[UPDATE: Michael Bay responds to fan outrage.]
Before continuing on, we ought to clarify: Michael Bay is only producing the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series reboot through his Platinum Dunes, not directing. Helming duties (for better or for worse) on the project look to instead be given to Jonathan Liebesman, who previously worked on the Bay-produced Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and last year’s alien invasion thriller Battle: Los Angeles.
Bay talked about the TMNT reboot at the 2012 Nickelodeon Upfront in New York – promising a cinematic return-to-form for the sewer-dwelling masked vigilantes, while also casually dropping a bombshell (turtleshell?) about how the characters’ traditional origin story will be altered for the new movie.
On the topic of how convincing the famous anthropomorphic reptilian stars of TMNT will be, Bay said:
“When you see this movie, kids will believe one day that these turtles do exist, when we’re done with this movie.”
With Bay backing the project and Liebesman – who looks to better establish himself as an effects-savvy director with this month’s Wrath of the Titans – mostly likely directing, the TMNT reboot should easily fulfill on that promise. A hybrid approach that combines animatronics with motion-capture digital effects (similar to that in Real Steel) in order to bring Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael to life, seems like the best way to go.
However, Bay’s next comment on the subject is bound to not go over so well (the first part, that is):
“These turtles [in the reboot] are from an alien race, and they’re going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.”
Now, before anyone metaphorically (or semi-literally) explodes over Bay’s statement, don’t forget: going back to their comic book roots, the traditional backstory for the Turtles is that they were regular… well, turtles, who changed after being exposed to a radioactive substance. It’s a pretty ridiculous setup for even a comics series that started out as a satirical imitation of Frank Miller’s brutally grim and violent Ronin/Elektra comics – but eventually gave rise to a beloved property that stands on its own.
So, here’s the million dollar question: does having the Turtles instead simply be aliens (even “Mutant” ones) sound like a good idea, an inconsequential change – or a terrible decision?
It’s easy to point the finger of blame at Bay for bringing up this “Turtles as aliens” angle to begin with. However, now that the decision has been made, it’s really up to the TMNT reboot screenwriting duo of Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Procotol) to actually make that tweaked origin story work.
As for why the Turtles are now going to be aliens: perhaps it’s to allow for other sci-fi elements and characters to be more organically woven into the rebooted TMNT mythology. Not that non-earthlings like the classic villain Krang (who even hailed from another dimension) have really struggled to fit into the series before now, but still…
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot is tentatively set for a December 25th, 2013 theatrical release date, so you can expect to learn more about the film over the upcoming year.