Action is the operative word when it comes to the four brother Turtles, but the filmmakers of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” are careful to intersperse every skirmish with humor.
"Fun energy," as director Dave Green likes to call it. "It's important that the audience feels that the Turtles are always in danger," he says. "But at the most serious or scary moments, we often have a joke to punctuate that moment just to give you relief from the tension. Jojo is brilliant at that."
Green is referring to Filipino-American stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio, known on set as Jojo, who designed the fight scenes for the 2014 film. This time around, he brought fellow Fil-Am veteran multi-martial artist Jon Valera to help in training and articulating much of the action in the film.
Eusebio and his team begin by planning and working out the action in a warehouse, videotaping the sequences using stuntmen in place of actors, to give filmmakers and idea of what they have in mind. Once they receive notes, Eusebio and Valera refine their routine and begin working with talent to prepare them for filming.
"The biggest challenge on sequels is always to try and out do the original, whether in magnitude of the action or the complexity of the story," says Eusebio. "We tried things we didn’t get to do on the original, but at the same time preserved the fun and humor of the Turtles' camaraderie. We listened to feedback from the previous movie and fans can expect something even bigger and better this time around."
Given that Eusebio had trained the actors who played the Turtles for the first movie, Noel Fisher (Michaelangelo), Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello) and Alan Ritchson (Raphael) had a foundation from which to begin learning new moves for the sequel.
"Even though the guys appear more often in this film, they actually trained less than they did on the previous movie," says Eusebio. "On the first movie there was a learning curve when to use the actor’s movements and when to use their stunt double’s movements. We figured out how to be more efficient and save time in terms of scheduling. Stunts and visual effects handle the bulk of the action movements for the Turtles."
Eusebio’s team had also developed a shorthand with Megan Fox from their work on the previous film. "Megan isn’t afraid to get into the thick of things and she's always willing to do as much as she can," he says.
To the film's benefit, Eusebio and Valera were able to spend a significant amount of rehearsal time with actor Stephen Amell. They credit his experience on his television series “Arrow” for his ability to learn the moves quickly.
"It was always a cognizant decision to make Stephen's version of Casey Jones handle the action differently than his Oliver Queen/Green Arrow character on Arrow," says Eusebio. "Unlike the Green Arrow, Casey is not a proficient martial artist, his movements are bigger and not as refined. He wins fights and gets out of situations incidentally rather than by using a methodical and well-planned design."
When it came to a big stunt piece in which Casey must skate through a treacherous escape route while taunting his pursuers, Amell was determined to perform the action himself.
"One day Stephen looked at me and said, 'You know I can skate?'" recalls producer Andrew Form. "I knew he played ice hockey and I cautioned him that he would be skating through cars, chased by moving vehicles. He said, 'Get me some roller blades,' so we did. I have to say, the guy can skate. Stephen didn't want anyone doing his stuff, so pretty much every stunt, every time you see Casey, from his foot on the gas pedal, his hands on the steering wheel to fighting or zigzagging through a crowded garage, it's Stephen."
After supervillain Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes custody, he joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and two dimwitted henchmen, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE Superstar Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly), to unleash a diabolical plan to take over the world. As the Turtles prepare to take on Shredder and his new crew, they find themselves facing an even greater evil with similar intentions: the notorious Krang.
“Earth to Echo” filmmaker Dave Green directs from a script by Josh Appelbaum & André Nemec. The producers are Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Galen Walker and Scott Mednick.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.