For months, fans have worried over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film reboot from producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman – following a number of controversial filmmaking decisions: the casting of former Transformers star Megan Fox as April O’Neil, rumored changes to the titular turtles’ origin story, as well as a modern makeover for the Heroes in a Half Shell. In fact, just one week before release it was still unclear whether William Fichtner was the movie’s primary villain – and the man inside of the Shredder armor.
However, now that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is in theaters, we finally have answers to fans’ biggest questions (and concerns). For our official thoughts on the quality of Liebesman’s adaptation read our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review or listen to our TMNT episode of the Screen Rant Underground podcast; though, if you’ve already seen the movie (or do not mind being spoiled), read on for our explanation of the new TMNT origin story, as well as info to help casual moviegoers learn which aspects of the reboot are nods to the comic book (and animated series) source materials. This post is going to be full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles SPOILERS from here on out. READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up.
MAJOR TMNT SPOILERS FOLLOW!
The Mutagen (aka Ooze)
2014 Film Origin: In the new film, the origin of the ooze is left open for exploration in future sequels. Yet, Eric Sachs (William Fichtner) outright states that the substance is extraterrestrial – which shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone who caught the T.C.R.I. label on the mutagen’s canister. In the comics, T.C.R.I. (the Techno Cosmic Research Institute) is actually a shell corporation/Earth base for the alien species known as the Utroms – the same life forms as fan-favorite baddie, Krang.
Source Material Inspiration: Certain origins of the ooze depict the substance as man-made; however, the original Mirage comic book series – as well as select TMNT adaptations across various mediums – have presented the ooze as an extraterrestrial substance. As mentioned, the Utroms are most often attributed with creating the mutagen (either intentionally or inadvertently). In the original source material, the ooze is actually the byproduct of the Utroms’ attempt to create a portal back to their home planet. As the Utroms were shipping the substance (in T.C.R.I. canisters) to a waste disposal facility, one of the glass containers was knocked off the truck and rolled into the sewer.
2014 Film Origin: Dr. O’Neil (Paul Fitzgerald) was a scientist who joined by Erich Sachs (William Fichtner) and hoped to harness the T.C.R.I. mutagen as a means to combat disease, infection, and poisoning in the human body. During experiments, O’Neil’s daughter April helped take care of their test subjects: a rat (Splinter) and four turtles (Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael).
However, after Dr. O’Neil learned of Sachs’ true plan for the mutagen, he attempted to destroy their research and was killed in the process. Years later, chasing a lead as an investigative journalist for Channel 6 news, April encounters a familiar Japanese symbol – a symbol with connections to her father’s research. Unable to pass up the chance to learn more about Dr. O’Neil’s death, April’s investigation leads her into a conflict between the Foot Clan and her former turtle pets – now a team of crime-fighting mutant vigilantes.
Source Material Inspiration: While 2014 April O’Neil is in-line with the most familiar iterations of the character (a headstrong news reporter who stumbles upon the turtles while investigating the Foot Clan), certain TMNT fans may think the childhood backstory (featuring Dr. O’Neil) came out of nowhere and was forced into the Ninja Turtles reboot simply to give April and the turtles a shared origin. After all, the father O’Neil character is either deceased or peripheral in most versions of TMNT mythology.
Yet, Mr. O’Neil has appeared in prior pieces of TMNT programming – especially as a supporting character in the 2012 animated series. In that version, Dr. Kirby O’Neil works as a psychologist, not a geneticist, but his abduction by The Kraang (the 2012 iteration of the Utroms) is still the inciting event that first brings April and the turtles together. Dr. O’Neil was even mutated into a bat-like creature during the show’s second season - until the turtles returned him to normal. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that TMNT franchise writers have connected April to the science community - since the iterations of the comic book series (and later the 2003 animated show) saw the heroine working, at least for a time, as a research assistant to Dr. Baxter Stockman (instead of her more well-known occupation as a news reporter), and even had her responsible for first naming the four pet turtles, like in the movie.