Today, I find myself torn between being an artist, a fan, and an honorary Hero-in-a-Half-Shell.
Most of my readers will know me as a Star Wars/Transformers fan [understatement]. But there is a third side to my character–of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety. Before either SW or TF, there was TMNT–at least, for me. They were my original heroes. For every Transformer I had in my younger days, there was at least 3 Turtles action figures. Most of them were Michelangelo.
Mikey. The party dude. I even had a namesake. I assumed I was named in honor of him. It’s why I love pizza. It’s why I own a pair of nunchuks. It’s why I still haven’t touched drugs or cigarettes.
It was more than an example of great storytelling or cool, innovative design–it was about honor. Loyalty. Brotherhood.
It’s the reason I choose my best friends in fours.
You might say TMNT is the very foundation of my being. What I was built upon. What I’ve become. And why I still stand.
So it was with a very heavy heart that I read the slew of Facebook posts, messages, and updates about the new Michael Bay TMNT project. I didn’t go out searching–this information found me. But just to make sure I had it right, I hopped online and did a little research. And my fears turned out to be accurate:
They are changing the origin story. To aliens.
I suppose if they come from another planet, they can still be
Mutants Ninjas Turtles Teenagers, right?
So here’s where I’m torn. As a writer, I love change and tampering with storylines in unique, unpredictable ways. Taking everything you know and flipping it on its ear.
And as a moviegoer, frankly, I enjoy Michael Bay’s flicks. Yes, even Pearl Harbor. To some extent. Bad Boys? Great stuff. The Island? Cool as hell. Transformers? Well, we all know how I feel about anything Transformers-related. I thought the first film was wildly charming and I was grateful that Bay brought something nerdy and misunderstood into the spotlight of cool. The second one? Meh. But it still had transforming robots. And the third? Stellar. A real marvel. I’m watching all three tomorrow, marathon-style.
But, as a diehard TMNT fan, I am hurt/nervous/fearful that my beloved franchise will be upended. I have faith in good writing and ingenuity–but I also have my core favorites. And one that has never changed in all the years is the origins of those four brothers.
I have no doubt that what Michael Bay will produce will look stunning. It will be very engaging and reach new audiences.
But–at what cost?
The story of TMNT is so loaded with values, I fear it will be lost if such a shark is jumped as making them alien in origin. The idea that they are ‘not quite human’ will become ‘definitely not human.’ This will automatically create a greater buffer; they will become less relatable. The term “mutant” has become something of a power word for people that don’t quite fit into society. Something cooler, catchier than “freak” or “outcast.”
And, well, we all know the connotations of “alien.”
And what about the “ninja” part? Herein lay the real genius of TMNT, in my opinion. What a glorious way to teach kids one of the most honorable codes in human history. Elements of Bushido, the Samurai code, have become synonymous with Ninja, at least in the realm of young adult pop culture. This code of honor and loyalty is one of humanity’s finest social constructs–right up there with love and friendship. If we send the Turtles’ origin off-world, what will they learn in place? Flashy martial arts? Violence without parameters?
And then there’s the “turtle” part. That’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s one of the most beloved elements of TMNT! A space-turtle isn’t a turtle. Or you’re suggesting that a creature from Earth would appear on another planet–and that’s just lame. I hate when movies do that. To quoth my cousin, “That’s just so ’50s.”
So I will watch your progress, Mr. Bay. As much as I can, of course. I have not ruled out what you are trying to do. And I won’t go as far as to use words like “raping” or “sodomizing” as so many inappropriate fans have done lately. But I will watch. And hope. Hope that you do not take that which is most human out of one of the most revered
franchises legacies of all time.
To dudes and dudettes everywhere: Cowabunga. May our nostalgia come out intact.