Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - the latest installment in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie series - arrives in theaters this Friday, as Screen Rant readers are no doubt aware of given this week's surge of Out of the Shadows-related stories and interviews (at the time of writing this). The sequel to the 2014 TMNT reboot properly introduces many a character to the big screen that longtime Turtles fans know from cartoon TV shows, comic books, and video games past - including, mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), as well as Shredder's not-so-intelligent human goons-turned mutant henchmen, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Shephen Farrelly). That alone has provided plenty for Turtles fans to talk about, ahead of the upcoming film's release.
So far, the critical reception for Out of the Shadows has been about what you would expect - given that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie franchise has never been a critical favorite, not least of all with the current Michael Bay-produced installments. Nevertheless, critics and Out of the Shadows producer Brad Fuller seem to agree on one point: that the TMNT sequel should be a more satisfying (and, in turn, enjoyable) viewing experience than its predecessor was for those who are steadfast fans of the property.
During Screen Rant's interview with Fuller, the producer discussed the story for Out of the Shadows - as crafted by director Dave Green (Earth to Echo) with returning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles screenwriters Josh Applebaum and André Nemec - and why it's an improvement on that of the 2014 film:
It feels like in this movie each Turtle, you learn really kind of intimate things… [laughs]. That sounds freaky. But you learn things about them that you might have not learned before. And you see their joy. In one case, Mikey, in particular, experiences something that’s a letdown and you kind of get to go through that with him. It just makes you love the characters that much more because you feel what they are going through. Dave [Green] was always intent on building that part of the story up.
The brothers get fractured in our story and two decide they want one thing and two decide they want something else. What they want and how they go about it and the resolution of it really gives you a lot of insight into what makes them tick. I think that is what makes this movie feel more satisfying than the first one, because you really do go on a journey and you empathize with what these guys are going through. And, at the same time, you are laughing the whole way through, having fun. But you’ve never seen the Turtles…I shouldn’t say you’ve never seen them. I’d have to call up [TMNT co-creator] Kevin Eastman and see if I’m right. But in this movie the Turtles, they divide into factions and there’s a big decision to be made that they have to figure out.
Fuller also re-emphasized that Out of the Shadows is a movie that's foremost about the four Ninja Turtles themselves - Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) - and that the sequel's narrative trajectory reflects as much:
It’s a Turtle movie. This is a Turtle movie. But there’s a little infighting in this one. But it’s a Turtle movie; they figure it out. In the end, nothing is more important than family. In the end, for the Turtles to be the best versions of themselves, they all need each other.
Among the criticisms that have been levied at the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is that it focuses more on the story of reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) than the actual Turtles. For related reasons, the Out of the Shadows cast and crew have long emphasized that the Turtles not only get more onscreen time during the followup, but that Out of the Shadows (as Fuller mentioned here) is more focused on the Turtles as protagonists from a storytelling perspective, too. It might seem a moot point to those who see (and enjoy) the TMNT films as simply breezy and silly action movies, but the relatable nature of the Turtles and their experiences have long endeared people from different generations to the TMNT franchise. Hopefully, Turtles fans will find Out of the Shadows to be as satisfying as Fuller has indicated they will, for that same reason.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opens in U.S. theaters on June 3rd, 2016.