Dave Green (Earth to Echo) takes over from Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) as the director of this sequel to the 2014 reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) start the film very much in the shadows, or rather sewers, of New York City after allowing cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take credit for their defeat of the Shredder (Brian Tee) and his Foot Clan one year previously. Despite their victory, oldest brother and group leader Leo is concerned that he, Raph (the brawny, caustic one in the red bandana), Donnie (the sensitive, staff wielding genius in purple) and friendly, naïve youngest brother Mikey (orange bandana) are not working together as a team.
Leo’s fears prove somewhat justified when childhood friend and reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) uncovers a plot between the Foot Clan and mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to break the Shredder out of police custody. The ninja turtles fail to prevent their nemeses escape and Shredder soon joins forces with Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), a repulsive looking alien warlord who might’ve been genuinely scary had his vocal cadences not so resembled those of Jar Jar Binks. Krang gives the Shredder a mutagenic compound (henceforth referred to as “the purple ooze”) and instructions on how to activate a portal device between Krang’s dimension and his own so that Krang can transport the Technodrome (his giant spherical fortress/war machine) to Earth.
Shredder uses the purple ooze to transform nauseating petty criminals Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) into lumbering human-animal hybrids. Not only do the ninja turtles have to face off against the Shredder, Krang and these two stomach-churning manbeasts to save their city and the entire planet, they have to cope with internal conflict when Donnie reveals that the purple ooze could turn them into ordinary humans. Donnie, Raph and particularly sweet-natured Mikey long to escape the shadows and experience life in the regular world without being seen as monsters, but Leo is firmly opposed. Thankfully they have the help of old friends April, Vern and Splinter (their human-rat hybrid sensei and father-figure voiced by Tony Shalhoub) and new friend Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), an occasionally charming, hockey stick wielding former corrections officer and vigilante.
Like its predecessor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is aimed squarely at the adolescent male demographic and director Dave Green does a good job of catering to his target audience with a series of creative, technically impressive action sequences that capitalize on the fact that his heroes are highly trained martial artists with distinct fighting styles and weaponry. The film is let down by the fact that most of the ninja turtles wisecracks are painfully unfunny and it’s hard to imagine even thirteen year-old boys being amused by most of the dialogue in Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec’s screenplay. Will Arnett earns some laughs during his brief scenes, but Green spends way too much time on the insufferable and unnecessarily grotesque looking duo of Rocksteady and Bebop.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a film about the importance of teamwork and self-acceptance that will entertain fans of the franchise and viewers within its target demographic. Non-fans and non-adolescents should probably consider seeing something else at the cinema.