When was the last time a movie as bad as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a great sequel? There have been plenty of other comic book movie franchises where the second installment was a huge improvement over the first (X2: X-Men United; Spider-Man 2; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; The Dark Knight), but none of them started off nearly as terribly as this one. Although the TMNT reboot was a success at the box office over the weekend, and general audiences apparently liked it (as per Cinemascore and the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings), it still doesn’t seem like a movie that people loved. Just how many of the front-loading fans enjoyed it enough to return for another is a key question to consider.
Paramount isn’t likely to worry about that when making the sequel, which was confirmed yesterday, because a $65m opening is enough to convince them that they did something right and shouldn’t change the formula. But even if it weren’t dumb of studios to believe their product is good just because people paid ahead for it, they should always be striving for better with their series anyway. What they qualify as “better” is another question. With franchises like this, the synonyms for the definition tend to be “bigger” and “more.” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 will look and feel the same for the most part, but you can bet there will be a lot of new characters added.
Which characters, though, could be a very big deal as far as getting the fans back in the theater for the sequel regardless of their satisfaction with the first installment.
I’ll own up to the fact that while I hate the new TMNT movie, I’ll check out TMNT2 if the additions include Bebop and Rocksteady, the mutated henchmen who never made it to the big screen in the past movie versions. To my and many other fans’ delight, the duo, who were turned into a humanoid warthog and rhinoceros, respectively, are on the filmmakers’ list of likely candidates for introduction in the sequel. Director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Andrew Form told Screen Rant during Comic-Con that they want to fit Bebob, Rocksteady and also Casey Jones in the next one, as they’d wished to include them from the start.
Jones is sort of a given, partly because he’s a fan favorite and partly because he provides a human love interest for April O’Neal (Megan Fox). And that will give the movie some internal tension between the sports-equipment-loving vigilante and the crushing turtle Michelangelo. We’ve seen Jones in the movies before (played by Elias Koteas in the live-action installments and voiced by Chris Evans in the 2007 animated feature). Bebop and Rocksteady weren’t in the other live-action movies probably because the technology wasn’t there to make them look right. Their absence in the animated feature was likely just for the sake of consistency, coupled by the fact that they need to be at the side of the Shredder, who wasn’t in that installment.
So how will they be in the sequel to this TMNT movie given that the Shredder was killed when he fell from the top of the Sacks building? Well, these are comic book movies, so an apparent death isn’t necessarily the end of a character. I don’t think this guy survived, though. I figure Oruku Saki (Tohoru Masamune) will not be back as the villain, and the only-knocked-out Erik Sacks (William Fichtner) will take over the role. Fichtner was initially believed to be playing Shredder anyway, and now he’ll get to fulfill that rumor (or was it actually the original plan?). Now he needs a henchman or two of his own. Maybe the Foot Clan’s Karai (Minae Noji) survived, as well, and she can fill that part. Perhaps she can even be turned into a snake, like she was in the current Nickelodeon cartoon?
As far as more mutated characters like that, the special effects of today allow for any number of the TMNT stock characters to be rendered for a live-action movie. There can be warthogs and rhinos and snakes and alligators and manta rays and ace pilot ducks and skateboarding geckos and even characters whose brain and other organs are visible through his body. Of course, the more mutant additions allowed into the sequel, the weirder the movie might get. Given that Guardians of the Galaxy has suddenly made it seem as if weird is welcome in blockbusters (we’ll see how long that lasts), I won’t be surprised if this and other franchises embrace some really out there creatures and concepts moving forward.
One weird place the next TMNT installment can go is Dimension X — and then back to Earth again with the introduction of Krang/Kraang Prime, another important staple of the franchise who has never made an appearance in the movies. He/It is an alien warlord bent on taking over the planet (another way of going bigger: world domination rather than simply city domination) and is often allied with the Shredder. For the best nostalgia appeal, it’d be great if the old Krang appearance — in which the tentacled brain-like alien is housed in the abdomen of a giant man-shaped exo-suit — is the design used for the movie. But at the same time I’d really love for the character to be voiced by Roseanne Barr, as it is in the current cartoon series. Even better: let Barr play the thing via full-on performance-capture.
In the current show, the Kraang race are the original source for the mutagen that created the turtles and Splinter and the rest of the weird characters, and that would probably be the case in the TMNT sequel, too. The world building of the new movie series is very tightly spun, with everything being connected, and that’s only liable to be more broadly the case in the next installment. While the reboot makes everything seem really convenient in their coincidence, the introduction of the Kraang will come with the revelation that none of it was an accident.
Liebesman and Form may have their personal desires, and so will many of the fans. Some of you may want to see the female turtle Venus de Milo. Some of you may want them to bring in Usagi, the samurai rabbit. We can see them all at some point, even Rat King, Mutagen Man, Metalhead, the Punk Frogs (Attila, Genghis, Napoleon and Rasputin) and certainly Wingnut and Screwloose. Producer Michael Bay is sure to drive this franchise on past its point of overkill, just as he has with Transformers. There’s room for all our favorites to show up eventually. But the first order must be Krang/Kraang.
And here’s the necessary title, straight from a joke made in the cartoon 27 years ago: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Wrath of Krang.