If I was still an eight-year-old boy, I would probably love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the superior, action-packed sequel to 2014's Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Titled to reflect the move from shadow saviors to public crusaders for the heroes in a half shell, Out of the Shadows delivers some surprisingly good virtues about friendship and loyalty. This is a lively, quickly paced film with engaging CGI characters and colorful locations. The scattershot plot remains the weak link, and keeps the film from appealing to a wider audience. I have largely forgotten the story just a few days after my viewing, but I suspect a number of kids will watch it again and again this fall.
A year after vanquishing Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard), collectively the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, live in anonymity in the sewers below New York City. To avoid public panic, the turtles allowed reporter Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take credit for saving the city, though rival reporter and the turtles' friend April O'Neil (Megan Fox) knows the truth. The peace does not last, as scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) helps Shredder escape from prison, though the villain is transported to another dimension to face a giant alien, Krang (Brad Garrett), before returning to Earth. Stockman also creates a concoction to transform violent human criminals into equally lawless creatures, and his first two subjects are warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and rhinoceros Rocksteady (Sheamus). With the blessing of Splinter (Tony Shalboub), the turtles return to the streets to fight crime.
The first film in this live-action reboot franchise was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and the director brought his trademark generic action to what ends up an overly frenetic and bombastic bore. Sure, that film had its charms, too, and actors Fox and Arnett were some of the bright spots. Dave Green (Earth to Echo) directs this go-round, and delivers a moderately more focused film. That is not to say the movie is not 112 minutes of chaos, because it is. Every scene is busy and filled to the brim with CGI characters, crime-fighting weapons and neon lights. Green does his best to let each turtle's personality shine through, but that is almost impossible when the film hardly stops to breathe. It is best to look at the turtles as a whole, as the movie is not providing the seasons-long backgrounds of their cartoon counterparts.
"Arrow's" Stephen Amell joins the cast as corrections officer Casey Jones, and there are a couple of nifty action sequences here, namely a plane crash and street-to-sewer chase, that are clearly from Master of Mayhem Michael Bay. The CGI is slathered on, and I would not be surprised to learn a number of shots, and possibly entire sequences, were totally dreamed up in a computer. Krang is a nasty, gloopy and rude mess, which I am sure the kids will eat up. Fox, Amell and Arnett are as good as can be expected when playing on a green-screen set. The turtles are rambunctious and in constant motion, though this renders them somewhat fungible characters. If you hated the original film, nothing here is going to change your mind. If nothing else, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows offers positive messages about brotherhood and friendship with which adolescents can identity.
Paramount continues to release near-flawless HD presentations for new films, and this 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is wonderfully sharp, crisp and detailed, with incredible fine-object detail and texture. Shot with the Arri Alexa XT Plus digital camera system, Out of the Shadows offers incredible "HD pop," thanks to the aforementioned detail and gorgeously bold and perfectly saturated colors. Black levels are inky, shadow detail is abundant, and the effects blending is impressive. I noticed only very minor digital noise and some blocky pans, but this is an overall five-star presentation.
The disc offers a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which I sampled at its 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core. Whoa, buddy, is this soundtrack immersive and energetic. Each element is perfectly in tune with the next, and there is never a moment when dialogue is overcome by the effects or soundtrack. Conversations are crystal clear, whether from the center channel or surrounds, and the effects are wonderfully designed. Ambient effects like crowd noise, running water in the sewers and traffic are subtly effective, and the action effects are big, bombastic and balanced, using the surrounds and subwoofer to great effect. Sound pans are frequent, and both range and fidelity are near-perfect. French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs are included, as are English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and a code to redeem an iTunes or UltraViolet digital copy. The discs are packed in a slipcover-wrapped eco-case. The bonus features are fairly superficial but offer a few glimpses at the production. We Are Family (8:15/HD) examines the actors who portray the digital turtles, and Whoa! Expanding the Turtleverse (14:19/HD) catches viewers up on the last film and introduces the new characters here. You can explore the TMNT's lair in House Party (6:18/HD) and their vehicle in It's Tricky: Inside the Van (4:08/HD). Finally, you get ILM - The Effects Beneath the Shell (3:04/HD), which are VFX progressions; Did You Catch That? Turtle Eggs! (3:02/HD), about Easter Eggs within the film; and a few Deleted Scenes (5:00 total/HD).
A slight improvement over the previous outing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still a film aimed squarely at adolescent boys, and that target audience will likely love this action-packed sequel. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return to battle a newly freed Shredder, as well as alien Krang and a villainous scientist. This CGI heavy, thinly plotted film may not impress many adults, but, for the right audience, this Blu-ray package is Recommended.