For over a year, Jonathan Liebesman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot was the source of constant scrutiny from Shell Heads around the globe. The announcement of Transformers director Michael Bay as producer was only the first in a steady stream of divisive choices - followed by rumored changes to the turtles' origin story as well as the casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neil. Later, laughable images of a child-sized Michelangelo Halloween costume, with sunglasses and a hoodie wrapped around the waist, provided additional ammunition for skeptics - specifically, not only were the characters and story poised to undermine the TMNT source material, the Half-Shell heroes might also look completely idiotic on screen.
As we've previously pointed out, set-photos, toys, and other merchandise do not always give moviegoers the best idea of what a character will actually look like in the final film - just as isolated story details don't always paint a clear picture of a movie's actual narrative. No doubt, Liebesman's Ninja Turtles film ultimately failed to win-over die hard skeptics but that didn't stop it from delivering fun (albeit brainless) summer blockbuster action for a new generation of Turtles fans - and securing Paramount Pictures nearly $200 million at the US box office (for a global haul of $477 million). For that reason, it should come as no surprise that the studio is already at work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - and, as we reported back at Comic-Con 2014, it sounds like two fan-favorite henchman are set to join the party.
Following reports that Liebesman is not returning for the Ninja Turtles sequel, with Earth to Echo helmer Dave Green in talks to direct, Brazilian entertainment outlet Omelete has confirmed that Bebop and Rocksteady will appear in TMNT 2 - thanks to an interview with producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form:
“We can say that Bebop and Rocksteady are in the film, and Casey Jones is a character that we love and we’re trying to fit him in as well.”
Of course, this isn't the first time that we've heard Fuller and Form indicate that they wanted to explore Bebop and Rocksteady (as well as Casey Jones) in a TMNT sequel. Here's what the producers, along with Liebesman, told us back at SDCC 2014 - a month before the reboot had even been released:
Form: We’re just finishing the movie but we all wish that we could put everything into the movie. We all have other characters that we wish we could have had in this movie.
Liebesman: Casey Jones.
Form: Casey Jones. Bebop and Rocksteady. We had those conversations throughout development of this movie but we’re launching this movie now in two weeks. Hopefully everybody feels the same way we do [about it]. We love them [Bebop and Rocksteady].
Following the film's premiere, we discovered that Bebop and Rocksteady had actually been considered for the first installment, along with Krang (and his cyber-suit), to the extent that the studio had contracted concept artwork of the characters. Since that time, the pre-production designs have been removed at Paramount's request and, given that the Turtles went through numerous iterations before Liebesman landed on final versions, there's no way of knowing how close TMNT 2's Bebop and Rocksteady will be to the concept images - which simply looked like real-world adaptations of the cartoon series characters. For example: Bebop concept artwork included the animated version's purple sunglasses, turtle shell shoulder guards, bone necklace, and purple mohawk.
The same set of concept artwork included two alternate versions of Shredder (one of which was also very true to the cartoon series design) - suggesting that those Bebop and Rocksteady images were pretty early in the pre-production process and, as a result, are not particularly representative of what the characters would have looked like in TMNT or will look like in TMNT 2. Still, the concept artwork also included one unused character design that might hint at how Bebop and Rocksteady are created in the reboot storyline.
In the original source materials, the Turtles were exposed to a mutagen that gave them humanoid form and enhanced intellect; however, Bebop and Rocksteady were actually humans (members of a street gang) that, when exposed to the mutagen, became human-animal hybrids (a warthog and rhinoceros, respectively) with no increase in intelligence. In comparison, the TMNT concept artwork also included a series of images depicting a failed human mutation - resulting in a brutish and malformed creature with an extra arm. For that reason, given the fate of Oroku Saki (and the mutagen sample) in Liebesman's TMNT, it would make sense that Shredder will continue his plan to build a superhuman army - and create Bebop and Rocksteady in the process.
Including the mutant evildoers would also provide opportunity for even better fights in the sequel - since the first film was limited to the Turtles dominating Foot Clan members and teaming-up against Shredder. For those that enjoyed Liebesman's film, there was no shortage of action but, without a doubt, there's room to make future brawls more inventive. Additionally, in the animated series, the interplay between Shredder and his incompetent henchman was a fun way to inject humor onscreen when the Turtles were not around - and watching this ruthless live-action version of Shredder deal with a pair of powerful but dopey henchman would add a fun dynamic to what was an otherwise pretty flat depiction of Oroku Saki in part 1.
As for Casey Jones, if the Shredder is getting new allies in the sequel, it would make sense for the filmmakers to add-in one of the TMNT franchise's most well-known heroes. Though, recent sequels have shown that there's a major drawback to including too many familiar characters in a single film (we're looking at you Amazing Spider-Man 2). Previously, Fuller and Form expressed interest in exploring aliens as well as Dimension X down the line - so, hopefully, if the producers manage to "fit" Jones (and/or Krang) into the sequel, those additions doesn't come at the expense of established characters or storylines and, in the case of Jones, presents an interesting take on the hockey masked hero (instead of just a sporting good-wielding vigilante).
That said, there's no question that, watching Michelangelo attempt to compete with Jones (and possibly Vernon) for April's affections could provide some downright entertaining comedy beats to balance out bigger mutant-on-mutant beatdowns.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 opens in U.S. theaters on June 3rd, 2016.
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