Megan Fox on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel’s feel-good flavour

‘This is not like a Dark Knight version of the Turtles,’ star says of the return of everyone’s favourite reptilian dudes, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo, in a happy summer movie

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 June, 2016, 9:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 June, 2016, 10:17am

It’s a June day in Manhattan on the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and the sky is pretty much falling.

None of this chaos can be seen over Pier 90 – a massive alien Technodrome from another dimension that will be added in post-production – yet trouble is afoot front and centre for Megan Fox and Will Arnett in the Ninja Turtles sequel.

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While the Turtles are off battling the vicious Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), Fox’s journalist heroine April O’Neil and Arnett’s good-guy cameraman Vern Fenwick are taking down ninjas. April has clocked one with a wrench, Vern tripped another, and now he’s having trouble shutting down the bad guys’ interdimensional transporter.

“All right, it’s all you, baby,” April says, though Vern’s not so sure: “Me? Come on, just because I was president of the AV club in high school doesn’t mean I know anything about lasers.”

The first Ninja Turtles movie, the latest incarnation of the 1980s comics and cartoons featuring reptilian dudes Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo, was a surprise hit in 2014 with US$191 million at the box office. Out of the Shadows will likely open below the original’s US$65.6 million debut, but it’s “the odds-on favourite to win the weekend” against X-Men: Apocalypse , says comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Ninja Turtles remains a viable and revenue-generating brand.”

Initially, filmmakers struggled with the tone of the first film, eventually realising they should lean into the humour.

“You have to drink the Kool-Aid,” Arnett says. “But I had a feeling when it was over that we were a part of something that was really fun.”

Now, with the sequel, “there’s a joy to it”, says producer Andrew Form. “We’re smiling. And we’re not afraid to do anything now.”

Adds Fox: “This is not like a Dark Knight version of the Turtles. It’s happy and feel-good, which is true to its ’80s life.”

If the original was introducing The Beatles, says Out of the Shadows director Dave Green, “this is about John, Paul, Ringo and George”. The personalities of the Turtles are emphasised as a chance arises for them to be human instead of 7-foot-tall warriors hiding in sewers.

Green, who cops to dressing as Donatello as a kid (“He was nerdy and also cool”), has created a love letter to the franchise he grew up with, including not only Krang but also classic villains such as Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and computer-generated mutant henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady. “It rang the bell in my head as the 5-year-old,” he says.

Corrections-officer-turned-vigilante Casey Jones, played by Stephen Arnell in his big-screen debut, is a mix of new comedic bent and old-school flavour. After teaming with Turtles, “he becomes used to dealing with absurd pretty quickly”, says the star of TV’s Arrow.

Yet most of the characters wrestle with crises of identity, which Green says gives Out of the Shadows its emotional thrust. “That’s something a lot of teenagers go through: ‘Am I happier being who I am or do I want to become something different?’ ”

For Perry, that message of self-acceptance ties into the Turtles’ lasting appeal.

“They’re endearing and they have heart,” he says. “You really care about them.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is in cinemas now