Right In The Childhood
There are handful of cartoon series that I have fond memories of from my childhood. Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, X-Men and Pokemon in no particular order were my favourites.
Due to the connect each of these franchises has to my formative years, I get worried whenever I hear of a film, cartoon series or video games being made based on them.
Sometimes my expectations are met in full by the likes of Spider-Man 2, Batman Arkham Asylum and every main series Pokemon game. Sometimes I am ambivalent like with Brian Singer’s X-Men films but sometimes I am downright disappointed. No, I am not talking about the poorly executed and horribly scripted Paul Feig Ghostbusters film. I am talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from 2014.
Not Just A Bashing
Look you can take this movie at face value. Action orientated, special effect driven spectacles. Translation. Explosions, explosions, explosions and more explosions. Director Jonathan Liebesman takes a leaf out of the Michael Bay book on directing…
If you find yourself criticising one of Michael Bay’s films for being poor pieces of cinema, well then frankly the problem is with you! I don’t hate the Michael Bay Transformers to be honest either. Sometimes I am just in the mood to watch giant robots fight and blow things up in the context of a by numbers science fiction plot.
With Transformers I don’t think there was much to ruin though. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is another story. And I will tell you why.
Reboot, Redesign, Ruin
Lets start with the redesign of the turtles themselves. Gone are the literal giant turtles of the original cartoon series. Gone are the animatronics of the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop from the 1990’s films. In there place, horrible CGI models. The CGI turtles in are just ugly to look at. Instead of looking like anthropomorphic turtles, they look like mutant frog men someone bashed in the face with a shovel.
How the hell anyone looked at Kevin Eastman’s original artwork and came up with those abominations I will never know.
The turtles themselves aren’t the only iconic characters that suffer horrible redesigns in this film with. The nemesis of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Shredder, is also subject to a horrendous redesign. Looking more like a cross between the Silver Samurai and well a transformer, it looked like the production team were trying to cut corners with leftover CGI from his sci fi action franchise rather than paying homage to an iconic villain.
When Poetic License Goes Wrong
Horrendous redesigns of iconic characters aside, there is nothing that irks me quite like Hollywood taking poetic license where there is already viable source material.
Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty became the latest in a long line of Hollywood scriptwriters to commit this act of hubris when they wrote the script for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Instead of the straight forward, all be it insane premise of four turtles mutated and then trained in the way of ninja by a rat to fight against a ninja crime syndicate backed up by an inter-dimensional alien, these three geniuses went ‘off script’. The ‘original’ story that we got was that the four turtles used to be April O’Neill’s pet turtles. Her pet turtles where mutated by April’s father who worked for an evil pharmaceutical company.
Said evil pharmaceutical company in conjunction with The Shredder, then intend to commit an act of bio terrorism against the city of New York, the cure for which they sell. My beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deserve better than this cookie cutter plot that sounds like it was a rejected script from an a bad 1980’s action film.
Leave My Childhood Alone
I could go into greater detail as to why this film is terrible but honestly I feel like I’d be flogging a dead horse. Or in this case flogging a dead turtle.
Sadly they did make a sequel in the form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Out of the Shadows in 2016 but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it after the first one. I wish Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general would leave the beloved franchises of my childhood alone unless they’re going to make something decent.
Want to know how this is done? Contact the people over at Nintendo and ask them to speak with the Pokémon company. I am sure they will teach you how to handle a revered franchise with respect.
Update – we incorrectly stated TMNT 2014 was directed by Michael Bay.