There aren't many franchises more difficult to get right than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Should it be witty and gritty or goofy and fun? The problem stems from there being too many different versions of the property, from the original indie comic book to the action figures and cartoons and kid-friendly merchandising. Many of the original fans would like to see the foursome do some real hard-core damage in something more closely resembling a true martial arts film. But even if this weren't a Nickelodeon property at the moment, it's hard for producers to deny the younger audiences who'd also like to see an adaptation of the "Heroes in a Half Shell."
At the moment, this Ninja Turtles reboot doesn't sound promising. Michael Bay is producing, the mythology is being tweaked, they've got the guy who directed Battle of Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans at the helm and Megan Fox is playing April O'Neil. They might as well just let Vanilla Ice do another theme song. Actually, that might heavily appeal to the fans who are primarily nostalgic for the campy New Line movies from the '90s. Okay, they might as well let Psy do the single instead -- and call it "Cowabunga Style."
Suggesting what they can do to make this thing great depends on what you might want from it. Those of us who want it edgier appreciate cocreator Kevin Eastman talking about it being influenced by The Raid: Redemption (and Fist of Legend). Those who want to be able to bring their kids to see it would rather not see Leonardo decapitating heads with his sword or Donatello loudly and bloodily breaking a Foot Soldier's back with his bow. It can't be too cheesy, it can't be too violent, it can't be too much of a callback or too much of a fresh take.
The best thing Ninja Turtles has so far is the writers of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Andre Nemec and Josh Appelbaum) Talk about a smart action movie that didn't offend or dumb down or take itself either too seriously or not serious enough. And that movie is also based on a property that is rather dated and cliched after many decades. Maybe not as silly as TMNT, and the original series isn't recent enough for a lot of whiners upset with how the property has evolved, but it was nice that M:I4 didn't have to be much like its namesake because it was a thing all its own.
Maybe the best thing for Bay and company to do is not attempt to appease the fans at all. Just make a movie they think does some justice to Eastman and Laird's characters while also changing it and elevating it enough to really work on the big screen for people who just like movies. That's a lot of people, mind you, and many TMNT fans are among them. Maybe they'd take issue with any liberties, but a good movie is still a good movie. Think about the Star Trek reboot. Not the most faithful and yet hardly dismissable from a Trekkie's perspective.
It would be nice to have a little tongue-in-cheek comedy in there, as well, but intelligent and subtle and dry rather than outright winking. After all, TMNT originated as a ridiculous-yet-understated parody of popular comics of the time. Could Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman have it in them? They're pretty over-the-top filmmakers, so it's hard to hope for anything in this area.
What can Michael Bay do to sell the fans on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
Join the next discussion on Twitter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and Movies.com (@Moviesdotcom).