There was a time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere.
Stars of movies, comic books, television and video games, they even had action figures and breakfast cereals as part of their reptilian empire. They were 20th Century pop culture icons, which ain’t too bad for four hard-shelled crime fighters named after Renaissance artists.
But, like all pop culture fads, eventually Turtle mania played itself out, and the action figures, the TMNT PJs and coloring books became passé. This weekend producer Michael Bay is hoping to give Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello a new lease on life at the movies.
The release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is timed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first TMNT comic book.
Megan Fox plays April O’Neill, reporter and friend-of-the-turtles, who help the fearless four protect New York City from its greatest threat, Shredder and his evil Foot Clan. “Together,” says Turtles’ mentor Splinter, “you are stronger than he could ever be!”
Turtle groupies have been following the development of the reboot with great interest. They spoke up when it was announced that Bay wanted to streamline the title to Ninja Turtles but an even bigger controversy struck in 2012.
“These turtles are from an alien race,” said Bay, “and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.” Seems benign enough, but fans were incensed that the Transformers producer would take liberties with the origin story. Tough and lovable are OK, but alien? Not so much. According to the canon the heroes on the half shell where transformed when they came into contact with toxic ooze.
One internet firestorm later—Robbie Rist, who voiced Michelangelo in the original movies, went so far as to accuse Bay of “sodomizing” the franchise—Bay amended the statement, reassuring fans he would stick to the official origin story. They even poke fun at the controversy in the movie.
“So,” says Vernon (Will Arnett), “they’re aliens?”
“No,” replies reporter O’Neil, “that’s stupid.”
No spoilers here. Whether the Turtles rise from the ooze or not Bay (and director Jonathan Liebesman) have a cinematic legacy to live up to. The TMNT first came to the big screen in 1990, followed quickly by TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze, 1991 and TMNT III, 1993.
Then, after a decade break the green fighting machines came back in the computer animated TMNT, but was written off as feeling “as stale as one of Mikey’s half-eaten pizzas,” by the New York Daily News.
Can Bay top all the other films? Writer Sean Patrick said, “I can see no good reason why Bay can’t make by far the best Ninja Turtles movie ever. The bar hasn’t exactly been set high.”