Comic-Con 2014: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel reaction

While Interstellar may have stormed in and stolen the show at Paramount’s Hall H presentation at this year’s Comic-Con, it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that dominated the panel up to that point.

The reboot brought along original Turtles creator Kevin Eastman, as well as some of the Platinum Dunes producers who brought the film to life (Michael Bay was not among them). Eastman was clearly enthused about the latest incarnation of his creation, saying, “I’ve seen the movie, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I was brought in very early on, and [the producers] wanted me to help make this movie all you expected it to be. I’m so proud of it, I think you guys are going to absolutely flip out when you see it.”

Megan Fox and Will Arnett, who play reporter April O’Neil and bumbling cameraman Vernon Fenwick, were also on the panel. “Megan and I interned at Channel 6 for 18 months [ in preparation ],” wisecracked Arnett, and both actors admitted that Michaelangelo was their favourite Turtle.

Two fairly substantial scenes were screened for the crowds. The first, was a fuller version of the initial encounter between O’Neil and the Turtles that you’ll have seen in the trailers. The sequence began with Fox’s reporter chasing a story on the Foot Clan, and heading into a subway where they were about to make their attack. Led by Karai (Minae Noji), the Clan took a bunch of hostages, and threatened to start offing them if the Turtles didn’t show up.

Shrouded in shadows, the half-shelled heroes turned up to save the day, before scarpering to a rooftop, where they were snapped by O’Neil and her trusty smartphone. Trying to convince her to hand over the photos, she’s freaked out by their grotesque appearance. “You’re ninja, mutant, turtle teenagers?” she asks, before passing out. “When you put it like that it sounds ridiculous!” they laugh in response.

Pop-culture gags play a big part. Raphael is mocked for putting on his Batman voice, and Michaelangelo has a soft spot for funny cat videos on the internet. There was a general irreverent tone, particularly from 'Mikey'. “We’ll find you O’Neil.. Sorry, that came across super-creepy!”

The movie references game thick and fast when they took her down to their sewer base, which was referred to as, “Our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier’s Academy.” When O’Neil glimpses Splinter, she knows his name (“What if she’s a Jedi?”). Splinter clearly knows who she is too, ending the scene by saying, “We meet again…” Looks like there might be some new backstory tinkering going on here.

Director Liebesman explained that the creepy looking Foot Clan were given a paramilitary aesthetic “to make it believable in today's world. They have to be formidable."

In the second extended sequence shown, O’Neil, Fenwick and the Turtles were fleeing a bunch of unidentified bad guys by driving a truck down the side of a snowy mountain (again providing a fuller look at scenes spotted in the trailers). Key to the scene was the interaction between the Turtles, who all have their own skill-sets, and Donatello was given more room to shine in this sequence – a glasses-wearing scientist, his comedy nerd credentials seem to have been played up for this film.

Finally on the Turtles front, there was a sizzle reel trailer, featuring Shredder (including a close-up of his mask), Splinter, and a fight between the two that sees the Turtles’ rat-master spinning through the air in slow-motion to avoid a barrage of blades. And it ended on Raphael uttering the catchphrase, ‘Cowabunga!’

Also at the Paramount panel was The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water , with voice actor Tom Kenny on hand to introduce the new trailer, in which Bob and his Bikini Bottom pals end up going above the shoreline – in 3D-animated, superhero form – to save their world. Or something. It was certainly a bizarre sight to see the newly muscular characters interacting with a live-action world.

And there was a brief glimpse of Project Almanac , a found-footage time-travel thriller (briefly retitled Welcome To Yesterday ). Directed by Dean Israelite (cousin of Turtles director Jonathan Liebesman), the clip showed a bunch of teens gathering round and preparing to travel back in time. There was no sign of the tech that they were using, but they were armed with a Go-Pro and other camera equipment, to capture their journey back 24 hours.

Swirling through a vortex-y thing, they land back in their neighbourhood the previous day, and one of their number finds his sleeping, day-younger self, and draws a smiley face on the back of his neck, which then magically appears on his own neck. There was some irreverent banter (‘Did you see that film Looper ?), and things turned glitchy when the sleeping guy turned round and saw his future self in his bedroom. Chronicle is clearly an influence, so it’ll be interesting to see how it measures up to that film, which refreshed both the superhero and found-footage genres.