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If Peter Laird Feels Uneasy About Ninja Turtles, What Hope is There?

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It’s been nearly a year since Michael Bay revealed the premise of his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, igniting a firestorm of controversy among devotees of the franchise: “Kids are going to believe, one day, that these turtles do exist. … These Turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.”

Anyone familiar with the comic book or subsequent cartoons (virtually anybody under the age of 40 who grew up with television) knows the original Turtles are transformed from regular Earth reptiles into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after hanging out in a puddle of ooze. Those mutant turtles get rescued by a mutant rat named Splinter, and the whole gang runs around fighting the evil the Foot Clan and Shredder.

However, that’s not the story audiences will see when the reboot – directed by Jonathan Liebesman under Bay’s watchful eye – finally arrives in theaters in June 2014. It’s been suggested the Turtles’ personalities may be different. In an early script, typically brooding Raphael cracks a bunch of punny jokes (a role normally reserved for Michelangelo). Even the film’s name, simply Ninja Turtles, has been a point of contention. While Bay insists Paramount Pictures chose to drop “Teenage Mutant” from the title, the switch doesn’t help his case with hardcore fans.

megan foxPerhaps no one is more uncomfortable with these changes than TMNT co-creator Peter Laird, who has used his blog as an outlet to criticize everything from the recent casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil to the changes to the Turtles’ origin in an early draft — at first giving it a lukewarm reception, and then stating that anything nice he said about Bay’s production was “sarcasm.” Meanwhile, Laird’s former collaborator Kevin Eastman, praised the reboot, saying, “it’s easily the best Turtle movie yet.”

Laird is hardly the first comic creator to balk at the way his ideas have been adapted. Alan Moore has famously objected to big-screen versions of his work, from 2001’s From Hell and 2003’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and 2005’s V for Vendetta to 2009’s Watchmen, so much so that he demanded that his name be excluded from the credits of the latter two, as well as 2005’s Constantine. He also doesn’t accept any money from the adaptations, opting instead to have payments sent to his collaborators.

It must sting to see creatures and people and mutants you invented splashed onto posters for films that manipulate those creations in ways you never intended, or never approved. But TMNT is too large a cultural juggernaut to be halted by one man (or even one man’s most loyal fans). There are toys to sell, Slurpees cups to brand, new generations of kids to lure to the franchise. Bay has done that already with Transformers, and there’s no doubt Paramount Pictures sees dollar signs everywhere those Heroes in a Half Shell go.

tmnt1But for Laird, this doesn’t appear to just be a money game. (Although he has made a lot of money from the property, selling the Ninja Turtles to Paramount’s parent company Viacom in 2009 for $60 million.) He lovingly tends to his fans on his blog, answering obscure questions about characters and revealing behind-the-scenes information about the production of the animated TMNT series. He’s clearly still engaged with these characters, these plots, this little world that he concocted with Eastman.

But what’s a fan to do? Despite all the changes, there’s the chance that Bay’s film won’t be half bad. In fact, it could be pretty good. V for Vendetta and Watchmen were pretty good. They were by no means as shockingly awesome as the original books, but they didn’t really try to be. Bay doesn’t aim for faithful adaptations — he aims for big things to blow up really loud. If there has to be a TMNT for a “new” generation, isn’t it better to put our beloved Turtles to the back of our minds? Avoid those heart-wrenching moments of familiarity that might bring back the feel of your living room rug as you watched TV propped up on your elbows, sitting closer than Mom allowed. Let go of your crush on April, which led to a lifelong subconscious quest for a cute redheaded girlfriend. Let go of picking your “favorite,” guessing who’d win in a fight, screaming “kowabunga!” on the playground. Let go, relax, and allow Bay’s cinematic fireworks to blink out those weird queasy feelings one by one by one.

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Comments

  • Guest123

     Despite all the changes, there’s the chance that Bay’s film won’t be half bad.

    Since when does Michael Bay make good films? Never. Case closed.

  • BattleLostSereniWho

    But Megan Fox! I can let go of origin changes (but if it ain’t broke why fix it?) But Fox is a shite actor so…yeah. Anyhow the new ‘toon is fun and the current comic is some of the best TMNT stories we’ve been getting in years. So I can easily avoid the new movie if I want and still get a decent Turtle fix.

  • Zaldy80

    I’m okay with making changes as long as its a good story. For crying out loud, Laird’s the one that turned April O’Neil into some mystical living drawing brought to life by a crystal! I’m totally okay with them going in a direction different than Laird’s. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/nickmarino Nick Marino

    I think you gotta embrace the wackiness of it all. This could really be funny, like an over-sexed over-glossy “In A World Where…” type of TMNT film!!!

    April O’Neil washing the Turtle Van in a bikini while beefcake body builder Casey Jones helps four CG Ninja Turtles save the world from a mystical natural disaster brought about the Shredder.

  • Travis Fischer

    “If there has to be a TMNT for a “new” generation, isn’t it better to put our beloved Turtles to the back of our minds?”

    No. :(

  • @colonelcam on twitter

    What was the point of you writing this article if you were just gonna end it with a bullshit high school journalism class fence-sitting non-conclusion?

  • beane2099

    Should there really that much of an outcry on a “different” interpretation of this franchise when there have been so many at this point?  The only thing that’s the been the same has been the premise of four humanoid turtles who live in the sewer with their rat sensei (who is also their father figure) and fight the shredder.  But the first cartoon was as different from the original comic as you could get without making it completely unrecognizable.  The movies were different from both of those (making Casey Jones a main character).  Then each subsequent cartoon was different than the last.  Anyone remember the Super Turtles in Space series? 

    Now whether or not Bay makes good films is another matter entirely.  When it comes to Transformers, I don’t hate that he changed things from what I remember.  I could not have cared less about the flames on Optimus Prime (and what a STUPID thing to get upset about anyways).  In fact, I quite liked the first movie.  It’s what came after that I couldn’t stomach.  Is there awesomeness to be had in  the scenes where Marines fight the Decepticons?  Absolutely.  They’re phenomenal action pieces (To this day I contend that the franchise Bay SHOULD have gotten was GI JOE, cause straight up military fare is totally his bag). But the context that surrounds those scenes makes them meaningless.  The stories are just incomprehensibly inept.  Did we need to see an hour of Shia looking for a job?  And what was Megatron’s ultimate goal in coming to Earth?  Was it to get the cube, meet up with Sentinel Prime or to blow up the sun?  Cause those three goals are incompatible.  And the casting of attractive women who can’t act in the slightest (when there are plenty of attractive women who CAN act in Hollywood) makes no sense to me.  Who watches Megan Fox on screen and says “That’s acting!” and means it?   Honestly, her presence might actually be enough to keep me away from this movie, but I’ll wait and see before making up my mind.

    Bottom line: the public shows up in droves to see Bay’s movies.  So I imagine the same will hold for Ninja Turtles.  My advice: don’t let curiosity get the better of you.  If what you know about this movie (which hasn’t been made yet) irks you that much, don’t see it.  If the reviews are glowing when it comes out, then see it.  Otherwise, idly debating the goodness/badness of a movie which hasn’t even been filmed yet seems a waste of time. 

  • http://twitter.com/The_Vieth Chad Vieth

    Laird’s worrieds. Why for? Did he not sell his shares. None of his concern now. 

  • Kpaqu1

    Why should anyone care what Eastman or Laird have to say at this point? They both willingly gave up ownership for cash money and left TMNT in the hands of media companies that are only interested in turning a profit.

  • CudaBiro

    Thank you.

    Besides, Nickelodeon’s already giving fans and the new generation alike a quality product in their current cartoon series. Heck, they just greenlit a third season and the first isn’t even done. If the movie never happens, I’d be fine. 

  • demoncat_4

    given how laird no longer has much involvement selling his share to paramount. but even not likeing the way things are going so far. odds are the turtles may be headed to a little hurting at the box office. for its bad if even a creator of a property does not like the way said property is doing in other media. though fans will be the ones who have the final say on how the turtles do as movie stars again.

  • Beast

    Peter Laird is a cranky old bastage about any aspect of the Turtles that he personally didn’t have a hand in. He’s gone on rants in the past about the classic cartoon shows, and anyone who was fans of that version of the Turtles. Frankly the guy has sold his stake in the Turtles he’d just needs to go away. Sure Bay’s film may not end up being brilliant, but every era of the Turtles has revamped the details. So I’m willing to remain hopeful that I’ll be entertained.

  • http://twitter.com/soggyhydrox Sean McLaughlin

    course that whole alien turtle origin sounded suspiciously like the plot that was going around for Superman when McG was going to direct. where Luthor was also Kryptonian and a general so while casting Meghan Fox in  anything is a bad idea maybe we should wait before we judge this film. every time the Turtles go to screen whether tv or film the origin is changed 

  • http://twitter.com/BrothaDoug Christopher Douglas

    “Who watches Megan Fox on screen and says “That’s acting!” and means it? ”  I died from laughter at this part. Good job.

  • stealthwise

    Is it just me, or is Anna Pinkert just another pseudonym for Graeme McMillan? Similar writing style, same pointless “articles,” same inane questions?

  • http://twitter.com/PopCultureOtaku Richie Simonsen

     Turning april into drawing brought to life was a low point of the comics.  Bad enough right around the time they turned ralph into mutated vampire turtle.  That april leaving to find herself storyline was never concluded either.
    I can’t get over the origin changes or megan fox as april.  I mean April will look hot but that only gets you so far.

  • Mel

    I’m starting to think so. Even the article titles are questions.

  • MikeyPup

    Michael Bay screwing with my childhood favourites once again. I won’t be seeing this.

  • Andrew Breneman

    I am a little insulted that this article bravely ignores the fact that there IS a TMNT for the modern generation, and it is awesome.

  • matt

    If the original turtles films were accurate to the comic then they would all have been colored Brown instead of Blue, Orange, Purple, and Red. It kinda of defeats the purpose of them being ninja when the enemy can EASILY identify you. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4Q3TSG7NIPBKBK4PMVZC5BXPIQ Joe

     I had to double-check and make sure it wasn’t Graeme. Couldn’t believe it.

  • Maltomilad

    apparently, the blogger doesn’t know that watchmen and V weren’t directed by michael bay… 
    nothing this man touches turns out to be good… everything he makes is uber shit.

  • JozefAL

    Of course, Bay is NOT “making” this film.  He’s producing it–not directing it.  And his track record as producer is not nearly on the same level as his record as a director; of course, as a director, his only real “blockbusters” in the past decade have been the Transformers films–Armageddon and Pearl Harbor have been the only other two films he’s directed that have hit the 200 million mark.  As a producer, he’s been involved in such wonderful smashes as “I Am Number Four” and “The Island” plus remakes of “The Hitcher,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Friday the 13th”–not one of which has even cracked 100 million (the 2003 remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” just cracked 80 million–and that was the HIGHEST grossing of all the films he’s produced without also directing). 

  • beane2099

    Thanks for feeling the need to “correct me.” But I’m aware that “Bay is NOT ‘making’ this film.” I didn’t feel the need to include that Liebsman is directing it as it’s mentioned in the article above (my response was long enough). However Bay is being a little more hands-on with this flick than he’s been with those other gems from Platinum Dunes (more like Nolan on Man of Steel). Moreover my statement was two parts. The first was about people’s concern over a different version of the Turtles they “know and love. ” The second was on Bay’s films in general, which I felt was apt given his larger creative role in this script (he wrote the basic treatment that the script for Revenge of the Fallen was based on, and look how that turned out).

  • CodeDisQus

    All I ask for….is for the characters to still be themselves…i.e. Michealangelo is NOT smart and Donatello is NOT a brooding war machine….

    Oh and Megan Fox….well I’m all for eye candy, but please get her to ACT (actress), and not perform (porn*)….because April was pretty awesome! and a Red head!… 

    BTW, no splinter, no money!

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.hoffman.165 Adam Hoffman

    Well, we could always just not watch the new movie.  I mean, for us older fans, it’s not like we starved for TMNT material over our lifetimes.

  • tokuiten

     So sick to death of the endless reimaginings of classic franchises.

  • oseph lieberman palpatine

    um,  Laird didn’t seem very uneasy during the original TMNT live action films did he? I mean come on, the Pizza Hutt promotion with them being a band? Seriously? The CBS toon was kind of outlandish as well. He did seem rather disgusted at the female turtle during the FOX kids live action TV show. 

  • Brad Smithee

    V for Vendetta, aside from the ending where everyone was wearing Guy Fawkes masks (watered down the original intention), was pretty good. Watchmen was just kind of there. Liked the look, liked the actors, but a ‘heart’ was missing.

    And I’m open to new ideas, but I’ll be skipping “Ninja Turtles”. I think it’s only because I’m past the target age range now.

  • Jon

    So Michael Bay has cast Megan Fox as April O’Neil in the live-action reboot of Ninja Turtles? The same Megan Fox he fired from the Transformers franchise after she criticized him in the media 4 or 5 years ago, who hasn’t been heard from since? Guess her purgatory is over. Wonder what she had to do to get back in his good graces?
     

  • Alex

    “there’s the chance that Bay’s film won’t be half bad.” When has a Michael Bay film been anything but?  It won’t be “half” bad, it’ll be horrendously bad just because this imbecile is involved.

  • Stuck_e

    But isn’t a new generation learning about the turtles from the new cartoon? I don’t understand the need for the new movie since you have a new cartoon and new toys on the shelf that are based on the original material, the need for another turtles movie that twist that is all good, but so close to the release of the new cartoon is just going to confuse kids more so than anything else. 

  • EVH

    Bay doesnt make “films” that’s reserved for more sophisticated crap. He does movies that entertain. Forget that you’re a fan of anything, if you’re a guy and cant get into movies like The Rock, Bad Boys, etc then you need your man card revoked.

  • EVH

     y’knoy Casey Jones will b esome ex-army ranger or some sort of soldier; Bay loves to tie in the military as much as he can in his movies.

  • Akkadiannumen

    I like Bay’s movies but, unfortunately, this seems to be yet another case of Hollywood types not getting the characters and making completely unnecessary changes. This has disaster written all over it.

  • Dick Grayson

    They don’t have to be sophisticated, but just good.  With what he did with Transformers 2 and 3, I seriously doubt he will be able to make a movie that is A) worthwhile and B) entertaining.

  • Dick Grayson

    I am a little surprised that Fox agreed to work with Bay again.  When she left Transformers, they weren’t exactly on the best of terms.

  • GNORTH

    You need a man card? That’s the most nerdy thing I’ve heard in a while!

  • http://twitter.com/Shakalooloo Laurence J Sinclair

    This article lost all credibility when it mis-spelled ‘cowabunga’.  It has a c, not a k!

  • Tommy

    Mutated rat teaches ninjitsu to four mutated turtles? The whole idea of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is wacky and weird but that’s the premise and if you’re not going to use it or change them into alien turtles from space who somehow end up on earth and know ninjitsu then why bother even using the TMNT franchise? Why not just make your own movie? (Yes I know it’s because of brand recognition but still…)
    And casting Megan Fox as April? No thanks, that’s the nail in the coffin for me, I don’t ever want to see this movie. Fox might be hot but she can’t act for shit which in my mind is an important skill for an actor. She’s not even all that beautiful and what I would like to see is woman whose good actor, beautiful and hot in that order so Fox only has the least important quality covered

  • EVH

     obviously yours was never handed out.

  • GNORTH

    Buy who? You and your little boys club? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/tyson.hinton Tyson Hinton

    Why couldn’t you have wrote “Despite all the changes, there’s the chance that Bay’s film won’t be half bad. In fact, it could be pretty good.” at the beginning of the article and saved myself a couple minutes of reading.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/tyson.hinton Tyson Hinton

    Oh snap. So much wit here. 

  • PK

    The Rock came out 1996.  Bad Boys in 1995.  Since then, Michael Bay has directed 7 movies, none of them good.  There’s a strong case to be made that even judging movies based on fun and entertainment, that means that Bay has directed TWO good movies in his entire career….which also happen to be the first two movies he directed.  It’s been garbage ever since.

    By your logic, we should all still be falling over ourselves about M.Night Shyamalan’s latest movie(s) because hey, the Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were pretty rad…who cares if they were were his first two movies and basically everything since has been crap.

  • clockstomper

    Click the links people, it goes beyond minor quibbles with casting and title changes. “Casey Jones” is just Sam from Transformers all over again and is the main character of the film, not the Turtles. And apparently we can handle sewer dwelling creatures who do ninjitsu just fine, but Bay feels the Shredder is just too much. So now he’s a white guy in a suit named General Schrader.

  • Madhousetrey

    cuz if it wasn’t for them,TMNT as we know it wouldn’t even exist

  • Madhousetrey

    don’t get me wrong when money is involved things change sometimes, like prime example before the turtles even had multi-colored head bands that we all know an love they were all red at one point.Then Fred Wolf came along an gave Eastman & Laird a deal to make a minor change and also they took Shredder from the original 1984 mirage comics and made him into a prime long standing villian instead of letting him die in the first issue,only to get cloned to explain how he survived.Now personally as a Turtle Fan Stay true to the origin as close as possible ,cuz if its not broke don’t fix it.AM I against the whole alien origin thing …..HELL YEA AM I against Shredder becoming Col.Schadar HELL YES…AM I against Megan Fox playing april o’neal NOT SO MUCH as long as she can potray the character rite im fine,even tho in the comics shes a scientist an later becomes a news reporter in the cartoon one thing both the comics an the 80’s/90’s cartoon film have in common SHE’S FUCCIN HOT!!!! 

  • Craig Danvers

    My brother just pointed out that, based on the early draft, it’s really just Transformers redux. You have alien heroes sent to earth who will befriend Casey Jones, who was to be the protagonist, probably awkward like Witwickey was with girls, except he’ll really be a bad ass, and April is the eye candy. With Fox hired as April, eye candy confirmed? I don’t intend to typecast Fox as such, nor suggest that beautiful women equal only eye candy, but this IS Michael Bay. Granted, both female “leads” in Tf were shown to be resourceful and resilient, but there is the idea he’d never have a sexy guy running at you in slow motion with his package bouncing joyfully. In addition we have the military involved, and since the Turtles are alien, there’s always a chance that there’d be an evil alien adversary as well.

    Eastman praising the film, please tell me he’s being sarcastic. In any case, I truly hope that all the parents out there who were fans of the ’80’s animated and live action properties will take their money and spend it more on the current animated series toys, and not give a dime to this.

    Yes, the Turtles have come a long way from the original Daredevil parody they once were, and the main dark indie comic that has been eclipsed long ago by its own spin-off franchises, but in the end they’re still teenaged mutant ninja turtles from the planet Earth who live in New York sewers.

    The idea was given to Bay that mutated turtles is ridiculous (thus alien turtles were born). Well, no more ridiculous than the countless other favorite literary classics, like Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, Superman and Supergirl, Doctor Who, Frankenstein’s Monster, and so on. I’m so truly tired of those who decide that a long running property needs to be changed and outright bashes fans of said property.

    Granted, there are a lot of fickle and dubious fans out there, but still, a property should still be shown respect, not just, “how can we retool it to be better to make lots of cash.” Still, despite making a fair amount of money, we have karmaic films such as the ’90’s “Godzilla,” whose creators scoffed at the fans and the original character.

    By the way, I liked the “Transformers” movies, well not the second, and the third not as much, but the first, yes. I can handle some change, but change for change sake that radically (pun not intended) changes the face, and potentially the core of it, is not something I can enjoy. Granted, these will still be anthropomorphic turtles making wisecracks who will stop a villain, the creative and original origin of its heroes, is turned to yet another alien CGI adventure. Except, of course, this alien hero space/ earth caper has the far “less” ridiculous concept of alien turtles who are skilled in Japanese martial arts with names from European painters of centuries past.

    Really, I’d rather watch “TMNT: Coming Out of Our Shells” Rock Tour than this new movie. Yes, this may be premature to say so, but it’s like finding out that my favorite brand of orange juice would now make it “better” by adding apple juice to it, I don’t need to waste money on something I know I’ll not enjoy.

  • Craig Danvers

    It’s one thing to voice your enjoyment of Bay’s movies, but another to bash sophisticated films. I can quite assure you that there are plenty of sophisticated movies out there that are very entertaining, such as “The Night of The Hunter,” “Casablanca,” or “Bus Stop,” to name just three out of thousands. However, I do agree that movies that are more action oriented have a place in cinema also. Classics such as “The Terminator”, or “Star Wars” obviously entertain millions of people, as have “Die Hard,” and “Rocky,” or more modern fare such as “The Bourne Identity,” or “The Lord of The Rings”, which show that fun can indeed make up great timeless classics. Indeed, there are some movies that can capture a more mature storyline and still have action in it, too. Granted, I do think that sometimes people unfairly bash Bay for directing movies based on their more aesthetic qualities rather than cerebral, but there are those who rightly point out that even these Action/ Adventure films of his may contain content that is misogynistic and lacking in depth that others in the genre possess. In any case, while I find fault in those comments which plainly state “Bay sux,” I find fault in yours because you not only present yourself as equally narrow minded in things Cinematic, you also narrow mindedly suggest that only those who agree with your and Bay’s ideals are what define a “true” man, which demeans men of differing taste, but also suggests that those outside such a gender window aren’t privy to voicing concerns of Bay, and that really doesn’t help your argument; it also speaks poorly of your character. Perhaps you merely spoke out of anger due to being offended that Action/Adventure movies aren’t regarded as highly as “films,” as many people seem to suggest, whether it be a fan or “critic”, or those of The Academy, so if ultimately I have misjudged you, on words typed hastily due to passionate emotions, I sincerely apologize.

  • urbaneturtle

    Laird has a pretty lousy reputation of his own with handling the turtles, so I don’t really much care about his opinion.