Sunday, June 5, 2016

TMNT: Out of the Shadows - What Would Vin Diesel Do? (SPOILER FREE)

"Hey, what are you doing tomorrow? You want to go see Ninja Turtles with me?" Famous last words. No, I jest. It wasn't suicide-inducing levels of bad.

"TMNT: Out of the Shadows" by Dave Green is a fun kids' movie, but it's never going to be a classic, much like its predecessor. The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where even kids' movies are Oscar-worthy masterpieces of animation, and in that world, something like Ninja Turtles just doesn't hold up. It's kind of a movie that fails on every front from poor acting, to uninteresting fight choreography (in a movie titled "Ninja" no less), to one of the most appallingly bad movie soundtracks in recent memory. The one place you'd think it would excel is the animation, but even that falls flat. Hell, I'm not even one of those people that has any problems with the way the turtles are designed, but most times in the movie, it's impossible to watch how the dialogue matches their lip movements [same goes for Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus)].

It was very tough going through this movie with a theater populated almost entirely by kids, not because they were disruptive or annoying (which is a movie-going anomaly, my Lord), but because it made it that much worse when nearly every joke was met with total silence. Kids will laugh at anything, trust me, so long as its not this movie. There were maybe 2 or 3 jokes that really landed, and one in particular, that especially hit. It's kind of an ongoing theme with this movie, in that most attempts on any front are met with failure.

Before I go on, I want to restate that this movie is not appallingly bad. The plot is serviceable, the script is decent, and it's got a very enjoyable cast, but Dave Green just didn't seem to know what to do with any of it. For example, I mentioned the soundtrack earlier. This movie has some incredible classic songs in it, from "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum, to "Rump Shaker" by Wreck-X-N-Effect. However, none of the licensed songs are used when they should be. The former is used within the span of fifteen or so seconds, which is only the opening guitar riff (and even then, it's only played in the background). Instead, what we get is some very generic movie score music playing over the action scenes, almost as if to create tension in the last movie that tension belongs in when they could've gone the other route and used their licensed music to amp up the action scenes.

The problem with that is that that dissonance resonates beyond the soundtrack. The movie is treated almost like a serious drama-crime-thriller with lovable protagonists, but all of the villains in the movie feel like they came straight out of the cartoon, which would be GREAT except it just feels odd and out of place in this movie. Brad Garrett does a fantastic job voicing Krang, our main villain, but it sounds more like a performance he would give to a WB Kids cartoon than to a big budget action film. It honestly feels like Dave Green couldn't make his mind up about whether he wanted to make a kids movie that plays as close to a direct adaptation of the cartoons we watched growing up as possible, and making something that feels grounded and real that a wider audience could enjoy. It's a nice idea in theory, but it just doesn't pan out.

This movie has two major successes (though I suppose one could be considered a failure by some). Firstly, our theater on a Sunday afternoon was completely packed. These movies are making money, and, just like Michael Bay's other ventures, will continue to do so indefinitely. There will always be a market for big dumb CGI action movies. Secondly, it leaves you wanting more. Though, in the case of this movie, it was that I was so dissatisfied with the fight choreography that I was left craving some real Ninja Turtles martial arts fight scenes.

If there's any one thing this movie left me with, it left me with one question that I will ask myself whenever I find myself in times of trouble: "What would Vin Diesel do?" The answer, I'm pretty sure, is "Turtle Wax".

David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast.

1 comment: