By Michael Kaye
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Review)
This might be blasphemous of me to say, but the history and evolution of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has a lot in common with Batman. I'm not just saying because they just to happen to star in a crossover comic book miniseries co-published by DC and IDW, but think about when both franchises became insanely popular. For Batman, it was the 1966 Adam West TV series, and for Turtles, it was the 1987 animated series, which began simply as a way to advertise the Playmate toy line. So what do these shows have in common? They both were responsible for essentially rewriting the mythologies of these franchises. And without that '87 cartoon, we never would have gotten today's film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. This is the sequel to the fairly successful predecessor from 2014, with Dave Green replacing original director Jonathan Liebesman.
Here's the story. After supervillain Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes custody, he joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and two dimwitted henchmen, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen "Sheamus" Farrelly), 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 evil with similar intentions: the notorious Krang.
I'm not gonna do a full review for this movie, partially because I don't think I have to, especially if you're a hardcore Turtles fan and have already decided you're going to see this no matter what. Speaking of fans, that's the other reason I'm not doing a full review, choosing instead to rant on a topic that's been bugging the shit out of me all this year, and that's the alleged "Critics vs. Fans" rift. But for now, here are my quick thoughts.
The score I'm giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows comes with an asterisk: if you are a hardcore fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially the '87 cartoon, then you will LOVE this movie! For better or worse, it plays out like a live action episode of the series. However, if you're just a casual moviegoer, this movie kinda sucks. The two absolute highlights of the film are the development of the Turtles themselves and Bebop & Rocksteady! Seriously, the chemistry between Gary Anthony WIlliams and Stephen Farrelly is just so infectious that I wanna see them return in the inevitable sequel. A lot of harsh criticism has been thrown towards Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, but I thought he did a fine job. Sure, he's no Elias Koteas, but he's likable enough as the hockey-loving vigilante. Two major complaints I had with the film, aside from the awful dialogue and sometimes not so great visual effects, were the wasting of Shredder, who you barely get to see wearing his signature helmet, and the cluttered third act. Other than that, this was a really solid Turtles movie, and I enjoyed the overall experience.
So here's where my rant comes in. As you should know by now, all film is subjective, and there have been plenty of scenarios where fans of a particular film will disagree with the critical consensus. However, this year it seems like there's an all out war between fans and critics, and quite frankly I'm getting freaking sick of it. Here are two reasons why this "war" is complete and utter bullshit!
First off, let's quit it with referring to "the critics" as some collective hivemind, who can't have opinions of their own and just follow everyone else. And let's doubly quit this conspiracy theory that they're being "payed off" by Disney (see my review as well as others of Alice Through the Looking Glass as proof). Critics are people, just like you and I, with their own tastes and preferences, and some of them might just be fans of your favorite intellectual properties. And as fellow film fans, we don't have to agree on everything they say, but at the very least we should be respectful of their opinions.
Finally, as Roger Ebert once said during an interview, "film criticism is important because films are important." And he is absolutely right. The same could be said about any criticism of art, be it film, music, TV shows, video games, comics, etc. We critique media because we want it to improve, we want creators to be putting out their best material for the world to see. No critic that I know of willingly walks into a film wanting to hate it, that'd be ridiculous! And there's no reason to get upset when a film you like gets a bad review. If anything, criticism is a good thing, because it ensures that the next movie might be better than the one that came before. TMNT2 is a perfect example of this. While it's not exactly doing so hot on the Tomatometer, it IS an improvement over the 2014 predecessor. That film was criticized for not spending enough time with the Turtles, and the sequel corrects that. While the first film was too dark and strayed too far from the source material (at the least the one most people are familiar with), this movie embraces the previous incarnations.
As I said before, if you're a hardcore Turtles fan, go out and support Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It is definitely an improvement over the original, with some fun and inventive action scenes, and great character moments from the titular heroes as well as Bebob and Rocksteady.
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen TMNT2, and if so, what did you think? Also, how do you feel about this "Critics vs. Fans" divide? Leave all your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where I take a look at the rise and fall of superstar Connor 4 Real in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.