In the superhero business, longevity is key.
Pretty much all of the iconic superheroes that have stood the test of time were created between 1933 (Superman) and the early ’60s (Spider-Man and the Marvel gang).
With the notable exception of Wolverine, you won’t find a lot of household names in the superhero business that were created post 1970. And then there’s Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael.
If someone had told me in 1984 that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would still be a successful commodity in 2016, and opening its fifth live-action feature film this weekend, I would’ve said, “Right. And some day Donald Trump will be president.”
The jury is still out on that last part, but there is no denying the enduring appeal of this offbeat quartet of adolescent reptiles who were exposed to radioactive ooze and went on to become stealth warriors after learning the craft from a rat. Who would’ve thought such a premise would be just a flash in the pan?
I tend to think part of the success of the Turtles has to do with creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird filling the comic with some of the craziest characters they could think of — characters that would be fully embraced by young boys (and probably some girls) when the comic made the transition to cartoons. And it was through animation that the Turtles really caught fire, and even more crazy characters were introduced.
And yet here we are, 26 years since the first TMNT movie and we’re just now being introduced to Intergalactic Evil Blob Krang, half-man/half-warthog Bebop and half-man/half-rhinoceros Rocksteady. Hopefully the Triceratons (aliens who are half-man/half-Triceratops) will show up if a third film is made.
“Out Of The Shadows” is the second film since the franchise was rebooted in 2014 with better-looking, more realistic mutant ninja turtles (if such a thing is possible) and much better special effects.
Brothers Leo (Pete Ploszec), Raph (Alan Ritchson), Mikey (Noel Fisher) and Donnie (Jeremy Howard) still live in the sewers with their father-figure Splinter (Tony Shalhoub). They’re still buddies with reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and former cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett). Rounding out the good guys are hockey-loving vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and police chief Rebecca Vincent (Laura Linney).
The bad guy, as usual, is The Shredder (Brian Tee), who is joined in this current evil scheme by mad scientist Baxter Stockwell (Tyler Perry), Krang (Brad Garrett), Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly).
As to the story, not much to it: Krang breaks Shredder out of prison to help him take over the world; Shredder enlists Stockwell’s help to create a mutant army; the turtles show off their individual personality traits, jump around, have a big family disagreement but come together when it’s time to fight.
TMNT knows the formula that works for it and sticks to it like pizza on the bottom of your shoe. While the turtles’ look and movements have improved greatly since Michael Bay took over the franchise, it’s still the same old, same old when it comes to the characters and their motivations.
“Out of the Shadows” gives you just what it promises, nothing more or less. If you love the turtles you’ll probably enjoy it. But it’s far from being a must-see movie for the summer.