Many a fan was overjoyed by the initial reports that Paramount had indefinitely delayed the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action reboot, Ninja Turtles, due to studio heads’ dissatisfaction with the script (in its current form).
Hopes that the project could be outright canceled were quickly dashed, though, as it was thereafter revealed that the film will simply be arriving six months later than originally planned – in order to allow the budget to be reduced some $10-20 million to around $125 million, according to a later report from Deadline.
Prior to that, TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman (who’s “officially consulting” on Ninja Turtles) participated in a discussion with TheOneRing.net about the Turtles property. Eastman responded to fan criticism over Bay’s involvement with the live-action reboot, calling him “a great director” – a statement we’re sure no one will disagree with (sarcasm alert!) – and firing back at criticisms about how Ninja Turtles will tweak the Turtles origin story - they are now full-blown extraterrestrials:
“As soon as ['TMNT' co-creator Peter Laird] and I had freedom, we took [the Turtles] into outer space and introduced the TCRI aliens [a.k.a. the Ultroms] and then we took you to the origin of the ooze, so they [the Turtles] have alien origins, they are from outer space… ['Ninja Turtles'] has to be well-grounded in Turtle history and lore, we don’t wanna take that away from the fans.”
What Eastman highlights here is a heavily-debated point of contention among the Turtle fan community: does it make a difference, if the Turtles are simply aliens (or, rather, “inter-dimensional beings”), as opposed to be being terrestrial reptiles who are affected by a mutagen created by non-Earthlings? Put mildly, it’s an issue which has stirred up the Turtles fanbase something fierce – and will continue to do so, until more general information about the Ninja Turtles project is revealed.
Eastman avoided going into depth about how the Turtles’ origin story is being tweaked for Ninja Turtles. However, he did address the possibility that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphel could be brought to life via motion-capture performance – given the acclaim garnered by recent mo-cap characters, such as Caesar (Andy Serkis) in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in The Avengers:
“['Ninja Turtles' director Jonathan Liebesman] is a huge fan of Andy Serkis in ['Rise of the Planet of the Apes']… we’re deciding whether it’s suits with CG enhancements or full CG.”
The former is an approach similar to that used in Where the Wild Things Are, which combined Jim Henson company animatronics with computer-animated faces, in order to bring the eponymous creatures to life. Although the mix of practical and digital tools worked well for that project, it might be best for Ninja Turtles to go the mo-cap route; as Apes demonstrated, it allows non-human characters to be much more maneuverable and graceful in motion (something giant martial artist turtles call for).
Furthermore, Eastman name-dropped two martial arts flicks that are influencing the fighting style in Ninja Turtles - namely, Fist of Legend and The Raid (known as The Raid: Redemption in the U.S.). The former is a Jet Li vehicle, where the action often resembles that from a classic Kung Fu movie, while the latter… well, watch the trailer below, then read our review (to learn more about what you’re missing):
Despite not being a hit at the U.S. box office, The Raid has raised the bar for martial arts choreography in film. Hence, it’s no surprise that Bay and Co. would be looking to “the cool kid” for cues on how to handle the fighting in Ninja Turtles.
If nothing else, Liebesman has proven to be a competent (if unremarkable?) action movie director, with Wrath of the Titans marking a noticeable improvement over his directing work on Battle Los Angeles. Just don’t expect his Ninja Turtles reboot to be so gritty and sophisticated (nor “edgy” and violent) as the Raid comparison indicates.
Ninja Turtles is currently scheduled to open in theaters around the U.S. on May 16th, 2014.
Head image by ~DFresh300 on deviantART