I know that most fans are going to take one look at this title and question why Brad Fuller’s opinion matters at all. He was one of the executive producers behind both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, so it’s likely that a lot of audiences aren’t concerned with his thoughts on the film. That being said, he recently gave an interview which made it pretty clear that he understands why many shellheads aren’t pleased with the final result. When asked how he could strike the balance between appeasing fans and keeping them from complaining, Fuller had the following to say about the subject:
“There’s nothing that we can do to keep them from complaining. There’s always an element of the audience that feels that we have not struck that balance. It’s a hard thing to do, and it’s [harder] on a turtle movie than it is on Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. The reason is that with [the] turtles there are so many different source materials that we draw from – the comic books, the cartoons, and the movies – and the challenging thing is that each audience member brings their turtle knowledge to the movie, but not every person has the same knowledge.
So there are people who will come to our movie and have only read the comics, and they’ll have one response, whereas people…who love the cartoon will love our film, because that tonally matches the cartoon. And there are people who saw the [90’s] films and they’re coming to it that way, so it’s a challenge to balance those three source materials.
The thing that we do to try and really decipher what the best story is, we keep Kevin Eastman involved in the process of development, and Kevin created the turtles with Peter Laird. I feel like if he’s there and he gives us the thumbs up with our story and the thumbs up with our villains, that we’re – y’know? If the creator is telling us that it can work, then we go with it; if he says ‘well, I think you’re deviating a little far here, let’s pull it back,’ we do that. So these, kind of, are good checks and balances to have.”
Whether you like the guy or not, you have to admit that he has a point. In particular, he’s absolutely correct that everyone is going to approach a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie from a different perspective. Some people really wanted to see the original animated series in live action on the silver screen, while others have been dying for another dark take on the turtles like the original film which was released in 1990. Depending on which version of the Ninja Turtles you prefer the most, chances are that no matter what kind of story they choose to tell, a large portion of the audience is going to be disappointed because they didn’t get the specific version of the turtles that they wanted to see.
Speaking of the 90’s movies, there is an interesting parallel to be drawn between them and the latest iteration of the TMNT on film. When the second movie was released in 1991, the studios were forced to limit the amount of fighting and violence that took place on screen because of a general fear from parents and other organizations that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were promoting violent tendencies. As a result, they elected to remove most weapon play from The Secret of The Ooze, and that’s very similar to the approach that was taken with Out of the Shadows. Brad Fuller went on to discuss this matter as well:
“In the first movie, we were just trying to make a turtle movie. We weren’t sure who our audience was at the end of the day; was it just going to be nostalgics who were fans who were coming back to see it, or was it going to be kids? And when the movie worked on a couple different levels, after the first one we made a very conscious decision that we wanted this franchise to be a family friendly franchise.
Whereas in the first movie the foot clan carry guns, in this movie they carry swords. We really wanted to have a movie where the whole audience could be families if they wanted. And then people who were [older] fans who enjoyed it growing up, they could still go and have a good time – but we didn’t want to eliminate any part of the audience necessarily.”
It may bother a lot of viewers to see this approach taken with their favorite franchise, but that’s the way that studios approach these types of films. Unfortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was released into a world that had already seen and enjoyed a Deadpool movie with an R rating, proving that not all superhero flicks have to appeal to every single audience in order to be a hit. As a matter of fact, it would appear that most audiences are tired of being coddled by the industry and they’d much rather see a studio that takes chances rather than playing it safe.
To be honest, this is one area where I completely disagree with Brad Fuller, but I can understand where he is coming from. A lot of people will complain if they feel like a movie aimed at younger audiences is promoting violence, so you have to be careful about how you approach the action and storytelling when it comes to a project like this. Personally, I think they made a wise choice to stick with a plot that mimics the goofiness of the original animated series, but I’m just one voice in an audience of millions which represents a fandom that is often divided when it comes to their favorite versions of the franchise.
When Brad Fuller invokes the name of Eastman, he’s clearly trying to protect himself – but he also has a point. Even Eastman thought it would be a good idea to try and recreate the look and feel of the original animated series, but it just didn’t work for most audiences. After two weeks in the box office, TMNT 2 has only earned $119 million worldwide and still hasn’t recouped its production budget. Given how many advertisements we saw for the film, it’s likely that they spent a lot of money on that as well, so it’ll take a while to earn back the money they spent on Out of the Shadows.
Fortunately, the film has yet to release in China, which represents one of the world’s biggest markets when it comes to ticket sales. If you need an example of how the Chinese box office can change everything, you need only to look at the performance of Warcraft during its opening weekend in theaters. Although the film only earned $24 million in domestic markets, it managed to rack up $156 million in China alone, making it the 3rd most successful film opening in China and the 4th most successful foreign opening of all time. Needless to say, movies that perform poorly in American markets don’t always share the same fortune when they are released overseas.
There is still a chance that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows will manage to make its money back, but that chance is probably a lot more slim than executive producer Brad Fuller was hoping. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he understands why some audiences are unhappy on at least one level, although it’s unfortunate that he hasn’t quite picked up on the demand for more films like Deadpool.
Most TMNT fans who grew up with the original cartoon and films probably didn’t notice that they weren’t always using their weapons while fighting, and something tells me that younger audiences today will share a similar experience with this movie. There’s no telling if they’ll enjoy it as much as we enjoyed The Secret of the Ooze, but the parallels between these two films are worth considering in the long run. If you want to hear more of Fuller’s interview, feel free to watch/listen to the video above.