EDITORIAL: Making A Successful TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Movie

With the amount of TMNT material hitting the web recently it seems an appropriate time to take an in depth look at making a successful film adaptation. Hit the jump to find out what it would take to get fans on board the 2014 project.

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By MrSundayMovies - 5/11/2013


Watch the embedded video below for a comprehensive look at making a not terrible adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or conversely read the transcribed article beneath that. The video's better though. Probably.


Note: The beginning of the video contains minor references to information that has been changed since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) went into full production.

For better or worse a new Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film will be hitting cinemas in June of 2014. The wheels of this project are very much in motion hence all the shouting from the internet at this point will yield no result. That being said despite initial talks of alien origins, Michael Bay’s involvement, the casting of Megan Fox plus the lack of involvement from any original voice actors it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some positive things that seem to have been put in place for this movie. So before elaborating on what would make a successful Ninja Turtles film, let’s look at some good things that are already in place.

Michael Bay Is Not Directing
From what I’ve read a lot of people on the internet seem to believe that Michael Bay is directing/writing/casting/performing stunts/whatever in this project when his role is simply that of a producer. Not that producer’s aren’t without influence, George Lucas’ involvement in the fourth Indiana Jones film is a testament to that. But the fact of the matter is Jonathan Liebesman is directing. His directing credits aren’t bullet proof as they include both Battle LA and Wrath of the Titans, but I’d take either of those over any Transformers film. Besides, the weakness of those films is more in the script, and Ninja Turtles happens to have a decent writer in Josh Appelbaum who had a hand in writing both Mission Impossible 4 and the Alias TV series.

Weta Is Involved
At this point in cinematic history as much as the suits from the original Turtles films hold up, well, not so much the third, you can make convincing photo realistic characters using CGI. And Weta is arguably the best at this very process. Responsible for iconic characters such as Gollum, King Kong, blue Sam Worthington, Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes not to mention characters in the highly anticipated Man of Steel. So as far as creating the CGI turtles go, this film is in good strong New Zealand hands.

The Film Meets Two Key Turtles Criteria (Apparently)
The films action and martial arts will be inspired by The Raid: Redemption, which really raised the bar as far as what a person can physically achieve in cinematic fighting. Hard to replicate yes, but better to aim for this than say Transformers, which to put bluntly looks like just jagged piles of metal rolling into each other. Also the film will focus on brotherhood, friendship and responsibility all big themes that run throughout the comics, TV shows and films. One of the best moments in turtle’s history is between Leonardo and Raphael in the 1990 film after Raphael awakes from being close to beaten to death. It should be awkward and weird as it’s really just two grown men in latex turtle’s costumes hugging in a bath, but it’s more than that. Well it isn't, but it still works, and having something akin to this in next year’s film would be well received.

From these positive aspects in place already what are some additional elements that could help improve a new TMNT film.

Include Shredder
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 suffers from a lot of problems, a major one being there is no Shredder. Despite being a decent film, TMNT in 2007 suffers from this very same problem. The Turtles have an array of popular villains, notable ones include Krang, Baxter Stockman, The Rat King, Mr Null, Wingnut and Screwloose (I could go on but from here it’s mostly anthropomorphic animals). Shredder though is the Turtles fiercest foe, he has a long history with them that ties in with their origin in some way in each incarnation and he has proven to be able to go toe to toe with all four of them at once. It would be good to see some different villains down the line but to open with Shredder and go from there would be the most viable option.

Aim To Adults And Kids Alike
The height of the turtles popularity peaked in the early 90’s making the original fans of the show, movies and comics at the very least in their late twenties to mid thirties. Hence a large part of the market share is in older audiences. Even the first fans of the 2003 reboot series are now mostly out of their teens. Of course the Turtles also have younger fans, they've always appealed to children so the focus of this film needs to be similar to the Pixar approach. That being a tone that kids can enjoy on a surface level and adults can get something a little more out of. Such as seen in The Incredibles, The Avengers and The Princess Bride. These all have mass appeal because they strike that balance well. They deal with death and loss whilst remaining comical and light in tone and it shouldn't be assumed that a younger audience can’t process death and loss as concepts. This is exactly why the 90’s X-Men cartoon was awesome and Captain Planet is weak and crap.

Play True To The Characters
I think it was Edgar Allen Poe who said it best, Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but crude (give him a break) and Michelangelo is a party dude. In a nutshell this is the Turtle’s personalities, but it goes deeper than that which is ripe for exploration in a new film. Leonardo is the leader yes, but he is burdened by the responsibilities of guiding his brothers and being the one to make the tough decisions. Raphael is aggressive as all hell, often letting this same aggression get the better of him, however he is loyal and determined to a fault. Donatello yes, does do machines, (as proved by an overcomplicated coffee maker in the 1987 cartoons opening credits) but he’s also introspective, good with his hands and probably the closest with April of all the turtles. Michelangelo’s wacky sense of humour has been distorted over the years, which kind of brushes over the depth of his personality. His humour is often used in an attempt to avoid confrontation to the disdain of his brothers and he is often considered to have the strongest natural affinity to martial arts, however lacking the discipline required to be the best. None of these things about the turtles need to be explicitly stated, but allowing their actions and conversations to flow naturally can relay this to the audience. Nobody wants to see Raphael go “HEY I'M SO ANGRY” as Michelangelo surfs by in the background eating a pizza wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

Let Them Use Their Weapons
The 1990’s steadily became an era where censorship got out of hand. This is evident in the TMNT trilogy which went from a relatively action heavy film that saw a Japanese man squashed in a garbage truck to a wacky time travel adventure with zero redeeming qualities. Hell, part two was censored to the point where most of the action was regulated to no weapons at all and in the opening scene Michelangelo’s nunchaku were replaced by salami. Hilarious yes, but hardly intimidating. Or hilarious. 2014’s version should let them use their weapons, now this movie will be I’d imagined aimed at kids also so Kill Bill style limbs flying and all it doesn’t need to be and besides there are ways around such things. The original cartoon had the foot clan re-imagined at robots, hell Leonardo even decapitated a Shredder in the 2003 animated series that unbeknownst to him was also a robot. I’m not saying make everybody a robot, we have that movie already, it’s called Surrogates and it’s mostly terrible, but at the very least find inventive ways to dodge censorship to allow them use their allocated weapons properly.

So those are my thoughts, but what do you think would make a good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film as far as story, villains, character development go? Additionally what else would you like to see/not see in next year’s live action adaptation? Sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading. Or watching. Or both. Though doing both seems superfluous.

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TheOneAboveAll - 5/11/2013, 9:43 PM
Good editorial with great points brought up to quell some flamers
ShogunNevets - 5/11/2013, 9:47 PM
Good editorial they really do need to use their weapons in 2014. I wish April was the main girl from Prometheus, her short red hair just makes her look like April.
SugarYumYum - 5/11/2013, 9:52 PM
Nice write up. Everything here sounds great.
ThePowerCosmic - 5/11/2013, 10:10 PM
Hoping for the best. I would love to see this:

TMNT: vs Shredder and the foot
TMNT 2: Space Adventure vs. the Utroms and triceraton home planet.
TMNT 3: Return to NY Story arc
TMNT 4: City At War Arc with The Rat King

This would be the ideal line up for Mirage age Turtles fans, but these stories are mostly too dark for general audiences.
gmoney0505 - 5/11/2013, 10:30 PM
I just want a serious style TMNT movie like the original one with the badass Shredder. Non of the kiddie comedy stuff like the 2nd and 3rd one.
hartley07 - 5/11/2013, 10:31 PM
I know this will infuriate diehard turtle fans, but i like the cartoon origin story better than the original comic. Only reason being that when you establish a universe for the story to take place in, you have to obey the laws of that universe in order to keep my attention. I liked Hamato Yoshi starting off as a man first because a rat learning kung fu makes no sense without some kind of supernatural explanation. Aliens? fine. Experiment gone wrong? fine. But it needs some explanation. It would be like if you were watching Dark Knight, and Bruce's dog learns to fight. Everyone in the theater would be like WTF???? But if you said bruce found the dog on another planet, it'd be like oh ok cool. As rediculous as that sounds, you'd buy it cause you're given a fantastic explanation to explain something fantastic. The rat knowing kung fu "just because" was kinda dumb and distracting. I never liked the movies as a kid because of that.
sorry for the long post, but what i was getting at was i hope hamato yoshi is a man at the begining. I felt i had to explain.
Welmanshire - 5/11/2013, 11:04 PM
@hartley07 The 1990 film does explain how Splinter knows ninjitsu. He explains it when he is telling April the story of their origin. He says he mimics his master "Omato Yoshi(?)"'s movements from his cage.
MrSundayMovies - 5/11/2013, 11:08 PM
@hartley07 Now I want to see Bruce Wayne's karate dog.
hartley07 - 5/11/2013, 11:10 PM
@ Welmanshire

I know, but thats not an explanation. If I said bruce waynes dog mimics bruce wayne and can now fight crime it would still be dumb. My point is rats dont mimic us here on planet earth and learn kung fu. The explanation needs to explain WHY he can mimic Yoshi.
MementoMori - 5/11/2013, 11:26 PM
Nice, nice, nice. I'd still love an R TMNT, but that's a pipe dream. I think you hit the nail on the head with this write up.
WYLEEJAY - 5/11/2013, 11:52 PM
Good article. I agree with all of it.
jimdotbeep - 5/12/2013, 12:21 AM
This article is full of it. I have even less hope for this movie than I did before I read it. While the effects for King Kong were great the CGI apes In rise of the Planet of the apes looked like crap. and smegal is among the worst CGI effects I've ever seen in a movie. The guy directing this has never been involved in a good movie. And Producer's have far greater influences over films than director. If Michael Bay want something a certain way the fact that he's paying for everything supersedes the power of a director.

Lastly why id\s everyone just assuming that The 80's show is the only incarnation that could possibly be adapted to the big screen The original Turtles films were far more heavily based on the original comic than anything else. Peter Laird has spoken out against this abomination numerous times. And it's pretty obvious that Eastman lost anything resembling artistic integrity long ago. He's paid to say whatever the studio wants him to.
Minato - 5/12/2013, 12:38 AM
Use the Shredder as the main villain. The foot clan should be classic ninjas and not use SMGs and assault rifles. Dont hold back the action. Let the turtles stay unknown to the public. Let Bruce Waynes karate dog feature.
TheSuperguy - 5/12/2013, 12:39 AM
To me, this new film should have the tone of the Avengers. A fun superhero movie that is also intelligent. It does not need to be the Dark Knight or anything, have it be a fun popcorn flick, but that also does not mean be totally stupid either.
WYLEEJAY - 5/12/2013, 12:41 AM
I remember rumors about Bebop and Rocksteady. Anybody know if their going to be in this yet? I don't know how I would feel about those two.
Minato - 5/12/2013, 12:50 AM
In the script I read they (Bebop and Rocksteady) were in it. I dont know if they officially announced that the scraped that script.
WYLEEJAY - 5/12/2013, 1:12 AM
Their classic villains. But everything about them screams late eighties early nineties. Their names don't even make sense now. If they change them, then what's the point of having them? Stockman would work well.
dnno1 - 5/12/2013, 1:31 AM
AlexDeLarge87 - 5/12/2013, 1:36 AM
hartley07@ Former Lab Rat of TCRI. The place which Shredder could own and Stockman could be working.

The doctors of TCRI do experiments on Rats which makes them smarter (Ooze could be involved somehow) and then they exterminate them all but Splinter gets away. And poor lonely Japanese man Hamato Yoshi takes the rat as his pet. And the rat because its smart and curious about his new friend starts to imitate Yoshi´s moves.

Simple when you use some imagination. :)

This smart lab rats extermination plot reminds me of Don Bluth´s The Secret of NIMH.
AlexDeLarge87 - 5/12/2013, 1:43 AM
Shredder, Stockman and Ultron version of Krang would be my villain choices.

Krang would have smaller role as the boss behind the curtains who gives Shredder the Ooze so this can create the army of mutant creatures for Krang. Stockman works for Shredder.
osideous - 5/12/2013, 1:54 AM
Peak of the cartoon popularity in the 90's. Early 90's would put most fans in their early 30's. Hence me.
osideous - 5/12/2013, 1:57 AM
Btw with other cbms having violence. The turtles will use their wweapons.
RPD - 5/12/2013, 2:28 AM
TMNT should be animated. Period. Live-action Turtles suck...
Pharaoh - 5/12/2013, 3:42 AM
Hartley they don't need to explain. Anything you simply need to broaden your perceptions


just because rats don't mimic use on THIS earth doesn't mean they don't on THAT earth

it's set in an alternate universe different rules apply it doesn't even have to be remotely like this universe
phoenixforce9 - 5/12/2013, 4:59 AM
How about not having Megan Fox in the movie. She's eye candy but not much.
JoeMomma29 - 5/12/2013, 5:17 AM


KillerTomato - 5/12/2013, 5:32 AM
Just to clarify, Wingnut and Screwloose were initially introduced as antagonists in the original cartoon in their only appearance, but their continued presence was in the Archie series, where they were ultimately allies...just saying...
TMW1987ProudProWrestlingFan - 5/12/2013, 5:46 AM
I enjoyed Turtles I & II as a kid right up to now, actually going to watch I & II later.

Always, even as a kid, HATED 3, because of no Shredder & lack of use of Casey Jones.

2007 TMNT was alright, but again, lack of Shredder hurt it.

There is absolutely lots of material that could be adapted now with the comics, 80's/90's toon, 2003 toon, 2007 TMNT & the 2012 toon.

Things I'd like to see personally over a period of however many TMNT films Liebesman plans to do would be.....

Krang (Inside android body from 80's/90's toon)

Utroms (Inside robotic bodies from 2012 toon)

Baxter Stockman, building up to becoming his Fly self.

Bebop & Rocksteady.

The Rat King (Possibly adapting the City at War arc but with the 80's/90's toon looking Rat King).

The Turtle Blimp (We always get the Van, I'd like to see this incorporated for once as well as the Van).

The Technodrome.

Dimension X.

General Traag & his Rock Soldiers.

Hun & The Purple Dragons.

I think Chris Evans cast as Casey Jones could work.

The Foot need to / Should have looked or resembled the way they looked in the original first & second Turtle movies, they were perfect looking.

I do not like the military / militia take at all or the gun carrying, maybe if they were a separate villainous unit Shredder was using or hiring, I could deal with that as the look is cool, but it's not the Foot. That group could use the guns whilst the Foot could use traditional Ninja weapons.
Redhood10 - 5/12/2013, 5:59 AM
First off ILM is heading the VFX for this film. Second Weta didnt create the Hulk in Avengers, ILM did.
CorndogBurglar - 5/12/2013, 7:00 AM
Im still a fan of the original TMNT movie. I they did a perfect job of finding a strong middle ground in the tone. It was dark and serious enough for adults, yet somehow it still found a way to be light hearted enough for kids.
I mean come on, Raph was viciously beaten to mear death by a hundred foot soldiers. One foot soldier swung an axe, trying to decapitate Leo, and ended up hitting an electrical box that electrocuted the shit out of him. And who can forget the final fight with Shredder? It was epic seeing that as a kid. The way he just thoroughly trashed the turtles all at the same time. What a great scene that was.

To this day, the original film is the best presentation of the franchise, in my opinion. And this is coming from a guy that grew up with the turtles.

If they can somehow find a way to keep the tone dark, serious, yet lighthearted they was thw original did, then there shouldn't be a problem with this film.

And yes, start with Shredder. Make the sequel about something else, then the third should be about Shredder's daughter Karai rebuilding the foot clan, only to find out that it is actually Shredder, working behind the scenes.
AlexDeLarge87 - 5/12/2013, 7:42 AM
I actually liked the third TMNT movie. Not as much as the others but it had its moments.

As kid it was cool to me see Turtles fighting against Samurai´s.

They should have add Shredder´s Ancestor as the main villain thou. That would have been great. James Saito or Francois Chau could have returned in the role.

Stuart Wilson was great as Zorro´s archenemy and Lethal Weapon 3´s main baddie. But in the Third TMNT movie. He was mostly [frick]ing annoying.
He should have been Shredder´s Ancestor´s lackey or something.
AlexDeLarge87 - 5/12/2013, 7:43 AM
Whos neck Shredder breaks. :)
TheFirstAvenger97 - 5/12/2013, 8:19 AM
The 2003 series would be a great starting point. The tone is darker but light enough for kids to enjoy. The show had Utroms, Triceratons, The Foot, and purple dragons. It would fit a movie style version of the Turtles.
l0rdleg0las - 5/12/2013, 8:22 AM
If Leonardo or Raphael actually use their weapons I will be happy with this movie
NBAfanaddict - 5/12/2013, 8:29 AM
@JoeMomma29: YES! So much to love about that picture :D
ComicFan523 - 5/12/2013, 8:30 AM
I agree with your assessment, particularly with the weapons. I was a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back when I was a kid in the 90s, I hope this film turns out well, it's been too long since the turtles were on the big screen. I haven't followed any of the recent incarnations but I think if they follow the animated original series it'll turn out OK. No Vanilla Ice.
Zordan - 5/12/2013, 9:08 AM
new cartoon acutaly let them use weapons and marital arts more then ever
DioFoRio - 5/12/2013, 9:51 AM
I liked the CGI continuation to the live action ones. Thought it was good. It just seems the turtles are more for, like osideus said, the generation who grew up on them. The younger kids arent into them as much. So hopefully this will rekindle some of that magic for the younger gen while being good for the older pissy pants like us.
hartley07 - 5/12/2013, 12:06 PM
@ Alexdelarge 87

That's eactly what i mean, if they did something like that, id be totally ok with it.

@Pharoah

The fact remains, that if we went to see dark kngiht rises, and bane had a gerbil doing bench press on his nightstand everyone would be like WTF??? we know its not our universe, but we assume that the rules that apply to batman, bane, and animals on their earth apply to ours. Otherwise you need explanation. As much as everyone is going to say "it just the way it is", keep picturing Dick Grayson's amazing trapeze rats and tell yourself you'd be ok with it.
CorndogBurglar - 5/12/2013, 2:18 PM
@ dioforio

Not exactly. Yes, there was a period of time when you kind of had to be a kid that grew up with the turtles in their hay day to really them, but that isn't the case anymore.

The new animated show is extremely popular. I have a 3 year old daughter, and i can tell you, it is not always easy to find action figures for them because they sell so well. Especially during christmas. Stores were sold out completely. The turtles are in high demand again.
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