Anyone who’s been paying attention to Hollywood over the past decade has become familiar with one unavoidable fact: rebooting beloved properties is hard. Taking a remnant of million’s of moviegoers’ childhood nostalgia and changing it – even with the best intentions – is likely to result in overwhelming attacks and accusations of blasphemy. The Michael Bay-produced live action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no exception.
The reboot, now working under the title of Ninja Turtles, came under heavy fire when it was revealed to be rewriting the Turtles’ origins as extraterrestrial in nature. Yet, the latest criticism of the project (coming from Turtles co-creator Peter Laird) doesn’t just take issue with the lack of mutating ooze in the reboot, but the overall quality of the script behind it.
The script in question was recently leaked (allegedly) in a manner akin to walking a lamb to veritable internet slaughter. Fans were looking for concrete evidence that the origin re-writing was as detrimental to the brand as Michael Bay’s mere involvement, and they got it in spades with the leaked copy. April O’Neil and Casey Jones as a high school couple and a clandestine military division nicknamed ‘The Foot’ were just a few examples of what the writers felt were appropriate ‘updates’ to the source material, and fan outcries were renewed.
The Ninja Turtles reboot has since been delayed, according to the comic’s co-creator Kevin Eastman – but not due to any lack of quality in the script or overall direction. Hearing that Eastman thinks highly of the latest script versions was encouraging to fans, but the most recent comments from the comic’s other co-creator most definitely is not.
On Laird’s personal blog, commenters inquired as to his thoughts on the leaked script, and whether he had any insights to offer on its direction. His statements were spotted by CBM, and make his stance on the reboot fairly clear:
“Someone else alerted me to the existence of this script, and I just a few minutes ago finished reading it. If it is, in fact, the actual draft that was rejected and caused the production of the next TMNT movie to be pushed back to 2014 because the script was unsatisfactory, then I think all true TMNT fans should be grateful to the new “powers that be” that they did not allow this wretched thing to go any further. It could definitely be taken as a good sign if that is the case.
It reminds me of one of the reasons I am glad to not own the property anymore… because I don’t have to tear what little hair I have left out while trying to fix junk like this.
“I think the script that I read is so fundamentally flawed, and — more to the point — so NOT a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, that trying to make piecemeal changes to it in an effort to make it into something halfway decent is probably a fool’s errand.
In my opinion, the thing should just be tossed out, deliberately forgotten, and the process of generating a new script — really a new outline, then treatment, then script — should be started again. I have no insider knowledge of what’s going on with the movie, but from the bits and pieces that have slipped out, it seems like that may be exactly what is happening.”
Obviously Laird is not one to mince words, since he no longer owns the license or is involved with the reboot’s production in any capacity. Not to mention, his comments voice the same sentiment generally being thrown around by the fan community. What is important to note, though, is that while Laird also referred to attempts made to twist Michael Bay’s initial statement about the Turtles’ alien origins, his problems with the property don’t begin and end with their extraterrestrial background.
Series co-creator Kevin Eastman previously explained how the Ninja Turtles are already somewhat alien creatures, and the fact that Laird isn’t openly attacking the film on that point might do some work in calming the masses. The script, on the other hand, is another matter.
It’s not hard to see why Laird would take issue with the changes being made in the name of a modern setting. Presumably, April and Casey, and the Foot Clan itself were designed the way they were for a reason. And while the ‘Teenage Mutant’ has officially been dropped from the title – possibly to resonate more clearly with the now-aged fans of the original comics, films and TV series – the decision to recast the two lead human characters as high school students – presumably to attract a younger audience – makes no sense. Aside from making the proposed film “so NOT a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie” the discrepancy just highlights the often jumbled message of Michael Bay’s over-the-top action anchored in under-developed-romance style, even if he is only producing.
Before fans immediately hold up Laird as their saving grace and a voice for their resistance, it’s worth noting that he also holds an interesting view of fan-favorite villains Bebop and Rocksteady‘s roles in any live-action reboot. If Laird were writing the new script, he’d “ditch Bebop and Rocksteady completely.” There are sure to be droves of fans who would be crushed, were that the case.
For better or worse, and whether the co-creators of the famous foursome can agree or not, Ninja Turtles opens in U.S. theaters on May 16th, 2014.