27 March 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Today the first trailer for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was released:

I sort of get all the fans' fear and loathing about this one. Michael Bay producing, Megan Fox as April, Shredder has been whitewashed, etc. The current Nickelodeon cartoon is a lot of fun (my six-year-old and I have followed it faithfully) and it's a little odd that its live-action counterpart is not really its counterpart -- i.e., they look nothing alike. True, the movies never have been faithful to any of the animated series, but at least they were to each other; even the 2007 CGI movie was intended as a loose installment in that series (the fourth). This, however, is the only TMNT film not connected to the others, causing worry (fueled by early comments from Michael Bay about aliens and stuff) that it will try to be too different.

At the same time, I don't get all the fuss. Every film in that series was tonally different than the others, and if you ask me, a reboot can't do any worse. It may even do better. Remember Vanilla Ice? Super Shredder? Time travel? Leonardo trains in Central America in the same film in which ancient Aztec warriors try to take over New York...and there's absolutely zero connection? And that's just the movies. My point is, the Turtles have seen a lot of incarnations, from comic to cartoon to toy to video game to film, and all of them have been just a little bit stupid nuts...because this is the Ninja Turtles we're talking about! I loved all that cheesy, crazy, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously stuff as a kid, and my own kid does now. (A recent episode involved a mutation between a cat and...ice cream. Michelangelo could both pet and lick it. Seriously.) So when we finally see this new movie -- as we inevitably will -- will I be worried about how it validates my childhood, or my son's?

Yes, I hope that "Eric Sachs" -- this movie's Oroku Saki/Shredder -- is some sort of red herring. Yes, I wish they had gone with a tall Splinter a la the current cartoon (instead, he's played by Danny Woodburn). Yes, I wish April was more interesting. But these are all details, and when it comes to a Turtles movie, the biggest thing that matters is the Turtles themselves. Unlike most reactions I've seen, I actually like the CGI redesign. A human-sized turtle really should be big and bulky, because...shells! I enjoyed the lean, more "teenaged" look in the animated film, but I'm intrigued by these grittier designs, and I expect the action will be a lot of fun.

And Michelangelo's gag at the end? You can't tell me you didn't laugh at that!


  1. So here's the concern: the Transformers reboot did exactly the thing you implicitly express concern about regarding the TMNT movie. The valid question here is, "what will my kids think about this iteration?" It's not about paying homage to OUR childhoods, but giving a new generation the kind of imaginative, immersive experience we remember. But Bay's Transformers failed at that. It's so sexxed up, overly violent, and crass it can't possibly appeal to children in the way the cartoons or movies appealed to us. All the "cheesy, crazy, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously stuff" is largely gone from these modern adaptations, leaving us instead with shallow, feckless experiences that are all-to-soon forgotten and replaced by the new, memorable series that we, as adults, largely have yet to embrace. Will we see our kids, in 20-25 years, lamenting how some hack director has ruined their childhood with a live-action adaptation of Phineas and Ferb? One wonders...

    Thus, your impression is not wrong on it's merits. It's the suppositions on which it rests that leave room--gapping chasms, in fact--for the tripe that may be the new TMNT movie. Will it do for the current generation what the previous adaptations have done for us? Based on recent experience with Bay and Fox, my money is on not. Joel Schumacher and his nipple-laden dynamic duo are more memorable, ironically so, than Bay's Autobots and Decepticons. I want my kids to love these things, in their own way, like I did. I just don't see that happening with this team.

    But it would similarly be folly of me to suggest that I won't see it. It's TMNT, man! I have to see it. It is, as you say, inevitable.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I guess I didn't treat the Bay/Transformers concerns as seriously as I should have, probably owing to my inexperience with that franchise (any version of it, in fact, because I didn't play with those toys as a kid). I did see all those films once, but I'd forgotten if they were "sexxed up, overly violent, and crass" (although, now that you mention it, I do remember a lot of masturbation jokes). My impression was that they are most commonly derided for putting more emphasis on action than story, which, in all honesty, is not something I expect kids to worry about as much. I assumed that it's the older generation struggling with the Transformations movies, not the younger. But I agree that we, as parents, ought to be concerned if those other, less appropriate elements come creeping in.

      So I see your concerns, and while there may not much separating Transformers from Turtles, I still think there's room to hope that the latter won't repeat all the same mistakes as the former. For example, unless I'm wrong, all of the human characters in Transformers had to be made up, allowing more "creative freedom" (perversion?) through a romantic subplot, etc. I don't think that's a likely in the Turtles film, where the main cast consists of characters we already know. I could definitely be wrong, though!