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Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo are back to battle bigger, badder villains, alongside April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and a newcomer: the hockey-masked vigilante, Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). After supervillain Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes custody, he joins forces with two dimwitted henchmen, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus), to unleash a diabolical plan to take over the world. As the Turtles prepare to take on Shredder and his new crew, they find themselves facing an even greater threat with similar intentions: the notorious Krang. (From Paramount’s official synopsis)

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
While reviewing the first movie in this new series, I acknowledged the unusual endurance of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What’s more surprising is the ongoing overall quality of the franchise. But, with the exception of director Steve Barron’s original 1990 movie, the concept hasn’t worked very well in live-action and Platinum Dunes’ dreadful 2014 film was the worst in a long line of failures. Faced with this failure, producers – including, of course, Michael Bay – took the fan criticism of their dark ‘n gritty approach to heart and made drastic changes to the movie very late in production. The attempt backfired spectacularly, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made enough money to justify a sequel. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (the title may be a double entendre referring to the overly dark imagery/tone of the first movie) offers them a chance to really make amends with the series’ younger and older fanbases.

The first step in improving the series – beyond writing a script that the patently absurd franchise a chance to be a little silly – was not re-employing Jonathan Liebesman, a director known for humourless adult properties, like Darkness Falls (2003), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), and Battle: Los Angeles (2011). Here, he was replaced with Earth to Echo (2014) director David Green, who brings a more lively, family-friendly sensibility that often makes up for his lack of experience. He follows Liebesman’s lead a bit too often, specifically his tendency to overwhelm the audience with terrible blocking, excessive close-ups, and unmotivated/impossible virtual camera moves (the few times the camera does hold still for a second, it stops at an obnoxious dutch angle), but also manages to infuse the forgetful action set-pieces with a whole lot more character and a few genuinely funny gags. Even the Michael Bay-standard gratuitous sex appeal feels sort of acceptable, because April O’Neil is such a capable heroine (she does more to save the day in the first act than any of the male heroes).

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
Returning writing team Josh Appelbaum & André Nemec (also known for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, 2011) go overboard with fan-service this time, holding none of the favourite characters and props back for a second sequel. It feels like crude pandering at times (the Easter eggs border on insulting), but a bit of pandering is sort of what this floundering series needed. Appelbaum & Nemec deserve credit for loading Transformers levels of unnecessary plot into 112 minutes, too. They’re forced to reiterate what happened in the first film (so it can mostly ignore it), introduce brief back-stories for Baxter Stockman, Rocksteady & Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones, and develop a generic threat for the heroes to defeat. It’s amusing to watch the filmmakers trying to cram character development into their ridiculously convoluted narrative – almost as funny as their desperate attempts to fill plot holes as the story runs away from them (the scene where Shredder and Krang meet runs entirely on coincidences and prior knowledge of the characters). The chances that the sequel to Liebesman’s film would be good was always a long shot, so I’m willing to accept a little entertainment value over actual quality.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows

Video


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is at least 50% computer animated – probably closer to 75% – and all of the live-action footage was shot using Arri Alexa XT digital HD cameras and designed for 3D theatrical viewing. This 2.35:1, 2D 1080p transfer meets the expectations of similar effects-heavy/digitally-shot Blu-ray releases. The 3D-friendly compositions and busy character designs ensure that just about every frame is brimming with detail from front to back. The complex textures (sometimes grotesquely complex) are sharp without haloes and the patterns are neatly separated. While black levels remain as thick and heavy as they had been last time around, the palette is extremely colourful and eclectic. Production/costume designers load every character and vehicle with cartoonish hues and violent elements, like explosions and gunfire, are often ‘softened’ with neon purple and green bursts. The hues are neatly separated, though there is some slight blocking/banding in warmer colours during dark sequences.

Audio


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is presented in Dolby Atmos sound, though I am referring to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core audio in the review. These movies aren’t quite as busy as their Transformer counterparts with their servos and engines, but the sound designers had fun augmenting typical action movie elements with cute cartoon sound effects. The channels are consistently active and there’s huge dynamic range between sequences. Steve Jablonsky’s mostly generic symphonic score gets the job done and steps out of its comfort zone to deliver a pretty rousing title theme. The music is clear and is evenly mixed between the more bombastic effects. The consistent and relatively naturalistic dialogue-heavy scenes (a pretty impressive feat, considering the quantity of post-production voiceover performances) are often underscored with pop tunes – some super obvious, like 1990s party hip-hop numbers (two big-budget superhero movies featured Wreck-X-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” you guys…)

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows

Extras


  • We Are Family (8:15, HD) – A look at the actors that portrayed the Turtles (and Splinter) for motion-cap and the filmmakers’ attempts at fleshing out the characters for the sequel.
  • Whoa! Expanding the Turtleverse (14:19, HD) – More EPK-style cast & crew interviews concerning the other characters, including returning and new allies and enemies.
  • House Party (6:18, HD) – On the re-design of the Turtle Lair set. A lot of work clearly went into it, so it’s disappoint it looks so phony in the final film.
  • It’s Tricky: Inside the Van (4:08, HD) – A sort of self-explanatory look at the fabrication and design of the new Turtle Van.
  • ILM – The Effects Beneath the Shell (3:04, HD) – A collection of special effects progression reels that blend together bits of live-action plates, wireframes, pre-rendered animation, and final shots.
  • Did You Catch That? Turtle Eggs! (3:02, HD) – The cast & crew discuss the many references to the comics, cartoons, and movies, as well as a number of in-jokes/Easter eggs.
  • Three deleted/extended scenes (4:54, HD)


 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows

Overall


Do you absolutely need more Ninja Turtles in your life? Is the current Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series with its superior storytelling, funnier jokes, and more competent fight choreography and blocking just not enough? Are your expectations incredibly low, following the trashcan that was the previous Platinum Dunes live-action movie? Then I guess I’d recommend Out of the Shadows. It’s a complete nonsense overload, but it’s pretty entertaining. Though it begs the questions: do the people that write superhero movies notice that they keep ending them with world ending threat materializing above the center of New York or Chicago? Like the third Transformers movie. And The Avengers. And Amazing Spider-Man. Oh, and the last Ninja Turtles movie. Anyway, this 2D Blu-ray looks very sharp, even though it is clearly designed for 3D viewing, and the soundtrack will keep your system busy. The extras aren’t great, but they do include some deleted scenes.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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