Poe’s Point > Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles

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.]

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Comments now closed (20)

  • While I have no intentions of going to see this movie if it remains as it has been described, I wonder how people are taking the tweaks to the turtles' origin in the new IDW comic. I won't spoil anything here, but it is a little different than any take I've seen or read before, and yet so far I've loved it.

  • I’m about as big a fan of TMNT as fans can get, and I’m also about as forgiving a fan as fans can get. I don’t think there has ever been an incarnation of TMNT that I’ve hated (although I haven’t seen TMNT 3 or Next Mutation, which might break that perfect streak). But this seems like it’s just going to be too much of a departure from the source material. And after those abysmal TF movies, I have little faith that Michael Bay is the guy who can pull it off.

  • It will really depend entirely on how exactly the "alien" thing plays out. Like I said, if the Turtles discover they're not social outcasts but have a whole race of alien brethren who will accept them, then why stay in NYC where they're freaks? Unless…what if the story is that their alien brethren come to conquer Earth, and the Earth-raised Turtles decide to reject their newfound brothers and sisters and defend Earth against them? Y'know, like half of all aliens-on-earth story every written.

  • Removing the mutated by ooze element from the Turtles, removes a key part of their mythos. Batman is out for revenge for his parent's death. One of the key story arcs in the Ninja Turtles, is their quest to find out what their place in the world is. When they find out that they were created by the TCRI ooze, they at first think perhaps their is a higher purpose for their existence. Soon they find out that the ooze was basically just waste and not an intentional creation. In essence the Turtles were created by garbage. It deeply effects their psyche and once they realize their world is a farce built upon getting revenge to Shredder (whom quickly dies in the comic but even if you look past that, revenge in general) they have no purpose in the world. It's one of the driving motivators that set them apart from other "superheroes". They are total outcasts, who can't relate to anyone both because they're turtles, but also because of their origin.

    Laird's wait and see, is based on a different motive. He just thinks they're trying to make more turtles.

    Eastman has shown he could give two craps about the turtle mythos and is willing to rewrite it willy-nilly whenever he sees fit.

    What saddens me is that when this project first came together, it was based around people who wanted to get the turtles gritty and down to their Mirage comic roots. It was a property that everyone involved seemed serious about taking in a dramatically different direction and much closer to the first movie, but even deeper. Then the film got passed around a few times and ended up on Michael Bay's desk, where he realized this was a popular toy and cartoon, which he believes gives him carte blanche to do rewrites to the mythos as he sees fit (cause it's just toys and shit ya'll) and he knows will make him truckloads of money. Thanks Transformers!

  • Pingback Today in AlienTurtleGate: Now They’re Probably Not Teenagers, Either « Band Nerds Gone Wild

  • "Can we bring the brewskis?"

    My caring about this movie goes as far as "I hope the toys are cool." As Poe suggests, the team of Bay and Liebesman clearly indicates no one is making this movie cause they want to, they just think they can make a lot of money from it. And if "Transformers" is any indication it will. Cue the populace-reviews of "yeah, the dialog, characters, and story are terrible but I like the action"

  • I don't like the RACE part,this will stink like GREEN LANTERN.I just want more animatronics than CGI,wish the people who made REAL STEEL got to have a go with the TMNT.

  • The problem is that no matter how poor Bay's creative choices are, the moviegoing public repeatedly validates him. There will be no end to his arrogance.

  • While I have little faith that this iteration will be something true fans are happy with, we aren't the intended audience anyway. Bay's Transformers films and this stab at TMNT are directed at those who experience a mild nostalgia for these properties, those that may remember a few character names if nudged, parents who want to take their kids to the movie that "daddy used to watch the cartoon when he was your age."

    It's getting to the point where having any respect for the heroes of your childhood is just opening you up to being shat upon by people like Bay. Hopefully this next G.I. Joe film will incorporate enough appreciation for the source material that true fans will be able to enjoy it, and will make enough money at the box office to show Hollywood that respect can be just as profitable as Bay-style "re-imagineering".

  • Let's be honest giys. Do you think Bay or Nickelodeon care about anything other than getting even more rich? Do you think *they* care about *you* and your childhood? Do you think they care about entertainment, or marketing?

    Do you think they care about kids in any way? Other than exploiting them to buy another house or car?

    This movie, just like the Transformers movies, will be written by committee, by corporate tools, who are bereft of consciousness, intelligence, morals, and any type of originality. To argue anything else is simply to play into their hands, and make them monetarily richer and you intellectually poorer. Just like Hasbro with the TF movies, and now GIJOE and BATTLESHIP, as well as Mattel and the MOTU movie back in the day, these are meant to *take advantage of people* and not to provide entertainment. Bay is someone who, in a better world, would be homeless and alone, and that would give someone with a soul a possibility of employment in the movie business. And Kevin above is 100% right: if you pay to see this movie, you should be ashamed of yourself. Any company that hires him simply does not care about you, comic/toy/cartoon/culture fan, and you are directly putting money into his pocket, and removing it from you and your family. In the TF movies alone, he's massively sexist and mildly racist. I can only guess what parallels he'll "unwittingly" draw on other groups for TMNT. What is really ironic is that these heroic characters were originally designed to show kids and fans *the right thing to do to others*- and instead they simply foster more greed and selfishness from top to bottom. Do you want a world full of CGI, lies, no morals, stupidity, racism, and the rich people behaving like 12th century kings; or do you want a world where art is made to entertain and enrich you and your family's life and actually communicate something beyond "buy a Nokia phone"? Keep buying those movie TF toys and the tickets to Bay movies if you want the former.

    • The Turtles told us the right thing to do? Like train in ninjutsu for over a decade so that you could kill the Shredder because he killed Hamato Yoshi over Tang Shen?

  • On a small side note, as a kid in the 80s having practically grown up in nyc and brooklyn, i always kinda felt that the one place in the wold where the turtles actually WEREN’T freaks was NYC, but again, thats from the perspective of having grown up here.

    But i digress, People just need to not see this film. Most people however will see it anywy, just to complain about itt, itll make money, and a sequel will come out and piss people off even more.

    Ill say it, i enjoy Bays films, i am emtertained by them. Call it what u will, but i enjoy explosions and dick and fart jokes. They make me smile and laugh.

    I collect toys, i watch cartoons, im not gonna sit here and give a lecture like some people do on the merrits of what makes bays films bad and how they are destroying society. Theres plenty of other things doing that as well. Much worse then bays films.

    And honestly, anyone who seriously thinks these “beloved” franchises were originally created as ANYTHING besides a platform to make $$ is fooling themselves. TMNT was the biggest schill of a property, tranformers, he-man, thundercats, were all made with the sole purpose of creating an income source first and foremost. The problem is what worked for us as kids doesnt work anymore on the kids of today, and thats not a michael bay issue, or a hollywood issue, thats the consumers issue. We’re buyIng these things, and watching these things. Now, as i said, i enjoy this stuff, so of course im gonna pay for it, but the real question is why do those who NOT like it pay for it? Or maybe just everyone secretly DOES like it? John carter probably wont get a sequel and flopped, meanwhile, tf3 was the highest grossing transformer film, and i think in the top 5 films of all time highest grossing. Of 1 and 2 were SO miserable then why did MORE people see 3?

    • Well, actually, TMNT wasn't originally made as a cash cow, it was made as kind of a practical joke. THEN it became a cash cow.

  • The movie will still make millions, but the amount of fuss over this might raise the question of how many MORE millions it could have made had it not done the alien thing.

  • What about Dimension X is an alternate dimension that was home to the evil alien Krang?.

  • After reading so many comments around the web about this controversy, I decided to flip through my old Mirage TMNT stuff and check out my NECA figures. Good stuff. Frankly, I don't care what Bay does, because it's inside those books that I'll find my favorite Turtle stories and art and interpretations, and that won't change.
    I wish he didn't feel the need to reinvent the property to reach a new generation, but I understand that some people cling to that flawed logic.