Hopefully this time it’s not just more crass and mindless Bayhem.
It’s difficult to reconcile the fact that the same production company responsible for a taut, thrilling film like A Quiet Place also subjected the world to the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Form’s Platinum Dunes banner may be producing increasingly better stuff in recent years (remember that they also did a Mike Flanagan movie!). Yet within their slate, the abysmal 2014 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel are much better left forgotten.
These jacked-up, odious, and uninspired blockbusters revamped the Ninja Turtles into monstrous-looking creatures with paper-thin personalities. The storylines in these films are pretty nightmarish, inclusive of crass jokes, sexualized images of women (poor Megan Fox), and unrelenting and tiresome action sequences. Perhaps that’s not much worse than any other generic action film that gets made. Nevertheless, as a reboot of an established title trying to find its audience primarily through nostalgia, that first try with the Turtles fell short, to say the least. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a financial success, grossing $493.3 million worldwide, but its follow-up, Out of the Shadows, barely made half that, grossing only $245 million internationally.
As a result, the fact that Platinum Dunes is now apparently allowed to redo their own horrible reboot inspires a less-than-positive kneejerk reaction. However, as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, such is the timeline we now live in. Paramount Pictures will develop a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film with Bay, Fuller, and Form set to return as producers. We don’t yet know if this will be another live-action venture. The film comes under the purview of chairman Jim Gianopulos, who is said to be streamlining all of the studio’s tentpole films in order to ensure optimum results for future franchises.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand hit its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after being introduced in 1984. The franchise now spans films, cartoons, games, comics, toys, and other avenues of merchandising.
The series’ overarching premise focuses on four mutated crime-fighting turtles named after Italian Renaissance artists — Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello. These bipedal reptilian creatures live in the sewers of New York City and protect their home under the mentorship of their adoptive father, a rat named Splinter.
Each turtle represents a certain teenage stereotype (the leader, the scientist, the jokester, and the bad boy), and keeping in the vein of their youthful personas, some of their traits include loving pizza and using a number of catchphrases. The Ninja Turtles also have human allies (April O’Neil and her love interest, Casey Jones), and archnemeses (The Shredder and his Foot Clan), but they otherwise stay away from the rest of society.
Screenwriter Andrew Dodge, famous for penning Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words, has been hired to work on the script for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Unfortunately, ascertaining his ability to craft an appropriate screenplay for a family-friendly blockbuster isn’t easy. Bad Words is essentially about one offensive guy performing an extensively vulgar schtick because, on the inside, he’s just hurt. That’s not really something you laugh at to have an irreverent, goofy time.
Meanwhile, the films of the Ninja Turtles franchise almost need to have fun in order to work, because the imagery and original lore is ludicrously spoofy. Having any kind of grim overcast envelop the material only serves to stretch the basic story too thin, which is exactly what the first Ninja Turtles reboot did. Out of the Shadows (how on-the-nose of them) then attempted to make itself a little more entertaining, but it could never reach the full light-hearted and parodic potential that the Ninja Turtles franchise was really known for.
Hence, Paramount’s decision to revamp the Ninja Turtles for the big screen yet again with the same old crew could be dicey. However, finding the right director would likely ease any suspicion or misgivings about the new reboot. Greg Mottola springs to mind immediately, even though he’s spent most of his time working in television in the last few years. Mottola remains most well-known for Superbad and Paul, two movies which are vulgar but actually feel irreverent and youthful.
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have proven themselves capable of delivering a range of humorous films, from really acerbic comedy with Game Night to sweeter all-ages fare in their Spider-Man: Homecoming screenplay. Daley and Goldstein’s ability to depict archetypes without indulging in straight-up clichés would serve the Ninja Turtles lore well.
Finally, part of me wants to see what Taika Waititi could do with these outrageous characters. Almost everything Waititi does is a spoof anyway, from What We Do in the Shadows to Thor: Ragnarok. He’s even going to parody Hitler next. Waititi’s gleeful and over-the-top stories keep their flashy images as well as their characters’ quirky personalities nicely anchored without being overly sentimental. In short, the Ninja Turtles are a weird bunch and Waititi is a delightfully strange filmmaker. They could mesh well.
The real question is: are there still some Ninja Turtle fans left who are willing to entertain Paramount’s do-over? The franchise is thriving elsewhere, with or without a tangible movie footprint. IDW Publishing has an ongoing title, while Nickelodeon preps some brand-new animated adventures hot on the heels of their 2012 series, which ran for five seasons. Bay and gang definitely have their work cut out for them to make sure their new reboot finally stacks up to the brand, and they must make better decisions this time around.
Related Topics: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles