Two years ago, I chose not to see the new live action Ninja Turtles movie in theaters because frankly, I hated what I saw in the previews. Mainly, I could not get past the character designs. Eventually, I had Netflix send me the DVD of it, and reluctantly watched it. You can read my review of it here. In a nutshell, my mind wasn’t changed. I wasn’t pleasantly surprised. Only now, my issues with the movie expanded beyond character designs. But even without my support, that movie made a bunch of money. Enough that they made a sequel.
And I decided to give the sequel a chance. The previews looked…fun. I still really dislike the design of the turtles, but in this one, Bebop and Rocksteady looked interesting. So, I gave it a chance. And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. I’d stop short of calling it a good movie, but it was something that I enjoyed watching. So what made this movie different than the first one? I’ve read some reviews that comment on the lighter tone, as if that’s the sole reason the movie was a bit better than the first one. And while that could have played a part, I believe it’s wrong to place all of the improvement on the tone.
Instead, I think there’s actually a far simpler reason. This movie did something utterly crazy. It actually focused on the title characters. I know that’s a crazy concept, but the first movie didn’t really focus on the Ninja Turtles. It did enough to give you the base descriptions, but there was no characterization to any of them. Instead, it spent most of the time focused on April O’Neil and Vern Fenwick. This movie, however, actually spends time developing the characterizations of each of the Turtles. You get to learn feelings, thoughts, and motivations.
The Turtles in this movie are actual characters, rather than plot devices. Rather than a simple way to throw some action into the movie. You get the isolation that being different can bring. You have the longing to be the outside world’s definition of normal, so you can live what you believe to be a normal, idealized life. We’re shown what the burden of leadership can do to someone and the struggle of trying to get people to follow you so that you are a leader. Sure, most of the times they were pretty heavy handed with these characterizations because subtlety was nowhere to be found. But this isn’t the type of movie where you employ lots of subtlety. You just kind of throw it out there and go with it.
I don’t know if Megan Fox was better as April O’Neil, or if just less of her worked better. And no snide comments about how no Megan Fox would be even better still. She wasn’t bad in this movie. She was a fine April O’Neil. Everything the character was doing was as believable as it could be. Unlike other times where characters are so poorly written and acted that you can’t really believe they’re capable of driving down to the grocery, let alone the job they’re supposed to be doing in the movie. Looking at you, Christmas Jones. Anyways, sure, there was one scene near the end where it’s questionable that she could be doing as well as she was in the fight, but it’s nothing totally unbelievable. It’s not like they had her hit the finishing strike on Shredder or anything. And yes, there is an early scene that screams of male fanservice, but whatever. The scene around it worked well enough. But overall, better April O’Neil than before.
Now, onto the new additions. Bebop and Rocksteady were silly. It was a fun silly, but if you’re looking for well-acted roles, you’re looking at the wrong place. Sheamus as Rocksteady, and someone else as Bebop were effective in their over the top roles. Same thing goes for Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman. Maybe a little too heavy on the awkward nerd trope, but it was mostly funny to watch. Stockman really is a versatile character, in that playing him serious works just as well as playing him as the awkward scientist does. It just depends on what the movie is going for. Sure, we never really know why he joined the Foot Clan, other than his desire to be remembered forever due to his scientific discoveries. Why he couldn’t do this with a normal lab is unclear.
Lastly is Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. I like Amell in Arrow, but this Casey Jones just seemed a little weird to me. Here, I think I would have much preferred the traditional street vigilante, rather than having him be a corrections officer who wants to be a detective someday. Sure, they use the correction office angle to tie him into the story and why he would be tracking down Bebop and Rocksteady, but you don’t need it. The first movie didn’t need a direct line to draw Casey Jones into the story. But I think a street-wise Casey Jones works better as a character than one who golly gee, just wants to work hard at his job and impress his superiors. Again, Amell did fine with that role, it just seems like an odd direction to go.
The story is simple enough. The Turtles are trying to find their place in the world. Shredder wants to rule the world and is willing to partner up with a couple “brainy” characters to do it. See what I did there? Actually, since he’s in the preview, I suppose it’s not really a surprise that Krang is in the movie. I guess a bit of the silliness with Krang rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t feel like your villain needed to have comedic relief while they’re trying to destroy the world.
If you are a Ninja Turtles fan, especially a fan of the original cartoon, I’d encourage you to watch this at some point. Maybe a matinee. Maybe get it from Netflix or Redbox in a few months. It was a silly, stupid, enjoyable fun movie.