I have made my love of my childhood franchises known for years. When Michael Bay went and gutted the spirit of Transformers and rolled Optimus Prime’s ashes into a large cigar to smoke while he sodomized my memories, I did not take it lightly.
Now, though, he’s going after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
There will be BLOOD, Bay…
I’ll give him this much. He’s producing. He didn’t write the script and has little control as to the details in the movie. Still, he’s putting his name on it, so against logic and the rules of civilized criticism, I am going to tack this on him.
If you’re willing to read a few excerpts and a small synopsis, go here. I’ll just highlight the… low points.
Shredder is now an Army colonel or something. The turtles are actually aliens from Dimension X. Krang appears but only in the third act. Bebop and Rocksteady also appear, and they’re apparently the only ones who vaguely resemble their original versions. And the writing? Oh my gods… A note to anyone wishing to write a screenplay: don’t tell us the character’s thoughts in the directions. That’s NEVER going to be on the screen. Don’t say a subject is loaded for the characters involved. We should be able to tell. Don’t use weird word-play to describe the action. It’s confusing.
I know, I know. I’m a 28-year old man complaining about a thirty-year old franchise. About anthropomorphic turtles. That know ninjutsu. And fight aliens and mutants. I grew up with it. Fine. I have good memories. Whatever. Things change. I know this.
But this isn’t about how I… feel… about Bay and his lackeys taking this franchise and twisting it into an unrecognizable film project. This is about having respect for the source material.
NOTHING in this script sounds or acts like its comic book or even 80’s 90’s or 2000’s cartoon equivalent. Even the new Nickelodeon cartoon at least shows that it will pay homage and respect to the 80’s roots. This is an action movie that has turtles. It’s like saying Star Trek: First Contact is an adaptation of Star Wars because both have space battles. Even thought the Turtles’ creators are supposedly onboard, I’m going to call “crap” on this whole project.
It’s one thing to expand a short work and add elements to it, much like Red, and end up with a different product that still makes sense. This? This is going to suck.
Let’s try and clean our minds by watching a bad lip reading of Twilight. Trust me. It’s funnier than it sounds.
If you’re anything like me, you love you some science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There’s nothing better than an epic space battle with battleships the size of Alaska blasting each other with nuclear-yield weapons, a suspenseful chase as a vicious killer chases the last remaining protagonist you actually like, or the swarms of eldritch sigils flying through the air as a practitioner of the dark arts invokes otherworldly powers to crush his foes.
As much as I’m a fan of the genre, there are those things that just… bug me. Really bug me. They’re things that seem to have just taken hold of the collective imagination for both writers and fans. They’ve become standard, not necessarily something you choose to use. Imagine if you suddenly found out that you didn’t need to use a ball to play baseball and could use rocks, or if you learned that cars could easily be built with three wheels and we picked four because, well, someone did it like that first.
Look at The Ring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism. What do they have in common aside from mentally tormented young girls and an overuse of the term “exorcism”? If you guessed a white nightgown, you’re right.
I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure The Exorcist started this one. It made sense back then. Regan was a young girl who was thought to be sick, so it makes sense mommy dearest put her in her sleeping gown to make her comfortable. But why oh why did every woman dealing with a ghost or demon (or herself a ghost) have to wear this now? It’s like the similarly ridiculous “ black trench coat = mysterious badass” mentality.
Why not a hospital gown or even regular clothes? Why not just regular pajamas? The easy answer is that such clothes can easily date a character, but a nightgown is something that, at least today, looks old. How many women out there own a nightgown like the ones worn in these films? Anyone?
What’s that? An alien ship approaching your interstellar flagship? Oh no! It’s organic! It appears to have been grown by an advanced civilization. All its systems are carbon-based weapons and armor. All your ship has is a laminated alloy hull with ceramic plates for heat dissipation, high-powered coilguns, and thermonuclear missiles.
Really, though, this one is just plain annoying. It’s hard to really pin down where this one started. Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee Timeline stories have a version of this little cliché wherein the god-like Xeelee “grow” their technology, although it’s not organic, so the description is a bit vague. Babylon 5, Star Wars (New Jedi Order), and even Battlestar Galactica to an extent all used the assumption that organic technology is superior to simple metal and artificial materials designed from the ground up to perform a specific task.
Do you think “organic” is better? Would you rather wade into battle with a vest made of hardwood or advanced ceramics and Kevlar built to withstand such strain?
Would you rather have a dozen mathematicians in a room perform split second calculations for orbital reentry or have a single computer system built with accuracy to the trillionth degree?
Would you rather have an artificial weapon, like a gun that fires ferrous slugs at a fraction the speed of light, or biological weapons that are indiscriminate, can be killed by extreme temperature and radiation, and may even mutate?
This one’s a personally sore spot for me. For a show like Star Trek, one which claims to be multicultural, to not have a single prominent Hispanic character besides the animalistic B’Elanna Torres is inexcusable. Want to know how many Hispanic characters I can count in speculative fiction?
Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), Bender from Futurama, and Vazquez from Aliens.
Adama doesn’t count because although he’s played by a Mexican American actor, he does not portray a Hispanic character.
It seems that, in the future, there are no Mexicans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or anything else. We’ve got Europeans, Asian-inspired culture to pander to the anime crowd, and some assorted ethnicities for flavoring. But where are the Mexicans?
Or the Costa Ricans? Brazilians? Chileans? Iraqis? Turks? Libyans? Anyone brown?
I really can’t find a good example of these demographics in speculative fiction. Sorry. Any idea?
Why do writers still use these ideas? The best explanation is that at some point, it sounded or looked cool. The nightgown made sense from a storytelling perspective. Biological technology has some useful applications. At one point, Latin Americans were a fringe minority. We know better today, and yet these ideas linger on. These are only three little clichés, but I was thinking about them this weekend. There are many more, and maybe I’ll explain some later.
In the meantime, enjoy these links, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.