The first Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie performed admirably at the box office (even managing to knock the August phenomenon Guardians of The Galaxy from the #1 spot — if only for a week), but the response from critics and multiple generations of TMNT fans was mixed. Reviews took the film to task for elements such as its confusing storyline and certain editing choices, while fans were split over the liberties taken with the franchise’s mythology and characterizations.
Now, producer Brad Fuller has told Screen Rant how those criticisms were recieved at the studio level — and how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows plans to answer them.
The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a film that came together very quickly after having initially been put on hold for over a year beforehand. The film’s storyline changed in mid-production after fans complained about plans to transform The Shredder from a Japanese character to a white businessman and about other changes to the main characters in particular. In the end the finished product was met with a certain amount of criticism, which, according to Fuller, were not without merit:
“When we made the first movie, one of the things that we came away from that film thinking was that maybe we didn’t embrace enough of the humor and the lightness that is inherent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think that, initially, that movie – to me, at least, I’m not speaking for [producers Andrew Form and Michael Bay] – but for myself, I think it felt a little bit dark in places and I don’t feel like we walked tonally where we needed to be. I think that we were straddling a line.”
The sequel has evidently been built from the ground up with an eye on both a lighter touch and an emphasis on the history of the franchise and its multiple conflating continuities — up to and including bringing in fan-favorite characters native to the original animated series like Kraang, Bebop, and Rocksteady to the screen for the first time.
“On this movie we decided that we were going for the tone of a fun family movie with big action. But hopefully you sit down, and you smile from the first scene. Because in this movie the turtles are in the first second of the movie all the way to the end. Because of that, and because your lead characters are four teenagers, they’re fun. We embrace that. So we see Bebop and Rocksteady looking goofy. They are goofy the whole way through. There’s not going to be a scene of them shooting a gun and killing someone. They’re just going to be the fun idiots that they are. That’s how it was constructed.”
But the new approach didn’t only extend to revamping the Turtles and bringing in classic foes. It’s also encompassed the creation of a new Shredder (replacing the mecha-armored incarnation from the first film) and a Foot Clan that adheres more closely to their traditional ninja roots.
“So the stakes are real, but the situations are hilarious. Here’s something: In the first movie, the Foot Clan carried guns. In this one, they carry swords. We’re trying to create a movie that the whole family will go to and love. This isn’t something that we could have designed, but it certainly ended up this way. It feels like a lot of the superhero movies, they are darker and they are brooding and they are devoid of that level of levity. So we always embraced what this franchise is. And I think that levity is probably one of the key phrases that you have to use when describing this. So we went for it, big time.”
Whether or not these shifts in approach lead to a film that scores better with critics and audiences alike remains to be seen, but neither will have to wait too long to find out.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows hits theaters June 3, 2016.