There have been several incarnations of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since the franchise debuted back in 1984. At the time of writing, IDW Publishing has released more than fifty comic book issues of an excellent new take on the franchise. On television, Nickeledon’s animated series has started its fourth season, and it continues to be a show that can be enjoyed by both longtime fans and younger viewers. Both of those modern incarnations of the Ninja Turtles have received praise from both critics and fans, but the turtles’ latest reboot on the big screen left many fans feeling disappointed.
Director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Michael Bay’s 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot received mostly negative reviews, but this lackluster critical response didn’t stop a large amount of people from seeing the action-comedy in theaters. The movie had a budget of $125 million and it earned more than $493 million at the box office, so it’s no surprise that Paramount decided to quickly move forward with a sequel. After plenty of casting announcements and some rumors, the first trailer for the sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, has finally arrived. After watching the footage multiple times and visiting the movie’s set, we think the follow-up movie has the chance to be a good example of popcorn entertainment. Here are just a few of the reasons why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Could Actually Be Fun.
Bebop and Rocksteady
There are a lot of criticisms surrounding the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. However, the first trailer for that movie generated one particular overriding complaint, and it’s one that’s carrying over to the sequel: the Ninja Turtles’ designs. Many fans believe the physique of the mutants is jarring and their costumes are too crowded. Master Splinter’s four students have undergone some small design changes for the sequel, but it looks like the minds behind the movie have avoided making that same mistake all over again with two new mutants. The fan-favorite dim-witted duo, Bebop and Rocksteady, will finally make their cinematic debut, and their designs are incredibly faithful to the characters’ history.
Bebop’s visor, nose/snout piercing, necklace, and purple mohawk remain. Rocksteady still has his camo paints and headgear – there are even grenades on his bike! The quality of the CGI is, of course, open to debate, but the character designs are giving these two villains a whole lot of respect. One noticeable complaint is just how bloated Bebop looks when he’s sitting on his bike, but it doesn’t look like his size hinders his mobility while he’s standing upright. Maybe that extra weight will make him harder for the Ninja Turtles to hurt; the two should be physically imposing and difficult to take down, after all.
Based on the limited amount of footage we’ve seen, it looks like Bebop and Rocksteady’s goofy yet dangerous personalities remains intact. Shredder even stated they’ll be his errand boys, so they’re likely in the movie for humor and action, which is very fitting for the two mutants. As long as Bebop and Rocksteady are powerhouses who aren’t exactly the brightest around and they’re working for Shredder, their live-action debut should feel very inspired by the classic villains from the original animated series. Seeing live-action versions of Bebop and Rocksteady is something fans have waited decades to see, and, based on the trailer, it looks like the two fools may generate a lot of over-the-top chaos and fun in the sequel.
A new Shredder?
The reboot’s Shredder received a lot of flak well before the movie came out. Originally William Fitchner’s character, Eric Sacks, was going to be the new version of Shredder. Sacks would wear a large suit of armor – which looked like the offspring of Transformers’ Megatron and The Wolverine’s Silver Samurai – and take on the Ninja Turtles with his multiple blades. In the final version of the film, however, it was revealed that Sacks was simply working for the real Shredder, the true villain who still wore the huge armor.
Since the Ninja Turtles are now bigger and stronger than they were in most other versions of the franchise, it does make sense that an armor like that one would help a human compete with them. Despite the bulky armor, Shredder was still swift and an extremely skilled martial artist – two traits that are mandatory for the character. Still, it was tough for many fans to look past the armor’s design, and his generic story didn’t help, either. Now it looks like the sequel is looking to go back to the basics with the Ninja Turtles’ iconic villain.
Actor Brian Tee will portray the Ninja Turtles’ well-known antagonist in the sequel. Will he be Oroku Saki? Or a completely new character who has come to New York to once again repair the Foot Clan’s situation in the city? Or maybe, thanks to the mutated blood (along with Baxter Stockman’s help?), he’s a rejuvenated version of the Shredder we saw in the last movie? Many questions still remain about this Shredder, but one thing is obvious: just like with Bebop and Rocksteady, it appears the movie is taking note of the character’s roots instead of making drastic changes.
Gone are the plethora of large blades and the enormous armor. Now Shredder is left with a sleek, black costume – which appears more practical – and a moderately sized pair of wrist blades, which are surrounded by smaller blades at the base. Only time will tell how the character’s personality and agenda are handled, but for now Shredder’s design is a step in the right direction. One can only hope that if he does step into some armor for a bigger confrontation with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it will feel heavily inspired by his classic look.
Foot ninja, not gunmen
Yet another one of frowned-upon changes the reboot made was making the Foot Clan more like special forces, not stealth-oriented ninja. One could justify the significant change in appearance and tactics by saying that’s simply the Big Apple’s branch of the Foot Clan, but for many fans it was disappointing to see Shredder’s minions as men armed with firearms. TMNT 2 appears to be showing the franchise’s history a lot of love, and one way it’s doing that is by bringing back Foot Clan ninja.
Will these ninja be reduced to fodder? Most likely. The trailer already shows Casey Jones taking on a handful of them by himself, possibly with some assistance from April O’Neil (Megan Fox). But the Foot Clan have played a big role in the franchise’s mythos, so having them appear in the film – even if it is just to get beaten up – is yet another step the film is taking to establish a cinematic universe which feels respectful of the source material, as opposed to looking at what has already been established and then going in a blatantly different direction with it. The word “ninja” is in the franchise’s name, after all, so there should be a threat that is constantly reminding us of just how skilled the Ninja Turtles really are when it comes to melee combat… even if their martial arts knowledge does technically come from a picture book.
The first photos of Arrow actor Stephen Amell as Casey Jones generated a polarizing reaction from fans. The hockey stick-wielding vigilante is known for his longer hair and sweat pants, yet this incarnation has short hair and jeans. Aside from Amell’s mask and hockey stick, the parallels – in terms of character design, that is – don’t appear to be there, unlike with Bebop and Rocksteady. It’s worth noting that Jones is known for wearing casual attire, and what Amell’s character is wearing is most definitely casual. Despite mixed reactions over character design, Casey Jones still has the potential to be an enjoyable addition to the cast. What truly matters is his personality, and the trailer shows that part has promise.
Casey Jones is a tough, dirty fighter. Casey Jones has a thing for April. Casey Jones loves hockey. With less than a minute of footage, the trailer shows – or at least hints – at all of those character elements. After taking down several sword-wielding Foot Clan ninjas with his hockey stick and a New York Rangers puck, we know he’s formidable with the weapon and he can hold his own in a fight. After hitting an opponent with a low blow, we know he’s willing to do anything to win a brawl as well. When the mask does finally come off and he talks with April, the grin on his face seems to imply he’s very interested in chatting with the reporter.
The only thing missing is Jones’ dynamic with the Ninja Turtles. He tends to have a unique bond with Raphael, so hopefully that’s something the film’s writers have incorporated into the movie. In the end, Jones’ ability as a fighter and his personality should overcome the minor criticism that he doesn’t have Jones’ traditional appearance. If handled properly, it’ll be enough to eventually make some fans see this character as Casey Jones, and not just The CW’s Green Arrow cosplaying as a Ninja Turtles character.
Extra fan service
At this point, it’s obvious TMNT 2 is attempting to right some of the wrongs of its predecessor by embracing the franchise’s history and creating a movie that, so far, feels like a live-action version of a silly (but fun) cartoon episode. There’s Shredder and Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) creating a version of Bebop and Rocksteady who stay true to their dated designs; a new Karai (Brittany Ishibashi) who will hopefully do more than give orders and get knocked out; a portal opening in the sky which appears to be a blatant Dimension X and General Krang teaser; and a confirmed cameo from one of the 1990 movie’s lead characters. Even the Ninja Turtles’ designs, which received a lot of negative attention, have undergone some updates (e.g. Raphael’s sunglasses are gone and Donatello looks less cluttered).
The trailer ends with Rocksteady riding a tank and doing a fist pump after a shot is fired at the Turtles. If that doesn’t tell you the movie has the potential to feel like a lot of silly fun, we just don’t know what would. To top it off, the Ninja Turtles are also said to receive more screen time in the sequel. The family dynamic between the four mutant brothers was one of the first film’s strengths, so focusing more on the group of heroes could possibly make the movie far more amusing. Will TMNT 2 have a compelling story and be one of 2016’s most brilliant comic book movies? Probably not. But does it have the chance to generate a lot of lighthearted popcorn entertainment while playing around with the TMNT mythos? Absolutely.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opens June 3rd, 2016.