by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
Every generation gets pop culture icons reinvented. Batman from the 40s isn’t the same as Batman from the 60s isn’t the same as Batman from today. Reinvention keeps stories and characters fresh for a newer audience.
I myself am a child of such reinvention. My introduction to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was through the cartoon that debuted in the 1980s, which I’m sure was blasphemous to the readers of the more serious black-and-white comic book put out by creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. And since my introduction to the Heroes In A Half-Shell they’ve been retooled a few times, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.
The recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film franchise seemed to be destined to get filed under “sometimes not.” The first film was atrocious and soulless. I worried for this generation, thinking that this is how they’d remember TMNT. Thankfully the latest offering, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, is a step in the right direction.
Taking place a year after the first film we see Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo sticking to the shadows and allowing cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take credit for the defeat of the Shredder (Brian Tee). Unfortunately the Foot Clan and Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) seek to break their sensei out of jail and lead them to greatness once again.
The jailbreak leads to Shredder being teleported to Dimension X and into the presence of Krang, a sentient brain in a robotic host body looking to cross over to Earth and help Shredder take over. Given a powerful mutagen, Shredder takes subordinates Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and WWE superstar Sheamus) and transforms them into beastial beings that will be the start of an army that will help bring Krang and his Technodrome over for world domination.
Aided by their friend April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and corrections officer turned vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), the four reptilian brothers look to stop the bad guys while also trying to come to terms with how they feel about their place in the world.
I’m surprised at how well this film turned out, as they did retain two of the three writers from the first film (Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec). I’ll attribute the upswing in quality to director David Green and his handling of the material. The Earth To Echo helmer managed to infuse a little bit of heart into these turtles and actually made me feel for them as they struggled to find where they belong.
The addition of fan favorite characters like Bebop, Rocksteady and Casey Jones was a step in the right direction. Choosing Williams (known for his voice work on animated series like The Boondocks) and Sheamus proved beneficial, as after their transformation you’d need recognizable and unique voices to carry the characters. And you can’t ask for a better Casey Jones than Stephen Amell, as he’s shown he can get physical for the last four seasons as Oliver Queen / The Green Arrow on the hit CW show Arrow.
While most definitely a step in the right direction the series still has a ways to go before I consider it saved. Still it does have me looking forward to what the future might hold for the Green Machine.