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.
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.
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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