Several weeks ago, the first trailer for the upcoming Michael Bay-directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was released. The film is the Turtles first movie since Nickelodeon took over the franchise in 2009. The last Turtles movie was the CGI-animated TMNT in 2007. The last live-action Turtles movie was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III in 1993.
After receiving backlash from the announcement that the Turtles would be aliens instead of mutants, I was as skeptical as most. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Ninja Turtles freak, though unlike most fans of the franchise, my love was pretty much restricted to the original cartoon series. However, a few years back, I started reading the new IDW comic series, which expanding my mind on what the Ninja Turtles could be.
I watched the trailer with an open mind.
I wasn’t instantly shut off despite their strange appearance but I wasn’t completely won over either.
The trailer seemed darker than any of the past films and television series, somewhat in line with the new comic series. It made me think there is potential in creating a TMNT film series that could be in line with other recent superhero film franchises. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, superhero movies are at an all-time high right now. If there’s a better time for a TMNT revamp, it’s now.
The weakness of successfully creating a TMNT film series comes with the idea that the personalities of the turtles themselves are so ingrained to those who are familiar with them. They’re instantly associated with 80s culture that it’s difficult to reimagine them as something else without completely losing what makes them what they are.
They love pizza. They love surfing. They love bad puns.
The IDW comic series, however, seems to be successful in distancing their characters from what they’re traditionally known for but it also relies on other familiar aspects of past series to keep it more in line. If the comics were to be turned into a movie, it might be challenging to engage new audiences.
Michael Bay is known for explosions and larger than life imagery. Not so much known for directing films that go much deeper than what you see on the screen. The question remains, can he bring the TMNT back to the big screen and make it both successful and credible?
Could the TMNT ever experience a complete rebrand in the same way the Dark Knight trilogy reinvented Batman?
The Dark Knight worked because it took familiar characters and settings and applied them to situations that engaged audiences. The plot wasn’t entirely focused on Batman. It focused on regular people. It was close-to-home. It was no longer Batman’s universe. It was our world with Batman in it. And it wasn’t campy.
I think it’s possible that the same could happen with the Ninja Turtles. Michael Bay may not be the one to do it but at the very least, he’s bringing the franchise to new audiences at a time when superhero films are in. With the franchise gradually making a comeback following the new cartoon series, several new comics, a new line of toys and now the film, it’s just a matter of thinking outside the box when it comes to placing these well-known characters in a brand new context.
Will this film do it? I doubt it. Reactions to the trailers are less-than-positive, but it could lead to something better.