TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
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rebooting a beloved franchise is a difficult balancing act. Fans want the property they love, done differently enough to justify the new version’s existence. But stray too far from that source material, and you’ll quickly encounter internet rage – as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producer Michael Bay discovered when he briefly considered turning the Turtles from mutants to aliens on the first film. Back then, he was working with director Jonathan Liebesman.
Now, Bay’s teamed with new hope Dave Green, to deliver Out Of The Shadows, a sequel that looks like the most faithful Turtles film yet.
If 2014’s TMNT was April O’Neil’s story, Out Of The Shadows will be from the eponymous reptiles’ perspective. “We get to see the Turtles in a much deeper way,” Green explains. “We’re telling a new chapter in their lives. This movie gets to spend more time with those brothers, exploring the dynamic between them. We get to spend time with those people we know and love from the first movie, from our childhood, from the cartoons.”
Telling the story from the Turtles’ viewpoint not only takes the narrative closer to the cartoon and comics, it also allows Green to dig deeper into what makes them individuals. “It was important to touch on the things we saw in the first movie, the broad strokes of their personalities, but at the same time we needed to figure out what’s under the surface,” Green says. “We don’t just get to see Donatello as the nerdy one. Donny’s a little shy, because he speaks a different language to the rest of the Turtles. But does he ever get frustrated because they don’t understand his technobabble? We see Raphael’s big heart. We went under the hood with each character.”
That character work didn’t just apply to the dialogue. “Because we shot using motioncapture, we also worked out lots of little physical tics. So, when Michelangelo is bored, you’ll see him swinging his nunchucks – they each have an activity. They’re all impatient teenagers, they fiddle.”
This layered approach spread from the returning heroes to the new guys. Casey Jones, played by Elias Koteas in the 1990 Turtles movie, is key for fans. Arrow’s Stephen Amell will be bringing the hockey-masked vigilante to the reboot universe, and Green worked closely with him to deliver a fresh take. “I sat down with Stephen for breakfast, and we talked about who Casey Jones is. He’s bringing us a Casey Jones who’s at the origin point of the character. When we first meet him, he’s a Corrections Officer for the New York Police Department. Early on in the movie, he has a change in his employment status and decides to take matters into his own hands.
“Stephen is bringing this energy to Casey, where it feels like Casey is trying on this new personality for the first time. We can see that excitement for having beaten someone up with a hockey stick – that rush of adrenaline. He’s
not a perfect fighter, he doesn’t execute every move with the elegance that the Turtles do. He’s a little rough around the edges, he’s still figuring out how to fight, how to be a vigilante, and what that means for his life.”
The concept of expressing personality through fight moves was applied across the (surf )board. “Everyone’s got a different fighting style. Leonardo, who’s the best ninja, is composed and surgical with his moves, he plans things out – he’s precise. Michelangelo is a goofball when he fights, he’s like Jackie Chan, he likes to embarrass his opponents as much as he enjoys pummelling them. Raphael, he’s brute force – he’s all about aggression. He’s a football player, he’ll just go right through you. Donatello’s more calculating. And with Bebop and Rocksteady, we injected ideas of their size and the way someone that big would damage something. They’re quite stupid with their fight moves, which is a lot of fun.”
One thing’s for sure, Green’s done his homework. “There’s so many different factions of Turtles fans. There are the fans of the cartoon, the IDW series, the Nickelodeon series. I grew up absorbing myself in the cartoon and the original ’90s movies. That’s what I lived and breathed every day as a kid. There are so many different generations, so it was important to me to give each generation something. We would go through the comics, from the originals to the current day, we’d flip through and find poses, bits of dialogue, little pieces of set decoration that the Turtles might have in their lair, [such as] a sticker in the Turtle van. We managed to incorporate Casey Jones’s ‘Goongala’ phrase, it’s buried in the movie somewhere. We got pretty deep about it.”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows opens on 30 May.
It was important to me to give each generation of fans something
Turtles in “get high” shocker.