I read with some interest this piece of news concerning one of my favourite cartoon series of all time, TMNT. However, consternation quickly gave way to vague comprehension and soon to laughter. Of course, devoted fans are suitably outraged at Michael Bay’s revelation that the “turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable”.
Well, so far Michael’s summation ticks all of the boxes mostly expected from probably the most famous turtles in the world…except for the salient point – that of the alien race bit.
I’m still a fan of the TMNT franchise. In the early 1990s, I had all four turtles from the Playmates range and some other neat vehicles like the Turtle Trooper Parachute thingy (which you should throw outdoors vertically into the sky and watch as the parachute flips open and lands gently in the breeze) and the Cheapskate. My brother and I also religiously played the NES video games – three of them in all. TMNT II ‘the Arcade Game’ and TMNT III ‘the Manhattan Project’ had lasting appeal as it was for two players whereas TMNT 1 was somewhat of a novelty. We found the level bosses difficult but the overall gameplay and fun factor got better with each successive title.
(Say, weren’t we born in pet shops and then got exposed to the almighty mutagen ooze to become what we are today?)
But first of all, why would the fans react badly to the fact that Bay wanted to cast these green mutants as aliens? From my viewpoint, it should hardly provoke much irritation: first of all, and probably the most obvious is that because he’s the director-producer of the new movie and he could re-imagine the entire chronology of the turtles’ origins because it’s his film and he can do just that.
The next is, the entire TMNT franchise had gone downhill since the early 1990s; so, whatever deranged ideas Bay may have cultivated by observing at the franchise is probably of no real concern to anyone living in the present. Which is just as well, because in the bigger perspective of things, the 1987 cartoon and the video games produced by Konami probably left a more appreciable impression on the fans than any other portrayals of the turtles in various forms of media.
I’d also think that most people attach too much importance to movies portraying their favourite cartoon characters such as Transformers and so on. First of all, it may be canonical and the producer officially declares it as such but I won’t be overly bothered by what some crazy director/producer tells me to believe (or not). Put it this way – I’d believe whatever I wanted to. Hell, even the TMNT logo for its cartoon series has evolved so many times that I completely lost touch as to which one officially represents the Turtles. No one really cares – you could say the 1st series was the best and that’s that.
That being said – I wouldn’t watch the first two Transformers movies because I knew that Bay reversed the franchise for all of its worth – including the oft-repeated anecdote that the new Devastator had wrecking balls near its groin to be portrayed as ‘robot testicles’. The Devastator in the Generation 1 was one of the toys/Decepticons which I greatly admired – being made up of various green construction vehicles which looked cool and not the downright abomination that only Bay could conceive. Yes, Michael Bay ruined the Transformers franchise, not entirely but sufficient for me to denounce the new movies as each an abysmal aberration respectively. Strangely, when I sat down with some friends at a cinema last year to watch the ‘Dark of the Moon’ (with a completely unbiased mindset, I might add) I found the movie rather enjoyable. It’s not one of the best movies I’ve watched in a while but it was quite entertaining despite the severe lack of variation in the Autobots and Decepticons roster throughout. Well, I was even tempted to buy one of the toys but later made up my mind not to.
Perhaps it’s rather difficult to convince oneself to accept that your memories of beloved mass media characters would eventually fall prey to the greedy capitalists and overtly-imaginative (read: deluded) film-makers who’d rather use the same set of characters that you have grown to love all these years but brainwash you to completely believe a new storyline comprising the same cast.
Laziness is also a vice – most of us have grown slothful and dependent on ready-made solutions and over-reliance on technology such that our brains are slowly but surely becoming mush. I do realize that it’s far easier to rehash a celebrated franchise and milk it bone-dry as long as there is an audience for it as opposed to brainstorming on a new concept and not being entirely sure as to what people would make of it. Call it opportunistic but as long as it achieves its inscrutable purpose (to make money, not necessarily to make you happy), then it’s a good thing for the producer. Understand that I’m not saying that all movie-makers are unscrupulous; I’m reiterating the fact that business is business and that at the end of the day, it’s all dollars and cents.
For now, let’s just watch what other interesting anomalies that Michael Bay could summon from the TMNT franchise. It’s equally entertaining to watch someone trip over themselves from throwing in too much style.