Monday, June 30, 2014

Turtles in the Bay – Thoughts On the New Ninja Turtles Movie

For some odd reason I feel it necessary to share my thoughts on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Possibly because there’s a lot of hate online that I feel is, at this stage, unwarranted. I posted the second trailer for the movie on Facebook the other day, and while the comments in my own post were mostly positive, I saw a post elsewhere (and if this person saw mine and decided to start their own complaining post I appreciate that) that was a whole bunch of people that absolutely hate this movie. Most of whom have presumably not seen it yet. 
Most of that hate comes as a result of Michael Bay’s involvement with the movie. He is producing it and because of people’s feelings about Michael Bay’s other projects they are dismissing the possibility that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could possibly be any good. So let me talk about Michael Bay for a minute.

I have liked a number of Bay’s movies – both Bad Boys, The Rock, Pain and Gain, The Island – and have also liked some of the films he’s produced – Mystery Men, the Chainsaw and Friday the 13th remakes. I like explosions, spectacle, and bombast. And while I think that stuff would get old if that was all Hollywood ever had to offer, that is not the case. It’s just what Bay specializes in. If you don’t like that stuff, don’t go and see a Michael Bay movie.

The problem occurs when Bay gets his hands on a pre-existing franchise. Lots of people don’t care one way or the other, but die-hard fans of said franchise that also happen to be Bay haters get really loud. And I completely understand, though for different reasons. This is where I will talk about what Michael Bay did with the Transformers.

I think I was pretty okay with Bay doing Transformers when I first heard about it. I felt like his larger-than-life style would work. I don’t like the designs of the Transformers in his movies. I think they’re too busy and it’s difficult to tell what the heck is going on a lot of the time. It’s also very difficult to tell the supporting characters apart (Is that racist?). I don’t need to see all of the gears and wires and bullshit and I honestly don’t need the robots to look like they could turn into stuff. Don’t worry so much about the robots looking believable – just make the sizes comparable and the transformations look cool and I’m all good. Cover up all the moving parts.

Without getting into full reviews, I liked the first movie, I liked the second with a few caveats, and I thought the third was awesome. However, I have a huge problem with the profanity and adult humor in all three movies. The best (worst) example of this is the scene with John Turturro and Devastator’s balls from Revenge of the Fallen. I’m not gonna lie – the concept of Devastator’s transformation just happening to leave those wrecking balls between his legs was pretty funny. But John Turturro’s character pointing up at them and saying, “LOOK AT HIS BALLS” ruined the joke.

Overall I dug the action of the movies and felt like they were true enough to the spirit of the Transformers franchise aside from the vulgarity. The third one in particular, with its Decepticon invasion and the introduction of the Wreckers was cool. None of the robots seem to be characterized very well, but I attribute some of that to the designs. So many of them look so similar that when you think back on the movie Optimus Prime and Bumblebee seem to be the only characters that stand out. Well, them and whoever Leonard Nimoy was.

If you want a full review of Dark of the Moon it’s here. I can't find the one I did for Revenge of the Fallen. Might be one of those lost MySpace files.

Side Note: I saw Transformers: Age of Extinction yesterday and it was pretty awesome. Here's what I said on Facebook:

"This one was the big, Bay-Tastic action we're used to with some really solid and fun human performances. Everything felt easier to follow visually. The robots were also a little better defined as far as their personalities. Hound was awesome. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a "Me Grimlock, King!" Maybe next time. And I do anticipate - and am excited for - a next time.
For the parents - the language is not much improved. Lots of s-words, one f-bomb, and "ass" is nearly every other word. No vulgar humor this time. Lots of graphic robot murder.
So how do I feel about Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles?

First of all, Bay is not directing this movie. Jonathan Liebesman is. He’s the guy that directed Battle: Los Angeles, a movie that I did not see. But there are two key points here – Bay is not directing and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a Nickelodeon production because the kid-oriented studio bought the Turtles’ lucrative green butts a few years ago. And Nickelodeon may do things like have Lady Gaga and Andre 3000 on their Kids Choice Awards shows, they are not going to want a movie starring their big money makers featuring jokes about turtle dicks.

This is my big concern about the movie – jokes about turtle dicks. I have to pre-screen the movie my son wants to see more than any other movie that has ever been made because I have to worry that it – this movie that is based on a toy line aimed at children – will feature humor based around turtle dicks or other inappropriate subject matter. And then… then I might have to tell my son that he is not allowed to see a movie about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Because some ass didn’t have the talent to make it relatable for all ages and instead just threw in some obscenity to “make it more adult”.

But I have faith that Nickelodeon will reign in any Bay-related impulses in favor of avoiding parental outrage that might lead to decreased toy sales.

Now, some folks might point out that the Turtles started off as gritty, violent, and somewhat foul-mouthed characters back in their Mirage days. That is true. Those old comics are pretty gritty and Lil’ Troublemaker won’t be reading them for a few more years. But cut to almost thrity years later and numerous cartoons, toy lines, and canned pasta endorsements and you have a franchise that is perceived as much more family-friendly than their black-and-white roots would suggest.

Aside from the potential for inappropriate language or humor, the thing that I am most dissatisfied with so far is the Turtles’ faces. They look weird. I’ve accepted the fact that they wear clothes because, quite frankly, the Turtles’ traditional wardrobe is kind of creepy if you think about it. Imagine if I wore what the Turtles wear to, say, Dragon Con. Just elbow and knee pads, a belt, and a bandana. That’s not okay.

The new trailer also shows the Turtles in action. Now that I’ve seen those bulkier bodies with the huge shells in motion I am really digging them. But the faces still look weird. The noses and lips are extremely off-putting. But here’s the thing – the Turtles have been portrayed in a ton of different ways throughout the years. When you throw these movie Turtles in amongst some of the other design, they cease to seem so strange:
In case you don't know - these are Jim Lee-designed action figures that were released years ago.
The bottom line is that I’m excited for this movie. I’m okay with Verne and Irma being in it despite the fact that I hated them in the cartoon. I’m okay with Megan Fox being in it because I never really disliked her as an actress, just as a person. And when she said all of the stupid stuff we know her for saying she was really young and inexperienced. Can’t people have second chances? I love William Fichtner and I’m curious to see what his role is in the story. This is obviously a very different take on Shredder and I’m okay with that. I’m not saying it won’t suck – it might. Heck, it probably will. But I can do with a change from the same old Hamato Yoshi/Oroku Saki narrative. This is a different Turtles story, just like any other adaptation. It’s actually quite strange that the original Turtles story has been told the same way so many times over the years with only minor tweaks. 
I do find it a little odd that Johnny Knoxville is Leonardo. Not bad, just odd. I don’t know who is doing the rest of the voices because I haven’t looked it up, but Michelangelo ans Raphael sound great in the trailer. I’m not sure we hear Donatello. He’s my favorite Turtle, so he had better be good.

In the end the best thing about this movie is that if you hate it you still have all of the comics, cartoons, and movies that you do like to watch and enjoy. Nobody will ever make you watch this movie against your will, nor will all other Turtles media be destroyed in its wake. 

Side Note: We found the new movie Turtles toys at Toys R Us on Friday. They had everything, including April and shredder, of which there was only one of each. We brought them up front and were told that they had a street date and that they couldn't sell them to us. My son was very upset by this. He didn;t cry or anything, which made me proud, but obviously he wasn't happy. They did offer to hold the whole set until the street date. They bagged them all up with my name and phone number and put them in the back.

Then, as we were walking to the car, a guy came running out of the store and said that he could sell them to us. He explained that movie and video game  street dates were important but that TRU wasn't too worried about toy dates. I followed him back inside and he rang everything up. So that was pretty amazing. Probably the best Toys R Us experience we've had. I'll have toy reviews up soon.



  1. My only (legitimate) quibble - at least until I actually see the movie - is that the turtles are so...damn...big!

    I can accept in the guys-in-turtle-suits films they have to be large, because even a 5' dude becomes close to 6' with all those turtle-matronics on their person. But in the cartoons and comics and RPG games the tallest of them doesn't break 5' tall. Given today's CGI abilities, we should have a bunch of under 5' ninja turtles running around real shots of the streets of NY. And it would be awesome!

    Instead we get TMNT so freaking large the cement cracks when they land and flippin' Humvees shatter in their wake.


    It isn't Teenaged Mutant Muscle-Beach Turtles, fercryinoutloud!

    1. Yeah, Raphael basically looks like a battletoad. I'm ok with them reimagining the turtles, it's been done many times over the last several years. I just don't like these designs. It looks like they just threw a bunch of crap all over their bodies and didn't know when to stop. I'm all for the turtles looking unique, but it would be nice if their outfits had some sort of functional purpose, maybe even ninja-like functions.

      I'm not going to be seeing this movie in the theater, but I'm sure I'll rent it. I can't help it because I sure do love me some TMNT. Actually, before I started collecting toys my first purchase as an adult was a set of the vintage turtles from ebay.

    2. I don't know why, but the Turtles' height isn't bothering me. And I used to be a big proponent if short Turtles. I think that I've kind of let go and just decided to go along on whatever ride the creators of this movie have planned.
      As for their clothing - it is thrown together, but there are pads and pieces of armor. Once I had the figures in hand I saw that the clothes and accouterments made a little more sense. I feel like these Turtles have decorated themselves the same way a human teen decorates their room.
      But like I said - I'm along for the ride. I can accept whatever style adjustments are made. At least until I actually see the movie. If the story is bad that will be a whole other issue.