What a difference a year can make, right? It was just over 365 days ago (at the time of writing this) that Michael Bay dropped the figurative atomic bomb that his Platinum Dunes' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie reboot - which is releasing under the abbreviated title of Ninja Turtles - is changing those heroes in half-shells' backstory to make them aliens from another world (and not Earth-based reptiles mutated by extraterrestrial-produced ooze).
Since then, following an (admittedly, pretty terrible) early script leaking and the casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neal, the general outlook among Turtle fans has only gotten worse. Furthermore, these developments have created a firm division between the TMNT comic book creators, between Kevin Eastman not wavering in his support for the project and Peter Laird expressing nothing but his skepticism about the whole thing.
Will today's casting update help in turning the tide, or just speed up the avalanche? Deadline is reporting that Alan Ritchson has been cast as Raphael in Ninja Turtles, which is expected to bring the title characters to life through motion-capture - meaning that Ritchson is going to be wearing mo-cap gear, a la the cast of Avatar (or Andy Serkis in nearly every one of his roles over the past decade, including the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).
Ninja Turtles director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) is reported to be looking to the martial arts fights and close-quarter combat in films like The Raid: Redemption and The Avengers for inspiration, so it appears a smart move to cast someone with athletic abilities like Ritchson for a Turtle role.
On the other hand, the actor - who played Arthur Curry/Aquaman on Smallville, starred on the Blue Mountain State TV series and plays Gloss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire later this year - just does not read as inspired casting for Raphael: the Turtle with the most complex personality, who risks seeming too broody or emo. Between casting Fox and Ritchson, it starts to make you wonder if maybe our April Fools story about Taylor Lautner playing Leonardo isn't so far-fetched after all...
The mystery factor in all this is the story and screenplay from Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, who co-scripted Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and co-created the short-lived Twin Peaks takeoff Happy Town, as well as the U.S. version of Life on Mars. Do they have something in store that's going to restore the faith of older TMNT fans and win over a new generation - or is that too much to hope for?
Ninja Turtles opens in U.S. theaters on June 6th, 2014.