CS Soapbox: Things we want from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot
Last summer brought the interesting announcement that a CG film reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was in the works from the all-star team of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe and Brendan O’Brien and while Rogen has offered that the film will offer more of an emphasis on the age of the characters, there’s still a lot of unknowns about what fans can expect from the next film. On a whim and a need for some nostalgic fun, I went back through every theatrical Turtles film and with all of them now fresh in my head, let’s explore some of the biggest things we need to see from the franchise going forward.
Bring Back Some Reboot Cast Members
Say what you will about the Michael Bay-produced TMNT movies — and believe me, I know there’s A LOT you can say – one thing they did fairly well was building their ensemble rosters. Sure, Megan Fox’s April was just eye candy, Johnny Knoxville and his replacement Pete Ploszek weren’t well-suited for Leonardo and Tony Shaloub was just so boring as Splinter. That being said, Noel Fisher and Alan Ritchson were pitch perfect as Michelangelo and Raphael, Stephen Amell was a very likable Casey Jones who deserved a better script, Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus were killer as Bebop and Rocksteady, Tyler Perry made for a very fun Baxter Stockman, Brian Tee is quite the menacing Shredder and Will Arnett is hilarious as Vern Fenwick. I get that Paramount is probably looking to distance themselves from the last two films, but with how well a lot of these performers did for their roles, it would really be a shame to see none of them come back, which could be possible if the studio finally adheres to my next point…
Treat the Turtles Actors Better
It’s been an unofficial tradition going back to the original 1990 film adaptation and carried all the way through 2016’s Out of the Shadows that the actors portraying the titular heroes never get any kind of love or respect for their work on the films. If to look at every film’s poster, one thing that becomes clear after a quick glance is that none of them credit the actors behind the turtles under the cast sections, with the first two films only crediting two of the human character actors and the Bay-produced reboots featuring zero actor credits on theirs. Most egregious of the bunch is 2007’s CG film TMNT, in which Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Patrick Stewart were rightfully credited under the cast and even included Kevin Smith for his cameo and Laurence Fishburne for his narration. You have an entirely animated film that makes it easier to justify putting the stars behind the Turtles on the poster and yet still they were omitted. Pair this with Ritchson’s stories to Collider Live about the terrible conditions he and his turtle co-stars were put through on the reboot films and it shows a pattern of the studios behind the films showing a general lack of appreciation or respect for their performers that really needs to come to an end given they’re the real heart of these films in the same vein as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel of Guardians of the Galaxy or Andy Serkis in the Planet of the Apes and Lord of the Rings trilogies.
Tone Down Raph vs. Leo
I’m gonna be frank, I am sick and tired of almost every single film believing that the most interesting element of the titular team is the at-each-others’-throats dynamic of leader Leonardo and hot head Raphael. It may be something explored in the comics, but no film has ever really touched upon it in a unique or compelling manner, with Leo consistently being secretive and only further inciting Raph’s rage as they disagree on how to handle their current situation. One of the few things the sequels of the original trilogy got right was moving away from this and just making them feel like a united team of goofs, throwing jabs for fun instead of out of a desire to hurt each other. Sibling rivalry might be a dynamic of the group, but it needs to stop being THE dynamic in every story. Speaking of repetition…
No. More. Shredder.
Every superhero or team might have an arch-enemy, but the problem with this is when Hollywood brings them to screens they believe every film should feature that villain in some capacity, be it a supporting or main antagonist role. Between the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield-fronted Spider-Man films, audiences were given two iterations of Norman and Harry Osbourne and their Goblin transformations, in the 80 years since his comic debut The Joker has been portrayed by over 20 stars across film, TV and video games. For the TMNT universe, the leader of the Foot Clan, Shredder, has been the go-to villain for the films and he’s now become the least interesting to see on screen, especially as he’s been generally reduced to a character hiding in the shadows while other characters boast about his fighting capabilities, making his quick dispatching at the hands of the Turtles bland every time. Across their 30 years of living in comics, the Turtles have encountered a roster of plenty interesting villains who have yet to get their proper dues on screen, many who were planned to arrive in sequels to past projects that were subsequently cancelled, from the Triceratons to Karai to even Krang and Baxter Stockman, the latter of whom made their big-screen debuts in Out of the Shadows but weren’t utilized in enough of a meaningful manner and plot threads certainly left open for both characters to return in meaningful fashion. With the next film, it’d be nice to see the story finally move away from Shredder and the Foot Clan and focus on someone else, possibly even taking the path of the Tom Holland-led Spider-Man films by focusing on other villains and skipping well-worn origin story territory rather than revisiting the Goblins and Uncle Ben’s death again.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Violent
One of the key elements of the comics that the films have been very inconsistent on handling is the overall tone. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s comics initially started off far more violent and gritty than the more colorful and cartoonish tone the franchise would eventually take and this departure has become quite grating and the films can never quite find the right balance between the two worlds. While the original 1990 film actually kept relatively close to the source material, parental concerns over the violence seen in the film led to almost every subsequent film toning it down more and more, with the first sequel not even allowing them to use their weapons, only engaging in hand-to-hand combat. The 2007 CG film did attempt a return to a darker tone, but its attempts at family-friendly humor and action didn’t seem to fit in the mold, and the Paramount reboots took a similar approach to the Transformers films, but also couldn’t quite find the right mix of cartoonish action and humor and edgier characters and writing. A hard-R Turtles film is not what I’m suggesting, as that would be far too drastic a tonal shift, but instead of giving into the studios’ desire of a strictly family-friendly outing do something that pushes some boundaries. The fact that the heroes are teenagers and the worst swear words we’ve heard uttered by them are “damn” and “shit” feels very inaccurate for that age group’s vocabulary. Though some parents might be perturbed by it happening, it would also be nice to finally see one of the heroes actually kill an enemy and then see their emotional struggle with the action, given that every film has seen the group take down countless enemies without blinking an eye or showing any kind of emotional distress. Exploring this would add a unique layer of character development to the story not previously seen in a Turtles film and wouldn’t turn away parents still complaining about the violence as younger audiences can actually see potential consequences for putting violence out into the world, no matter which side of the moral line you’re on.
With the creative talent behind the project, my concerns for the film are very low as the group has consistently delivered, and if even one of these things comes to fruition in the next film, fans should be very excited for what the future of the TMNT franchise has in store for them.
What do you want to see from the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot? Do you agree with the points raised here? Let us know in the comments below!