It’s been a rough couple weeks for die-hard fans of the “Heroes in a Half Shell” – as producer Michael Bay dropped one controversial Ninja Turtles tidbit after another. As a result, emotions have been running especially high with many fans of the 1980s cartoon series (and comic book source material) fearing that Bay is poised to once again ruin fond childhood memories (remember the flames on Optimus Prime?), this time with a live-action Turtles film adaptation that removes fan-favorite aspects of the lean, green, fighting machines.

Unfortunately, we’ve now received word of yet another controversial Ninja Turtles announcement – the casting of Twilight star (and teen heartthrob), Taylor Lautner, in the role of Turtle squad leader Leonardo.

The now-infamous producer officially announced the Lautner (aka Team Jacob) casting on his blog – asserting that the young actor is set to voice and “perform” as Leonardo in the Ninja Turtles reboot, a revelation that will no doubt send shockwaves through an already tense and fired-up Turtles fan base.

Here’s what Bay had to say about the casting:

Everyone here is really excited to have Taylor on board. He’s already an awesome martial artist and really fits the mold of the exciting Turtles movie that we have planned […] Some people hate on Taylor but everyone just needs to relax. He’s a great actor. Everyone just complains about him because of Twilight. But did you see him in Abduction? No? Then relax. I’ve said this before. We know what we are doing and are going to deliver a fun Turtles movie. A lot of pissed off fans are going to have their tails between their legs by the time the movie releases.

The news comes in the wake of several other controversial TMNT announcements – as well as, arguably, equally dismissive responses from Bay. First it was revealed that a new origin story for the titular heroes was being crafted – one that removed their terrestrial roots in favor of making them inter-dimensional beings (i.e. aliens). Next, after a tide of fan outrage, the change was solidified by an official title for the reboot – Ninja Turtles, obviously dropping both the “Teenage” and “Mutant” elements of the original. The one-two-punch came as a blow to long-time fans who were hoping for a more true-to-form retelling. However, with TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman partnering with writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec on the script, cooler heads managed to get past the shake-up and remain excited for what Platinum Dunes has in store – especially if fan-favorite villain Krang would make his live-action debut.

However, even the most patient Turtles fans are likely going to be nervous about Lautner’s casting – as the choice suggests that Bay (and director Jonathan Liebesman) are positioning the film as a goofy star-studded money-maker instead of the gritty and grounded remake that many die-hard fans had hoped to see.

Casting Lautner as the squad’s leading-turtle will likely prove to be especially exasperating for long-time Turtle lovers – since it would indicate that similarly young and “buzz-worthy” actors will be cast as the other reptilian alien heroes. Had Lautner been cast as Michelangelo, or even Raphael, fans might have assumed that the less outrageous Turtles (Leonardo and Donatello) would be played by more serious acting talent; however, considering Leonardo is the most “honorable” and “level-headed” member of the group, Lautner’s casting would indicate that further announcements aren’t likely to be any more encouraging.

Similarly, it’ll be interesting to see what Bay means by “perform” – as we can only assume that the Ninja Turtles are going to be brought to life by the same type of technology that turned Andy Serkis into Casear for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As a result, while some fans might have been able to handle Lautner voicing the character, it sounds as if the actor (and whoever else Platinum Dunes casts for the remaining Turtles) will likely be doing a lot of motion capture performance as well.

No word yet on who those other actors will be but, in the meantime, check out the first concept image of Taylor Lautner’s Leonardo.

On a side note – this article should certainly teach you the value of clicking on in-text links.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates.

Ninja Turtles hits theaters in the U.S. on December 25th, 2013.

Source: Michael Bay