Admittedly, I grew wary when it was first announced that Michael Bay would be taking over the next in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie franchise. Not that his films are bad, mind you…but his work doesn’t necessarily scream Oscar to me every time I see it.
Ever the optimist, I convinced myself that the fact anyone is making a Ninja Turtles film is a good thing, seeing as the green heroes have had something of a resurgence in popular culture lately.
…and that’s when Bay stomped out my optimism like a bug when he announced that in his reboot, the Ninja Turtles would be aliens, Casey Jones and April O’Neal would be eighteen-year-old exes, the enemy would be a man named Colonel Schrader, and the Foot was a black-clad covert operations group rather than a clan of ninjas.
Really, it’s just a jumbled pile of NO, begging to be stopped.
And then this week, Bay announced that actress Megan Fox would be taking the role of April O’Neal in the film. You know, Megan Fox, that actress acclaimed for her great work in films such as Transformers and Jennifer’s Body?
Really, two words describe this entire project right now: A mess. A mess that even Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird called into question when he said it was “fundamentally flawed” and “ should just be tossed out, deliberately forgotten.”
Bay came back and rejected the criticism he received from fans by saying the original script was done long before he even took the project on. Which is suspect, considering the date on the script was 1/30/12. This marks two years after Bay took on the project in 2010. He’s told fans to just wait for the movie, but I’m having a hard time sitting back and doing so if this is the kind of nonsense that will come from it.
Maybe Bay’s just confused and needs some help brushing up on his Ninja Turtles lore. Which, being that the Ninja Turtles are one of my geek obsessions, I’m happy to help him with. Here are a handful of ideas I’m willing to lend him in order to prevent the further suffering of my childhood.
Go the Classic Route
It’s been almost twenty-two years since the release of the first live-action Ninja Turtles film, meaning we’re well past due for a proper re-imagining with the Shredder, Splinter, and all the skateboarding and pizza-eating action we’ve come to know and love from the dudes.
Even the Ninja Turtle’s last appearance in the 2007 CGI film TMNT featured a completely different protagonist who used the Foot clan as a means to help him achieve his goals. So considering its been a long, long time since we’ve seen the Ninja Turtles go head-to-head against the Shredder, I’m thinking there’s no better time than now to do so.
But if you’re going to go this route, make sure to include all the classic elements integral to the TMNT lore; have Krang at the helm, epic Foot battles, Shredder making devious and manaical plans, and April taking on her real role of being an intrepid TV news reporter who winds up meeting the Ninja Turtles and working alongside them to take down the Shredder and Krang. Now, who should play her? Definitely not Megan Fox. While it’s probably a pipe dream, Emma Stone might be a good fit for the role. She’s quirky and sassy enough to really get the character, for one. And she can act in circles around Fox. Which isn’t saying much, I know, but it still counts for something.
There’s no reason why the Ninja Turtles themselves need to be gritty or tough-as-nails characters, either. Just keep them lighthearted and goofy! They’re a crew of fifteen-year-old mutants, after all, and it’s hard to justify making them into grizzled and war-torn fighters. Give them skateboards and pizza, a constant stream of “cowabunga!”s, and have them fake swear by injecting “shell” instead of “hell” into everything, and we’ll be satisfied.
Hell, I even wouldn’t mind if either Rocksteady or Bebop made an appearance here as well. They’re series standouts after all, and more than deserving of a role in the film.
New Villains and Characters
If you’re looking for another route to take when coming up with a new story, there are other places to go as well. While it wasn’t the best offering of the Ninja Turtles, TMNT did a fair job of this by introducing an all-new villain and storyline far removed from what we’ve come to expect from the series over the years.
But if you’re looking for an alternate villain, there’s always the scheming scientist Baxter Stockman. While he typically serves as Shredder’s lackey, he still manages to dream up and create all manner of odd inventions in order to deter the success of the Turtles, from Mouser robots to mech suits. Giving him the chance to be his own standalone villain has the potential to really be something interesting.
One of my favorite characters to debut in the Ninja Turtles universe is Karai, Shredder’s protoge that is taken in by the Foot clan and regarded as a daughter to the classic Ninja Turtles villain.
Sure, I’m probably a bit biased here thanks to my shameless love of female protagonists, but Karai is really a character with a fair amount of depth. She’s locked in this constant on-again, off-again friendship with Leonardo, is highly competitive, and stays true to her convictions when it comes to matters of honor and respect. She’s a good guy (or girl), in villain’s clothing plagued with a constant internal battle against loyalty and morality. If you’re going to go the Shredder route for a plot device, this is the one that could definitely be one of the most compelling and promising of anything written here.
While she might not be the most memorable of characters, there was once a female turtle named Venus di Milo who fought alongside the boys in The Next Mutation live-action series. While I’m not in favor of making her a permanent member of the group, having her return could be a great way to shake things up and reward the most diehard of Turtles fans.
If You Have to Go the Aliens Route…
There are aliens in the Ninja Turtles’ universe. But contrary to what has been hinted at, it’s not the Turtles themselves.
Rather, the Earth was once under attack from Triceratons, a dinosaur-like alien hellbent on dominating the Universe and using technology made by a goofy scientist in order to do so. During this whole story arc, the Turtles traveled to the species’ homeworld, teamed up with rebel leaders, and even attempted to overthrow their corrupt leaders. The entire thing ended up on Earth and was tangled in a web of characters and plot diversions, but it was still one of the stronger entries in the Turtles’ history. Really, this one writes itself; if you want to go the aliens route, just flip it and make the Turtles’ enemies aliens. I’m not asking that they use this arc…well, actually, I am.
But even outside of aliens, there are so many other great and unusual beats that could be used for a potential Ninja Turtles movie plot. After all, they’ve traveled in time to feudal Japan on numerous occasions, dealt with intergalactic threats, and even had several imaginings that took place in the future.
One of the stronger side stories of the Turtles, however, took place in the Battle Nexus. An alternate dimension where great warriors meet up to clash in a Mortal Kombat-style tournament, the four-part episode revealed many twists and surprises throughout its twisted narrative. Fixed fights, dangerous foes, and deep rivalries all ran beneath the surface of the tournament, making for one deadly ride.
While I’d still love nothing more than a classic Ninja Turtles reboot starring the franchise’s classic characters, the Battle Nexus is one offbeat story arc that could be really great if done correctly. Then again, there probably aren’t enough explosions in it to appease Mr. Bay.
This entire nerd rant aside, all I’m really asking is for a bit of fanservice here. I’m a complete Ninja Turtles fangirl, and seeing their origins and lore butchered hurts more than a burned tongue on hot pizza. And while I have all confidence that a good live-action Ninja Turtles reboot could be made, I’m just not sure Bay has what it takes to do it right. That is, unless he’s willing to bend and take note of what we crazed fans want out of it.