This weekend David, Kalie, and I headed to our local movie theatre to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – complete with the brand new D-Box enhanced seating experience. This is that tale. Are you wondering if you should see the latest Turtles film? Are you curious as to what my brother, girlfriend, and I thought of their newest big screen adventure? Do you like reading stuff about comic book movies and/or mutated turtles who also happen to simultaneously be adolescent ninjas? Do you just want to know what the hell a D-Box seat at the movie theatre is (and if it’s worth the crazy up-charge in ticket price)? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions then you are in luck! This story is for you. (As usual, it’s presented spoiler-free.)
You might be wondering, “Michael, why did you even go see the new Turtles movie? Didn’t you see 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” I did. And I’ll admit it didn’t set the bar high. Yes, the Turtles were needlessly turned into hulking CGI monsters. Yes, it was a Bay-tastic example of destruction porn. Yes, the plot was blatantly lifted from 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man (which no one even TRIED to hide – toxin spewing skyscraper, villain bent on poisoning the whole city, murdered scientist parent who’s central to the plot, hero’s blood is key to victory/defeat). Yes, Splinter had cold, black, soulless eyes and seemed to lack his trademark wisdom. Yes, April O’Neil was degraded into the worst sort of objectified female character, with her body presented as her most competent and important trait. Yes, Shredder was turned into a gimmicky robot that would make Power Rangers villains laugh. And yes, the Foot Clan was changed from a clandestine group of ninja assassins into a generic paramilitary terror cell. But it wasn’t all bad. I felt the relationship between the Turtles and their sense of humor was pretty spot on.
Their personalities may’ve (again, needlessly) been shot through a dark filter to make them “gritty” and “edgy” but they were still Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. For me, their relationship was the film’s soul redeeming quality. In fact, I’d argue the relationship between the brothers is the most important part of any Turtles tale. So there was potential buried (deep) inside that less than stellar, often clichéd, unapologetically choosing-spectacle-over-substance at almost every turn packaging. As a lifelong fan of the Turtles, I had to know – did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows capitalize on that potential?
I’ve written already about my love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and how wonderful IDW’s current comic incarnation is. This film is not that. It isn’t a brilliant reimagining. Nor does it break any new ground. (In fact, as Jonathan Liebesman and Michael Bay were clearly watching The Amazing Spider-Man last time around, it would appear Dave Green and Michael Bay channeled The Avengers for this venture. We see a team that doesn’t know how to be a team…big personalities clashing with big personalities…an alien worm hole opening above New York City…we’ve been here before.) But I wasn’t looking for any new ground! My expectations were admittedly waaaaaaaaay low going into this movie. And do you know what happened? I had fun!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows isn’t art in the way the IDW series is. But at least it’s a bit more aware of where it came from than its predecessor. There’s no attempt at “angry, gritty realism” here. Rather we see some fun nods to The Secret of the Ooze with Vanilla Ice playing on the jukebox in a bar and Krang’s purple potion constantly being referred to as “ooze.” We also have a Shredder who looks like Shredder. We have Krang, the Technodrome, and Bebop and Rocksteady!! Admittedly the film lacked the heart of the old cartoons or the artistic brilliance of the new comics, but it wasn’t afraid to be a goofy movie about talking turtles.
Everyone involved with the film seemed to be trying really hard to make a fun movie. We saw an 11:00 am matinee and the kids in our showing certainly loved it. They were laughing and jumping and totally into the exploits of our heroes in a half shell. That goes a long way in establishing the film’s credibility to me. Again, it wasn’t art but the kids enjoyed it. And if you’re not making the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for kids (*cough, cough* 2014 version *cough, couch*) then what are you doing? As adults, David, Kalie, and I enjoyed ourselves too. It was mindless fun.
Yes, I could write about the things in the film I didn’t enjoy. But there’s enough negativity in the world without my adding to it. So I figure I’ll try to stick to the positives. I laughed at the Turtles jokes. I enjoyed the film’s imagining of some of the wild gadgets Donatello could cook up. I enjoyed it’s pacing, visuals, and the fact that the Turtles seemed at least a little less monstrous than they did the last time around. Was it odd that in a lighter, goofier Ninja Turtles movie they’d decide to base Casey Jones’ look off of Jason from Friday the 13th? You bet! But the film was self-aware enough to poke fun at that on its own.
What ended up adding a lot to our fun though was the D-Box seating experience. You see Tinseltown, our local Cinemark Theatre, added the D-Box seats last weekend. Essentially what this means is that two rows in a few of Tinseltown’s theatres have replaced their regular seats with these D-Box things. You buy a reserved seat (nice if you don’t want to have to worry about getting there early but still want a solid seat inside) and the seat acts as a sort of ride experience for the film. Think Disney World’s “Honey I Shrunk The Audience” or their “ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.” That’s what this is. The seat moves, shakes, rumbles, trembles, and twists a bit right along with the action on screen. What’s really fun is you can control the settings from your seat, so you can dial up or down the amount of motion you want. You’ve got three different levels of shaking going on. The seat even goes into a sleep mode when you get up during the show!
The motion wasn’t insane or over the top (which was good; I’m not a ride enthusiast). But I do think they made the Turtles’ adventures a little more fun. We all had a few extra smiles as the seats shifted and shook during an early highway chase scene. For someone who loves going to the movies and who goes as often as he can, it was a neat twist. (Do people say “neat” anymore? I don’t care. I said what I said.) And the whole D-Box thing is tailor-made for summer popcorn fair like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
I’ll admit, at times I was momentarily pulled out of the movie, thinking of the mild ride experience or how my seat was following the pan of the camera, and I forgot to follow the Turtles. That didn’t diminish the seats’ fun nor, in a movie like this, did it hurt my ability to follow the plot. And they were only momentary lapses at best. Admittedly the D-Box seats wouldn’t add anything to an emotionally charged drama. I couldn’t imagine my chair gently shaking could add depth to my gut-wrenching sobs during Still Alice (and God knows I cried enough on my own during that film). Nor are they something I’d add to every movie outing as they jumped our early bird matinee tickets from $5.75 to $13.75! (Yikes!) But for a movie filled with explosions, sewer surfing, chase scenes, and cartoon action-fueled battles, we were not disappointed.
So we’ve reached the end of this tale and I’ve answered all of the questions I promised to at the start of this piece, save whether or not you should go and see this yourself. But you really don’t need me for that. Right? I can’t imagine any review or reflection swaying someone into going to see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. No one’s going in expecting art. If you go, you’re excited to see Turtles wield ninja weapons in an effort to save the day. So if that (even if it’s still mildly shot through the Bay-splosive lens of its predecessor (although, thankfully, not quite as bad)) sounds like your thing, then grab yourself some pizza and let Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael take your mind off of life. And if you feel like being a little crazy, try the D-Box seats too!