I suppose I should comment on the Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles controversy, which has had a ridiculous amount of media coverage, with articles appearing in major newspapers and parody videos popping up on Conan. I was a HUGE Turtles fan from 1989-1991, so I feel on fairly solid ground in expressing an opinion.
Let’s get the actual quote out of the way first:
When you see this [flick], kids are going to believe, one day, that these turtles actually do exist when we are done with this movie. These turtles are from an alien race and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable.
Setting aside the alien thing for a moment, it doesn’t help that Bay’s words here remind me of Lindsay Naegle’s description of Poochie in the classic Simpsons episode “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”:
We at the network want a dog with attitude. He’s edgy, he’s ‘in your face.’ You’ve heard the expression, ‘let’s get busy’? Well, this is a dog who gets ‘biz-zay!’ Consistently and thoroughly.
My impression of Bay was forever chiseled by his brief cameo as a douchey overaged frat boy in Mystery Men. He made a couple of mildly entertaining but highly successful action flicks and parlayed it into a career of bloated, made-to-order summer blockbusters. I haven’t enjoyed a Michael Bay flick since The Rock, and my single viewing of the first Transformers was one of the most punishing cinematic experiences of my life. But at least he embraces his image.
When I first read that “alien race” quote, I figured, like many, Bay had simply used a poor choice of words to describe the Turtles as outsiders in society. The responses to the “fan-trum” by Bay and the director since then have left the situation clear as mud, though the director, Jonathan Liebesman, mentions the TCRI ooze that mutated the Turtles was created by aliens. Though if you think that’s what Bay was referring to, I’ve got a bridge in R’yleh to sell you.
TMNT creators Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird, whom Rob accurately if uncharitably describes as having “sold out” their property repeatedly, have come out saying they think everyone should wait and see. But let’s face it; when it comes to being open to new adaptations and derivations of their most famous creations – and the publicity and money that entails – Eastman & Laird are no Alan Moore.
As I mulled it over, I decided I could see how tweaking the Ninja Turtles’ origin could work, though I don’t really see why it’s necessary, either. They have a pretty simple, iconic story. Superman was launched from a dying alien planet; Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider; the Ninja Turtles were baby turtles who were mutated by radioactive goo. Weird, yes, but easier to explain in a sentence than, say, the origin of Wolverine, Cable, Wonder Woman or Hawkman.
The question is exactly how this “alien” angle will play out in the flick. If the Turtles are aliens who are abandoned on Earth and grow up thinking they’re mutants (interestingly, an exact reversal of the origin of Futurama‘s Leela), then, well, everything’s pretty much the same. If their alien brethren come looking for them and the Turtles discover they have a place where they belong and need not be societal outcasts…well, it seems to me you’re really changing the dynamic of the characters and property.
But look: this movie is being produced by Michael Bay and directed by the director of Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans. I must confess this does not leave me with much hope that I’ll like the movie – not necessarily because of any changes they make to the Turtles or their story, but because these people do not make the sort of movies I tend to enjoy. [Full disclosure: I haven't seen Battle: Los Angeles, but its reviews do not make me think I would enjoy it.]