Easily one of the most controversial elements of director Jonathan Liebesman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, the casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neil continues to be a source of outrage among fans. Even though Fox was not featured heavily in the recent TMNT teaser trailer and was non-existent in the teaser posters, our own commenters continue to voice disapproval of the casting choice in every new post on the site.
Understandably, all that criticism stems from a disconnect between the hyper-sexualized characters that Fox typically plays and an on-going depiction of April that is both intelligent and family friendly (in spite of a skin-tight yellow jumpsuit). For that reason, fans began to worry that producer Michael Bay intended to turn the beloved Channel 6 news reporter into a pin-up girl - especially after TMNT set photos, of Fox jumping on a trampoline, surfaced online. Nevertheless, Fox has continued to assert that her April isn't going to Sully the character's 30-year reputation - recently stating that, in spite of what pre-release audiences think, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reboot may provide the toughest and smartest version of April yet.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Fox discussed how this updated live-action April differs from the cartoon and movie iterations that came before:
"She’s more of a leader when she explores her relationship with the turtles instead of just the human companion that gets dragged along on the adventure. It’s more representative of a modern woman [...] There’s no gratuitous skin or sexual anything. Jonathan was really insistent on not wanting her to be sexualized or to take that sort of typical role we’ve seen women take in movies thus far, and that I’ve taken in particular."
Fox went on to address the controversy surrounding her previous work, which she directly mentions in the prior quote, specifically whether or not she thinks her "sexy" image is a hurdle when playing a "smart" character like April:
"I don’t really mind. It’s actually a large part of my personality. I think you can be that and you can also be intelligent and strong. I don’t think they’re in opposition to one another – at least in my life."
Check out the full image of Fox in costume below (click for full resolution):
Despite appearing in mega-successful blockbusters (Transformers) as well as respected indie fare (Friends With Kids), Fox has yet to convince most moviegoers that she's got the acting talent to balance model looks with believable intelligence within a strong character. Still, Fox's "modern woman" comment should be encouraging to fans, or anyone hoping to see a quality Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. The more we learn about the TMNT reboot, the clearer it is that the filmmakers (even Bay) were very intentional about crafting a version of April with believable motivation for encountering the Heroes in a Half Shell - as well as contributing to the team.
We've seen various versions of April over the years, and if we're being honest, a lot of them have sidelined the character as little more than a semi-capable sidekick and, often, more damsel-in-distress than skillful heroine. Additionally, while her character has never been gratuitously sexualized, even her "romance" with Casey Jones is understated, the design of the cartoon character has repeatedly drawn criticism for exaggerated hourglass proportions - hourglass proportions that were fighting to bust out of a skin-tight jumper.
As a result, for all the (legitimate) concerns about Fox as an actress, fans who are still fearful the character will suddenly be portrayed as a sexually charged harlot, simply because a specific actress is in the role, are being more dismissive than discerning (while wearing rose-tinted glasses). The worry was valid before official photos of the character, and comments from the cast and crew were available, but it's pretty clear at this point that the biggest question facing April in the TMNT reboot is whether or not Fox will up her acting game to truly make the character convincing as a "modern woman."
Given her casting in more than one cartoon-turned-big budget movie adaptations, the actress also commented on which other animated shows she'd like to see adapted for the big screen:
“Gundam Wing, Pacific Rim was sort of a Gundam Wing situation, but they should do it. What about Thundercats? [...] “[Sailor Moon] could feasibly be made into a live action movie. I don’t know how many Americans were into that. I was into that, but I don’t know how huge it was here.”
Of course, none of the film's on Fox's wish list are in active development but with Jon M. Chu making a Jem and the Holograms adaptation, Sailor Moon or Gundam Wing movies don't sound all that far-fetched.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will open in theaters on August 8th, 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
Sources: Entertainment Weekly