct and are very upbeat added with the weird sci fi and kung fu aspects of it. I don’t know, but all I know is that there’s been plenty of entertainment had thanks to them. And know we are about to see a new movie with the crew, this time a sequel to the Bay-ified version of the Turtles that didn’t garner much love. I enjoyed it as a Turtles fan but knew it wasn’t very good. Somehow though, the marketing for this movie has sold it as a much different experience and one that felt very much like the Turtles. And for a blockbuster season that hasn’t thrilled me too much yet, it seemed poised to take over the season. Thankfully, I can say that this movie very much made my day.
Right off the bat, this movie feels very different than the prior one. It still has the odd facial designs for the Turtles, but other than that it doesn’t have the determination to gritty realism that the other did. Which is already a good sign, since this is a series that on it’s face value spits in the face of realism. The visual style is also much cleaner and clear, doing away with the muted color palette and shaky cam. It’s much brighter and very much in line with the colorful property, while still looking like it’s in a “real” world. It’s very much our NYC they are in but a little heightened so we can believe that these guys are around. What’s added is a giant sense of fun, the movie never losing sight of the good times that makes up the franchise. These guys are fun loving teens and they have fun, even if they are some earnest moments of surprisingly honest emotions. Even with stakes that feel legit, it never sinks into sullen nonsense or stoic heroism. The situations they get into and the reactions they have are great. It all plays because of how perfectly they get these characters. Even in the last one, they felt exactly the way they’re supposed to. They’re all individuals and charming in their own way. You know these guys and like spending time with them, and it’s a real damn achievement how they do so with CGI creations.
In what is the biggest upswing since the last movie is the plot isn’t a shambling mess of studio interference. There’s a clear and concise goal from the beginning and it’s followed all the way through. It’s a big action adventure movie and it sticks to it, even allowing it’s diversions to be fun and actually relevant to the plot. This isn’t Raiders of The Lost Ark or anything but it’s a clear stepup for them and it does so by embracing the wildness of the series. We got Shredder again and he’s feeling more like Shredder this time out. They bring in Tyler Perry to play Baxter Stockman and he’s a blast, bringing the super nerdy ass to life. And while we may have Shredder and Stockman, the real villain is Krang and he is a damn delight. A big pink blob alien hanging out of a robot, they have fun with him and just fully embrace the Sci Fi. Alternate dimensions and warplanets and world domination are all part of the game. And if that wasn’t enough, we get Bebop and Rocksteady. These bastards steal the show, the full personification of the newfound determination to be fun. They are fully bad dudes, but they have a blast doing it and are charming little idiots. You like them and their meathead antics. Almost every addition to this movie works.
Not everything works though. Megan Fox still isn’t very good in the role. She isn’t as annoying as she was in the last movie but still doesn’t feel like a real character. She’s just a checklist of heroic things needed to be done to help the turtles. Although it’s funny that this is essentially the demotion in the Bay-verse after pissing him off after the Transformers movies fiasco. The real disappointment though is Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. It’s a character I like but is not fully realized here. They make him a Corrections Officer and a meathead idiot. The character was never supposed to be a genius, but this is a completely different shading of doofus that doesn’t fit. He comes off more like a bully in this, and a whiny one at that. I thought for a while that Amell was a good actor after a few seasons of Arrow, but the last few seasons of that and this has me convinced that he’s just another pretty face snatched up by the CW who should just stay in his wheelhouse. It’s a one note performance that is outshined by Megan Fox and 4 CGI Turtles.
This is not high art. It’ll never be confused as such. The ambitions on display aren’t as lofty as a Captain America: Civil War or Batman v Superman. But what it sets out to do is executed pretty damn well. There’s some well done stuff regarding the Turtles relationships as a family and a team, mixed in with some decent stuff regarding their desire to fit in in the world. Funnily enough, this movie is more deserving of the title Secret of The Ooze than the actual movie with that title. It’s a load of fun that will keep audiences smiling the whole time, with plenty of good hearted humor and thrilling action sequences that take full advantage of the property. By tapping into a sense of fun that brings out the kid in the viewer, it does something no other blockbuster has this year. It just has fun. Nothing more, nothing less. For that alone, even without my attachment to the characters, this will be a movie I revisit over time. A big rebound after the potentially disastrous prior entry, this is a rousing success that is sure to be a good time for all involved.