If you’re an adolescent humanoid arachnid martial artist – a hero in a half shell, some kind of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – then few names will strike fear into your heart like Shredder. The leader of the Foot Clan is the biggest bad in the Ninja Turtles world – the Joker to their Batman, if you will. Which is why, when making this summer’s animated favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, director Jeff Rowe ultimately decided not to pitch his four young heroes against Shredder immediately. “Shredder used to be the main villain before we pivoted away from that,” he tells Empire, reasoning: “They saved Joker for The Dark Knight.”
Just like the end of Batman Begins promised that Mr. J was, indeed, on his way, Mutant Mayhem ended on an almighty Shredder tease. While Ice Cube’s mutant crime boss Superfly was a formidable opponent for the Turtles to face on their first outing, Rowe promises much bigger things for the next film. “The one thing I can say without spoiling anything is, [Shredder] needs to be 100 times scarier than Superfly – who is a credible villain, he’s dangerous, he’s strong, he seems like he could mess the Turtles up,” the director explains. “Shredder needs to be that, just significantly more.”
Given the exuberant youthfulness of the Turtles in Rowe’s film – which cast real-life teenagers Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Sharon Brown Jr. and Micah Abbey as the titular heroes – the sheer heft of Shredder as a villain poses a major question: what if Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello actually can’t defeat him? “It’ll be really interesting to see these fun-loving characters go up against something that maybe they can’t stop,” teases Rowe. Better get practising with those nunchucks, stat.
Read Empire’s full Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Spoiler Special interview with Jeff Rowe in the Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes issue, on sale Thursday 21 December. Pre-order a copy online here. Mutant Mayhem is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.