Michael Bay pretty much broke the internet yesterday when he announced his involvement in a live-action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As video of his presentation at the annual Nickelodeon upfronts (held March 14, 2012) went viral, fangirls and fanboys (like myself) went berserk. My social networking feeds were immediately awash in cynical anti-Bay statements and jokes about the number of explosions and sexy ladies that would now populate the world of our beloved turtles.
Most of the fan ire was directed at Bay’s statement that in the reboot “These turtles are from an alien race.” I, like many fans of the original cartoon and video games, had an apoplectic fit at the idea that our obviously, like, mutant turtles were going to be morphed into some weird alien race. Logically, of course, it doesn’t make much sense: I mean, can they be both mutants and aliens? And then, like (hopefully) everyone else I know who thought this, I realized I was insane. Logic has nothing to do with it: my beloved Turtles are fictional. mutant. turtles.
The most scathing response to this video comes from The Guardian Film Blog, where writer Stuart Heritage absolutely decimates Bay, saying that the decision to turn the turtles into aliens “would ruin everything – their desire to be accepted, their bizarre late-1980s street lingo, their fondness for pizza. Everything.” I think he takes a rather hard line–who’s to say aliens wouldn’t like pizza just as much as mutants? Or speak in 1980s lingo? I mean, really–is there any sort of feasible, logical argument there? I don’t think so.
But I do see why Heritage is irritated; ultimately, I think his (and my) immediate dismissal of the reboot stems from a fear not that Bay will merely change the TMNT’s origin story (which, I’ll admit seems unnecessary) but that the change of the origin story signals the start of a larger destruction of a beloved narrative. We are afraid our beloved green ninjas will suffer the same fate as our Transformers, who were rebooted until they barely resembled the Autobots we loved as children. We TMNT fans see the alteration of the origin story as the first step towards the Bay-ification of another piece of our childhood. We fear that the phrases “Cowabunga!” and “Gnarly!” will be replaced with swear words, and that the independent ace reporter April will become some busty, scantily-clad eye candy for steroid-muscled, sexualized ninja turtles.
But maybe we’re too quick to assume the worst of Bay; I’m certainly not his biggest fan, but we all seem to act like he’s The Shredder out to destroy our collective childhoods. Yesterday’s backlash against Bay was so immediate and intense that he’s already issued a statement on his website and The Official Michael Bay Forums (yes, those actually exist), saying: “Fans need to take a breath, and chill. They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world.” Now, I’m not saying I trust Michael Bay, but maybe we do all need to “take a chill” and simply wait to see what Bay does with our beloved Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. After all, unlike with the Transformers reboot, Bay isn’t at the helm this time–he’s set to merely produce the TMNT reboot, with Jonathan Liebesman signed on to direct. If Bay is to believed, he’s also got one of the original creators (presumably Kevin Eastman or Peter Laird) signed on to help in the production. With one of the show’s creators on board and the keys to the kingdom safely in the hands of another director, perhaps it’s too soon to cry foul on this production. We need to wait and have some faith that those involved will not turn our “heroes in a half shell” into shells of their former selves.