Out of the Shadows - Definitely from the Sewer

A MOVIE AND GAME REVIEW – NOT THAT THERE’S MUCH DIFFERENCE

By Patrick Tedder -- Contributor

THE MOVIE

The film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and the newest video game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan have a fair amount in common. They both look like video games, and sadly, neither product is very good.

TMNT: OS is suitable as a summer film. One doesn’t have to think very much while watching it, which is fortunate because if one were to make that mistake, it would quickly become apparent that it is at the expense of any semblance of realism or believability within its own universe that TMNT:OS tries to keep things fun and action packed.

Yes, this is a movie about Ninja Turtles. Yes, the original comic was a joke – albeit a wonderful one—but Out of the Shadows isn’t very funny, often resorting to fart joke-brow humor. Furthermore, even with all of its silliness, it’s not believable. The turtles and their human cohorts do ridiculous things that should have gotten them killed a million times over.

It’s not that I’m not willing to suspend realism for a goofy property, it’s that the “realism” within the film’s universe has to be consistent and make sense. Furthering the problem, the majority of our main characters are CGI, sometimes looking real / amazing, sometimes looking like CGI. The two problems blend in such a way that made me feel like I was watching a video game, and most damning of all, one that has no stakes.

My wife and I walked out of the film scratching our heads, trying to figure out a moment in the film where we felt anything either for the characters or during the action. Out of all the crazy camera shaking zaniness, we couldn’t really name one instance. Instead, being a non-turtle aficionado, she had a shell load of questions, one particularly on the mark when she asked about a certain bad guy who has too little screen time and is dispatched anticlimactically.

Sure, there’s time spent on the Turtles, but it is retread ground from earlier Turtle’s films and does nothing to develop their characters in new ways. Other characters are painfully paper thin, I love looking at you Megan Fox, but you are either a terrible actress or poorly used in these green screen films. Green Arrow dude, aka Casey Jones in this film, plays the character in the most impish way possible, just kind of there with the turtle’s team. Lastly, and heartbreakingly, even Bebop and Rocksteady, in all of their cool design, come across as little more than comical foibles, there because it’s a sequel and more is better....

Out of the Shadows certainly offers more than its predecessor, but it would have greatly improved from picking its spots. Instead of one or two amazing set pieces, we’re treated to a bunch of average ones.

However, I must say that even though this film left me disappointed and frustrated, I do hope the studio makes another sequel. I just hope it’s a different type of sequel.

THE GAME

As if the Turtles IP wanted to really pour salt in fans’ wound, it also released Mutants in Manhattan, a budget video game that manages to fail on almost every level. I’d go so far as to say it is probably the worst game I’ve played this year. If it is not forgettable, it is at least something you’ll want to forget.

For the purposes of this review, I played it on the Xbox One. The cell-shade graphics are fun, though not 60 fps fun. They harken back to the Turtle’s comic book roots, even using designs that seem to be a mashup of the new movie, the currently running cartoon, and the cartoon of old. It’s interesting, and in a game trailer, one doesn’t have to squint too hard to have expectations of something awesome.

Sadly, from practically the moment you start playing the game, it starts to melt into a steaming pile of shit, oozing out of your console, threatening to mutate your love for a beloved franchise. Not once within the incredibly short campaign did I feel as though I ever had any mastery over any of our four heroes.

Making things worse, the game forces you to play with your turtle brothers whether in AI format or with friends. The result is absolute chaos, the equivalent of playing the game on four different TVs with different things happening all at once.

On more than one occasion when the turtles were AI controlled, they would dispatch bad guys before I could even find who I was supposed to be attacking. Other times, the screen would fill up with explosions and blasts of color that had me looking about, wondering what the hell was going on. The game might as well be played with real turtles that accidentally have a foot on a turbo button.

This arcade-like nonsense brings about a little bit of nostalgia, but at least the arcade games turtle fans remember had different levels. Adding insult to injury, “Mutants in Manhattan” copies and pastes level locations with slightly different alterations. You’ll literally play through the sewer twice. You’ll play a poorly designed high-rise level twice, once with a storm, as if such will make players forget they aren’t retreading ground from just levels ago.

For such a short game, the things you’ll do in these copied and pasted levels are tedious and boring, rarely if ever being any fun. Oddly, instead of a true linear format, you have to complete “missions” within a tiny sandbox, until you can finally go to the most interesting part of the game and fight a boss. All missions are pretty much equal, travel here, beat up people here.

On the other hand, bosses are practically the only fun to be had from this misstep of a gaming experience. Each one will range the gambit of your favorite childhood memories, like Bebop, Rocksteady, and many more. Should you have the patience to withstand chucking the game out of a window once you’ve beaten it, repeat plays will bring about the chance—not even the certainty—of secret bosses showing up for an additional challenge.

Still, I can’t stress enough how fun the boss battles are. There is one near the end that is particularly jaw dropping, fighting while hurling through the sky. Yet, even the bosses and later bad guys in the game have their low points as “difficulty” seems to be a pseudonym for more health and more characters cheaply juggling your character about. Awful controls aside, the later stages in the game get to a point where the turtles feel desperately weak against almost any foe, an idea that would make sense at times, but is more obviously a case of poor development / trying to stretch an incomplete game.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to like this latest Turtle’s outing, and I suppose I’d try to play through a crappy adventure each time, just to tap into such a joyous time in my childhood. Fandom only takes it so far though. What does it say about a game that even at six hours, I was still more than done with the developer’s adventure? Don’t buy this game. Rent it if you must. Frankly, I’ll be waiting for the developers and publisher to issue an apology.