Culture

Occupy Half-Shell

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Like most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans, I became consumed by a blind rage at news of a planned movie made by Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes. I began sharpening my katana when more news was leaked. Explosion fetishist and “director” Bay is a producer on the film and is attempting to do what the Shredder couldn’t: destroy the Turtles. Maybe you’ve heard of the plans to make the Turtles into aliens, or as Bay put it “give a more complex back story and make a richer world.” Complex? That’s pretty much the opposite of Bay, whose movies are a string of explosions linked together by bad jokes, racist caricatures and anorexic women who serve as nothing more than eye candy for porn-addicted boys who haven’t discovered the internet yet.

While most people know the Turtles from their 80s show (which was also to sell toys, of which I have a lot) and 90s movies (the third one being the first movie I ever saw in theaters), the Turtles’ origins lie in the comic books. The original comics were published independently, as in not to sell toys. What started as a parody of popular comics of the day soon took on a life of its own and a universe was created. The first Turtles comics didn’t see them eating pizza and skateboarding, but instead saw the Turtles fighting the Foot Clan (as in killing them) on their way to completing Master Splinter’s order to kill the Shredder (like most comic book villains however, he returns). That’s the first issue. Would Bay’s movie resemble anything like this first issue? Doubtful, as there is only one explosion. Does turning the Turtles into aliens make way for them to fight the Foot or whatever the hell they’re supposed to fight on a bigger scale, which possibly calls for more explosions? Maybe.

And let’s not forget the origins of the Turtles. Changing that is like having your dearest childhood memories erased, or at the least dismissed as stupid. Remember, Michael Bay wants to build a richer world, which means the original one you knew basically sucked. The Turtles’ origin: pet shop turtles fall down a sewer and come in contact with a mysterious ooze, which in New York City is pretty plausible. That just isn’t complex enough, but when has that been a bad thing? Is Spider-Man’s origin story that complex? No. Is Batman’s? No. Would fans be up in arms if Hollywood wanted to change these? Yes. And fans of the Turtles have spoken out against Bay’s alien turtle comments. So why change the origin?

Turning the Turtles into aliens, besides showing no respect to the franchise, ruins another key part of the characters; the fact that the Turtles are native New Yorkers. Now, it’s unclear whether Bay’s “turtle aliens” get dropped on earth as babies and then raised by a rat-alien Splinter who knows an alien fighting style similar to ninjutsu. If the Turtles come to Earth fully grown up, they wouldn’t be raised in New York. So where does their love of pizza, skateboarding and surfer 80s slang come from? If Bay’s plans are for them to be taught this stuff by a human character, say April O’ Neil, then he’s dumber then an explosion. Aliens hiding on earth and being taught human culture have already made several movies, and most of them suck. The Turtles are already outcasts; you don’t need to make them from another planet to get that point across. But why stop at making the Turtles into aliens? Why not make Teenage Mutant Ninjas: a movie about four teenagers that get exploded in a string of events because a mysterious ooze lands on them, making them ninjas. Just get rid of them being turtles all together, but for some reason they call themselves the “Ninja Turtles.” That’s a Rube Goldberg-esque story, or in layman’s terms, a clusterfuck. So it might get considered.

Michael Bay is begging fans to give this a chance, going so far as to bring in Turtles co-creator and the first creator to give up his rights to the franchise, Kevin Eastman. Eastman, who is supposed to be working/looking at people working on the script, has said it’s awesome and we should trust him. Then again, anyone stupid enough to give up the rights to the Turtles shouldn’t be trusted to water a houseplant. The other creator, Peter Laird, has a more cynical outlook to Bay’s plans, but believes it is possible for it to work. Possible, I assume, in the same way the Cubs might win the World Series three years in a row. Then again, Laird sold the franchise to Viacom/Nickelodeon. Both creators literally sold out. Much like the Star Wars universe is constantly threatened by creator George Lucas, so is the Ninja Turtles’ universe, but at least Lucas still owns his creation. Eastman and Laird gave up their rights to the Turtle universe and their opinions shouldn’t hold any weight.

What I really want to know is: why this franchise? If it was “Biker Mice from Mars,” then it would make sense for them to be aliens; they’re from Mars. Just because Bay ruined one franchise and for some God-forsaken reason it made money, doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee again. Nickelodeon is trying to resurrect the Turtles franchise with a new computer-animated TV show, which will do its part to destroy the Turtles’ good name, and is already off to a bad start. A computer-animated Ninja Turtle show kind of sounds like that Kung Fu Panda show, except the Turtles will be associated with Bay’s movie. And even if the show maintains the real origin story, will any real fan watch it after this whole Bay debacle?

And who will see this movie? If it gets made, it almost certainly won’t be critically acclaimed; according to Rotten Tomatoes, his top-rated movie (The Rock) is at a 67%  on the Tomatometer. What kind of budget would this movie be given? For Bay’s sake, I hope this movie never gets made. Not because I would hunt him down, chop him up, and spread his remains across the globe (though I am done sharpening my katana). He’s already hated and disrespected; why add to that?  Just make like a ninja and vanish!