Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows (2016)


Cowabunga! Our favorite lean green fighting machine returns to the big screen in a much improved sequel to 2014’s reboot, but is it a case of nostalgia overload?


In 1991, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze hit theaters, a rushed sequel to the 1990 mega hit live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. I was 12 years old then and a huge turtles fans; hoping to see the cartoon turtles that I’d grown up cherishing finally realized on the big screen and in live action correctly. I’d been a little unenthused by the first Turtles film, an overly serious film that focused too much on the redemption story between a father and his son turned foot soldier. I had long wanted to see the elements of the cartoon I loved on the big screen; Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang’s android body, and the Technodrome on the big screen. Instead, we got 2 new mutants, Tokka and Rahzar, a mutated Super Shredder, and Vanilla Ice ninja rapping. It was a fun movie, but more of a cult hit starting the franchise off on its road to diminishing returns.

This year, we get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows, a sequel/reboot to 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Much like the situation with the original TMNT 2, this sequel tries to address many issues with the original film in its series to please hardcore fans. We get a comic book/cartoon accurate Shredder played by Brian Tee, replacing William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune’s split version of the role in the 2014 film. Shredder is convicted of his plan to destroy the city in the past film and is being transported to prison, when he is almost freed through the actions of a reconstituted Foot Clan, assembled by Karai and Baxter Stockman; characters familiar to long time Ninja Turtle fans. Shredder is almost recaptured by the Ninja Turtles, who are on the case after being tipped by Megan Fox’s April O’Neil of Stockman’s involvement. The turtles almost recapture Shredder in their trademarked Turtle Van, when Shredder is suddenly and mysteriously teleported into another dimension by the alien warlord, Krang. Krang, a disembodied brain in a robot body, is trapped in another dimension and needs Shredder’s help in finding 3 components that will help him crossover to Earth and take over the world through his war machine, a giant battle station called the Technodrome. Shredder agrees, in exchange for something that can level the odds against the Turtles, mutagen, and a promise of leadership in the new world order. Thus, the stage is set for Shredder and his new compatriots, Bebop and Rocksteady, to help Krang and destroy the Ninja Turtles.

Honestly, the film summary reads like an episode of the cartoon show from the late 80’s to 90’s. Where the first TMNT film went out of its way to redesign the Turtles and Splinter, TMNT 2 slavishly reproduces the characters we love with their cartoon roots. Bebop and Rocksteady look exactly like the cartoon that spawned them. So does Krang and the one-eyed Technodrome. From Karai to Baxter Stockman and even Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), the film does not skimp on fan service to fans of these characters and their former franchises. Vanilla Ice is referenced in the film, as are the cartoon Turtle designs as cellphone emojis. Even the 1987 cartoon theme van makes an appearance in the film.

The main storyline in the film revolves around Raphael resenting having to keep the charade that they didn’t save the city in 2014, since Vern (Will Arnett) took credit for it and became a national hero. Leonardo is having issues dealing with leadership, as he feels the other Turtles don’t respect his leadership style; especially when there’s a chance that Krang’s mutagen could turn the Turtles human. This is a thin storyline at best and that is one of the film’s biggest issues, since it basically heavily cribs from Fox’s X-Men films and the Hellboy franchise, diluting what makes the Turtles special in the first place by having them rehash stories for other characters. There isn’t a lot of characterization or nuance in the film either; characters just sort of say what they’re feeling and the heavy handed exposition hurts the film a lot. Casey Jones and April O’Neil’s entire arcs are based on their airing out their thoughts aloud to keep the story moving along briskly.

Ultimately, the film isn’t very good, but at the same time, it isn’t terribly awful. Kids will like it, and, much like 1991’s TMNT 2, it will find an audience via replays to kids on home video and VOD. The amount of fan service is almost excessive; when you remind people too much of why they like something, it can come across as exploitative and this film treads on that line quite a bit. If you like Michael Bay’s Transformers films, you’ll likely enjoy this film more than most, but there is something cool about seeing the Ninja Turtles fight Krang in the Technodrome that compels you to see it at least once.