Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Perhaps one of the most accurate names of any property to come out of comics. Let’s take a second and dissect that name, shall we? The first word refers to the characters ages.They’re teenagers. Got it. Let’s look at the third word, ninja. While the characters aren’t the stealthy, silent, kill-you-in-your-sleep type ninjas, the term does apply to their martial arts expertise. It’s close enough to let it slide.
Now, let’s look at the remaining two words: Mutant Turtles. This forms perhaps the most descriptive phrase of the characters’ name. Those words tell you who the characters are and how they came to be. They are turtles who have been exposed to toxic waste and have mutated into humanoid, intelligent creatures. Well, at least that was their origin.
Michael Bay, who is in someway attached to the forthcoming live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, was speaking at the Nickelodeon (current owners of the rights to the Turtles) up-fronts, where he had this to say about the new Turtles film.
“When you see this movie, kids are going to believe one day these turtles actually do exist when we are done with this movie. These turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely loveable.”
Alien race? When I hear that I had to check the calendar to see if I slept for a week and a half last night it was April 1st. I didn’t and it’s not. Here is a video of Bay making that very same announcement.
Michael Bay talks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by stuffwelike
Now, this all came down yesterday and I seem to have missed it. But a lot of other TMNT fans didn’t. The new practically ripped the Internet in half as angry fans expressed their rage. There were posts on message boards, a Facebook page set up to let Bay know the Turtles aren’t aliens and even the actor who voiced the Turtle named Michelangelo in the first series of films, Robbie Rist, wrote an open letter to Bay accusing him of “sodomizing” the original film trilogy and “raping” many a person’s childhood memories. Yikes!
Bay decided to answer the questions the way most conflict negotiators recommend calming an opposing side down: through arrogance and condescension:
Fans need to take a breath, and chill. They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world.
That statement is odd on a number of levels. First, everyone knows that the last thing you want to tell a group of people who are upset, be it a rational or irrational rage, is to calm down. That usually has the opposite effect.
The phrasing “one of the original creators” is odd too. There are two creators of the comic book the Turtles came from: Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. So, the “original creator” is either one or the other, and therefore should have been named. Unless there is a reason why Bay didn’t name the creator in question. Hmmm.
And that final sentence? That would work to ease concerns if A) the fact the Turtles are now aliens which is not what made the fans fans in the first place, and B) savvy moviegoers had any faith that Bay had the skill to “build a richer world.”
To outsiders, the fact that the TMNT fandom would get so up in arms over such a minor change is perplexing. Well, look at it this way. The Turtles might be to you an aspect of pop culture while you were growing up, to others of the same age it was the defining cartoon or film of their childhood. It could very well be the first property they became a fan of. If they loved something with all their hearts as a kid, it’s hard to let that go of that love when they get to be an adult.
For me, I was never as big a fan of the Turtles as I was of, say, Star Wars. My main problem with Bay’s announcement is that the change is unnecessary and would not make the story any better. Forget the fact that “Mutant” and “Turtles” are in the character’s names, the Turtles’ origins had been essentially the same for almost 30 years. It was good enough to make billions of dollars in a wide variety of industries. While the fact they were mutated by toxic ooze is outlandish, it’s more grounded in reality than them being aliens. It is a change that serves no other purpose other than allowing Bay and his writers to put their personal stamp on the property.
It should be interesting to see how this all plays. Bay’s rebuttal to the controversy, issued on his official forums to his loyal fanbase, might do more harm than good. Sometimes bad publicity, even this early, can kill a film dead in the water.