The makers behind last year's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles know you were disappointed. But because fans of the heroes on the half-shell turned out in force, the reboot made a whopping $493 million worldwide. With that assurance of box office draw, Paramount has regrouped, planning a bigger budgeted sequel that aims to give fans everything they'd wished for the first time around, meaning more turtles, more humor, and a crazy upgrade for the Turtle Van.
When we visited the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows last June in downtown Manhattan, Screen Rant learned that there were some major bumps in the road making the 2014 reboot. Pete Ploszek who plays Leonardo on set (Johnny Knoxville does the character's voice) noted, "I think everyone’s paying attention to how people felt about the first one, and what they want to see, and what faithful means, and what it doesn’t mean. I think there is a sort of awareness now to do right by the franchise."
Alan Ritchson (Raphael) confessed, "I got to be honest, I was a little nervous about coming back because the first run of this--the first trial run of the first film--was pretty tough. Pretty tough." Why? "Well, we shot three different versions of the movie for one." He later said, "There's a whole other movie (of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) on the cutting room floor. A couple."
In a separate interview, producer Andrew Form admitted, "I think when we were shooting (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) we got lost a few times. And once we understood what the tone was it really, wow did it help us a lot."
Ritchson and Ploszek's onscreen brothers Noel Fisher (Michelangelo) and Jeremy Howard (Donatello) concurred that production on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was tricky, largely because script changes and reshoots meant they had no concept of what movie they were really making. But this time, the tone and audience are clear. Ritchson explained, "We're not making Dark Knight here. It's definitely a comedy. We all saw (the first film and theaters) and it was like, 'Oh! This is a comedy.'"
"Not just a comedy," Ploszek said, "but a family comedy." Ritchson nodded, "This is fun for the whole family, I mean two to ninety-two everyone can go enjoy this."
In his own interview, screenwriter Andre Nemec noted, "For this movie, humor is the thing we gravitate most towards, finding the humor and the irreverence of the movie. And I think whether it be the Saturday morning cartoon or the graphic novel, there’s an irreverence to the concept of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…Any time we were able to take a situation and see if we could bend it just a little bit and make it just a little irreverent, just a little outside of the norm, that was one of the goals we were trying to lean toward with this movie."
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows stars are also optimistic about its action sequences. "This time, it looks beautiful," Howard declared, "We’ve already shot some action pieces in Buffalo, I mean these car chases, mind blowing. We got the guys from Fast and Furious to come in and do it. And it looks epic. It looks like a summer blockbuster movie this time. So we’re all very excited that we got to come back and do that."
That car chase scene takes place in the first act, and all the Turtles were giddy to talk it up. Ritchson proclaimed, "The first act is essentially a giant, amazing action sequence. The film starts out super explosive and it just doesn’t let up. We’ve actually seen some of it already cut together, and it’s pretty mind blowing."
But the biggest and most positive change between films might be directors. On the heels of VFX-stuffed actioners like Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans, South African helmer Jonathan Liebesman directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yet none of his titular leads were willing to describe him as a fan of the franchise. In fact, a simple question about how Liebesman's style differed from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' helmer David Green led to a shocking exchange between the reporters and actors.
One reporter asked, "Besides just the fact that there were these startlingly different tones, what would you say are the biggest differences between Jonathan Liebesman's approach and Dave Green's approach?" And Ritchson, Fisher and Ploszek who'd been enthusiastic and garrulous moments before went silent, glancing at each other. Fisher giggled nervously as Ritchson asked, "Who wants to take this one." And then Howard, who hadn't spoken much to us yet said simply, "Kindness."
Now it was the reporters' turn to exchange glances.
Ploszek was quick to spin this awkwardly honest moment into why fans should be excited for the film at hand, saying, "Well, I'll put it this way Dave Green is 32. He grew up with these guys (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)…with Dave, what was communicated to us early on was how much of a fan he is, and really gets it. I think he was able to watch the first movie--like we all were as an audience--and see, okay that works, that doesn't work. I love that let's do more of that. I connected to that or I didn't connect to that. So, that's where he has a leg up this time around, as anyone would coming back to a sequel."