Something is about to go down in downtown Manhattan and the Turtles have called us into action. In the dead of night, we broke into police headquarters with April O’Neil, Mikey, Raph and their new vigilante buddy Casey Jones to stop the foot clan’s latest plot. But, like any prospective half-shelled ninja crime fighter, we had to go through TMNT boot camp first.
While sitting in a lecture hall of New York Law School, which served as the location for the late-night set, Fandango’s Nick Romano got a crash course in what’s going down in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, straight from the Turtles themselves. This is a whole new ball game for the pizza-loving tween mutant warriors, and there’s a lot more at stake — not to mention a handful of new characters and villains. In order to face these new foes head on, we had to know what we were up against.
A New Emphasis on the Turtles
Names: Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello
First Movie: The biggest struggle for everyone involved the first time around was finding the proper tone. "We’re not making The Dark Knight here," joked Ritchson, who realized it needed to be a family-friendly superhero movie. Nevertheless, the Turtles ended up being secondary characters in the first film, which the actors and producers attribute to the various attempts to work out the kinks. "The comedy and chemistry of the Turtles, I think, was what worked the best the first time and what is, sort of, the emphasis this time."
Second Movie: If TMNT was the story of April O’Neil, TMNT 2 is about the Turtles — even though the intrepid reporter carries a prominent arc across the sequel. By Howard’s calculations, the Turtles make up about two-thirds of the movie in screen time alone. "It’s a lot more emotionally driven amongst the brothers," said Pete Ploszneck (Leonardo). "You’re really going to see four brothers being brothers and fighting and trying to make up and telling each other how they feel. I think it’s at the point where we’re all a little bit older. You and I [Raphael] are essentially almost no longer teenagers and so with that comes, I think, your own identity."
Recap: When last we saw the Turtles, they had finished grappling with Shredder atop a falling tower over Times Square. If you thought that meant the general public was now aware of the Turtles’ existence, you’d be wrong. Due to the circumstances — which are still being kept under wraps — these mutant vigilantes were able to stay under the radar.
Briefing: It’s only now in the sequel, which takes place six or eight months after the ending of the first movie, that people will see them for the first time. As some pretty wild events tear up the Big Apple, Michelangelo and Raphael are forced to reveal themselves to the police chief (played by Laura Linney) and a group of officers in order to save April (Megan Fox) and Casey (Stephen Amell) from harm’s way. "All hell breaks loose when that happens," said producer Andrew Form. This movie is all about acceptance, and society is not quick to welcome the Turtles with open arms.
Ripple Effects: While the first movie was contained roughly between 45th Street and 7th, TMNT 2 has global implications. How global? "We open up the sky at the end of this movie and some crazy stuff happens," said Form. Later on, he mentioned that the crew discussed "other dimensions," so while Form didn’t explicitly mention Dimension X, a classic alternate dimension in the TMNT multiverse. Perhaps this means we’ll also be seeing Krang in the mix.
The New Characters
Profile: This is not the same Casey Jones from the comics, nor is he the same fully conceived character from the last set of live-action films. "We are meeting Casey Jones in this movie at a very different point," said actor Stephen Amell, who already has a lot of experience playing a masked vigilante. "I like it because it’s very much an origin story for my particular character. It’s certainly not the centerpiece of the movie, but, for me personally, I like finding a character in a phase of discovery." In TMNT 2, he’s the fresh eyes coming in to meet the Turtles for the first time. Casey wants to be a vigilante and the four brothers help him find that path, even though he and Raph "have their issues" at first, as Form put it.
- The producers wanted to include Casey Jones in TMNT for a long time. Early drafts of the first film included him in the plot alongside April. By the time the cameras started rolling, Casey phased out and it became April’s story.
- It was only by chance that Stephen Amell could play the character. He wrapped the latest season of Arrow a week before TMNT 2 was scheduled to begin production and he had another week between wrapping this movie and returning to his other vigilante life. "If our schedule was off at all, he wouldn’t be in the movie," said Form.
Bebop and Rocksteady
Profile: Paparazzi snapped photos of Gary Anthony Williams and WWE fighter Sheamus as these beloved villains and released them to the press way earlier than the filmmakers wanted. For better or worse, the cat’s out of the bag! When we meet them on the big screen, they are working with Shredder (the newly cast Brian Tee) and his daughter Karai (Brittany Ishibashi). In a scene that was shot in a horseshoe-shaped bar called Seven B, located on the corner of Avenue B and 7th Street in Alphabet City, the two are sharpening their daggers, bragging about their battles and throwing back shots. They may be in their premutated forms now, but the producers assure us that we will see them transform into the warthog and rhino forms before the end.
Profile: "The people who know the canon know this character," explained Form, but for those unfamiliar, Baxter Stockman is a scientist who creates robots called Mousers, designed to seek and destroy sewer rats. Since Shredder has a longstanding beef with Splinter, he enlists Stockman. It’s unknown how the film will tackle this character’s origin, but the first name that came to mind when the producers were casting him was Tyler Perry. The team flew down to Atlanta to pitch the film and character to him with a whole presentation. According to Form, "it’s just one of those things where luckily he’s in the movie."
- The first time we meet Stockman, he’s emerging from a black car that pulls up beside Grand Central Station. The filmmakers were not directing traffic, so when he crosses the street, Perry’s interaction with a pushy truck is totally legit.
Profile: Meet the bureau chief of Organized Crime, played by the lovely and talented Laura Linney. Unprecedented things are happening in the city and people are coming to tell her about the Turtles. Because she’s a skeptical New Yorker, she thinks it’s all a bit far-fetched, but she quickly becomes a believer when she sees them breaking into her evidence storage. "It takes me a while to grasp the situation and understand what these creatures are, to value their assistance and what they have to offer," said Linney. Fortunately, she becomes the Turtles’ version of Commissioner Gordon. Though she doesn’t join in on the fighting. "There are a few [scenes] where there’s action around me," said Linney, "but I don’t get to punch anyone."
- The writers originally named the character Catherine, but for some reason "Catherine Vincent" didn’t clear, hence the name "Rebecca Vincent." Form speculated there’s someone in New York with the former name.
- According to Linney, Rebecca could potentially come back for more movies. Form assured us at the time that there had been no discussions beyond TMNT 2, so for now all Linney could say was, "We’ll see what happens."
- The producers went after Linney for the role, but the actress was hesistant to join a movie of this scale. As she explained, "These sets can be difficult. They are high powered, people under a lot of pressure, they’re expensive and some of these sets are not very pleasant, and so I was a little concerned about that because I’m just at an age now where I don’t want to be around that." As it turned out, everyone she met was nice and welcoming.
The New Gadgets
Description: The vehicle we saw in the first movie has been chucked aside in favor of a faster and more furious clunker. "It is now a Turtle Truck, it is not a Turtle Van anymore," said Form. The tech-savvy Donatello tricked out a garbage truck into a massive, traveling man cave that doubles as a tanker.
When the crew filmed scenes in Buffalo, New York, the Turtle Truck accelerated to 60 miles [per hour with the ability to shoot flames out of the sides. And the best part? "There’s no CG in there at all." The interior is fully built with just about everything a teenage boy would want to bring with him on a road trip.
Description: Donatello is always tinkering with new tech and coming up with the coolest accessories to enhance the Turtles’ missions. This time around, he took a note from Minority Report, Iron Man and Star Wars in having a massive interactive hologram that spreads out in front of him. Thought actor Jeremy Howard (Donatello) wouldn’t go into detail, he can’t lie: "It’s pretty cool."
Description: In the first movie, Shredder came in with his army of foot-clan soldiers and blew apart the Turtles’ secret hideout. That means it’s time to relocate. As Alan Ritchson (Raphael) described their new digs, it’s more analogous to the film. "I think it’s truer to sort of what I remember as a kid, for what that’s worth, but everything as a kid seems bigger and larger than life. The scope of this, as is the Turtle Van, is exponentially bigger and more interactive than before, as is the movie itself." But if you want more of a teaser, Howard said there’s a "100-foot waterslide."
Things to Watch Out For
The Opening Scene: "The first act is essentially a giant amazing action sequence," said Ritchson. "The film starts out super explosive and it just doesn’t let up."
Easter Eggs: Director Dave Green wanted to make a love letter to the Turtles, and that involves lots and lots of Easter eggs. "There are a couple of good, fun, deep canon Easter eggs," said screenwriter Andre Nemac. "There are things that, if you are paying attention, there will be a name here or there, there will be a number on something that means something to super fans." The biggest one that you already know about is the appearance of Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil in the previous live-action films. "It was so fun to shoot the scene with the two Aprils when they work together, and there’s a great Easter egg in that scene."
Road Trip: The Turtles are leaving the country… but they’ll be back home in time for dinner. As it turns out, it’s not really a road trip, because these guys are traveling to Brazil for a hot minute.
Water Scene: "Something we do in this movie that’s never been done with the Turtles is that they go in the water," said Form. "As we know, Manhattan is surrounded by water and there’s a lot of water, so we’ve taken advantage of that."