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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow has a lot of work to do in reclaiming dans it’s 2014 predecessor alienated. To say the film was devisive would be an understatment.

 

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The truth is it doesn’t matter, as far as initial box office sales, whether fans like the direction a franchise is taken. Superhero movies sell. We’ve seen it work for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.  The critics vs fans debate demanded everyone go see the movie and make up their own mind, but will it work for the next TMNT installment?

Out of the Shadows has brought in heavy hitters from TMNT lore including Casey Jones, Krang, Beebop, Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman. This is the first time Bebop and Rocksteady will appear in a live action film and fans have taken notice.

 

Smart casting directors placed Stephen Farrelly as Rockstady and Gary Anthony Williams as Bebop. Farrelly, or Sheamus O’Shaunessy, has an intense following from the wrestling community. He’s been a staple in the WWE since 2002.

If you don’t recognize William’s name, you’ll certainly recognize his voice. He’s been in everything from Boston Legal to Doc McStuffins. If the trailer is any indication their chemistry should bring the right amount of laughs to what began as a too dark series.

bebop-rocksteadyOther solid casting moves include Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman, the mad scientist who been a constant thorn in the turtle’s side and in this iteration perhaps created Bebop and Rocksteady. Perry excels in bit roles. His turn in Star Trek and Gone Girl were both highly lauded.

Even the turtle’s themselves have undergone a makeover.

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Above are the turtles in the first film. They look like the live in the gym and not on a pizza. Which, wouldn’t be so bad except, they’re supposed to be teenagers not thirty year old men. The costuming is weird, particularly Leonardo’s bone chest plate and Mikey’s sunglasses. The aesthetic presented is giant, scary monsters. Now, take a look at the updated version…

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The guys are still ripped, but they look more natural and less juiced. Costuming is toned down to super hero leather and colored masks. Each turtle with a unique piece of armor and gear. Cudos to the animation and costuming department for giving us Ninja Turtle’s that don’t hurt our eyes.

Perhaps the biggest change in the film is new director, Dave Green, who’s only other notable film is 2014’s Earth to Echo, a film with a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but grossed $8,364,658 domestically it’s opening weekend. The choice to drop Jonathan Liebesman, known for Wrath of the Titans and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning seems clear.

Studios are terrified of being too dark or to light hearted when it comes to super hero franchises. Parents complain about not being able to take their children to see films like The Dark Night. Die-hard fans complain when their hero doesn’t meet their standards for ass kicking. It’s not an enviable position in which to be. Just look at their failures.

 

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In order to combat embarrassments like these studio’s run pointless audience tests to make sure viewers will be pleased with the final product.

We can trace these decisions through modern nerd cinema starting with  Blade Runner and it’s twelve different endings. I Am Legend’s original comic book ending didn’t test well so the studio slapped on a new ending which turned evolving zombies with a plan into brain dead monsters who need to die. X-Men Origins: Wolverine heard rumors about Producer Richard Donner stepping in to direct portions of Gavin Hood’s film. The recent Fantastic 4 fiasco never seemed to figure out what story it was trying to tell and ended up being a complete mess. And now, there are re-shoot for Suicide Squad. Whether those re-shoot are to lighten things up or just for the hell of it, as the director claims it’s only further proof that these giant gambles of films are rarely allowed to flourish organically.

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That being said, the changes here seem positive. Though the TMNT began as an adult comic book, it’s twenty plus years on Nickelodeon have made children the central audience. Pizza and skateboards should be at the forefront. Hiring voice actors, giving fan favorite characters a chance to shine, and bringing in a new director seem like proper bets.

I have high hopes for Out of the Shadows. If it’s title is any inclination we’ll be seeing a much lighter take on some pretty radical turtles. I am concerned about the continued over sexualization of April O’Neil, played by Megan Fox and at how Blacks will be depicted in the picture. (Michael Bay’s pictures have had issues for a while.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a solid pic with good laughs and giant explosions. How are you feeling about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

 

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