This thing (reported by Bad Ass Digest) where a fan fixed the creepy snouts from Michael Bay‘s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film has been making the rounds. Not having seen the trailer, I was in agreement. Yeah, those nostrils sure create a horrible uncanny valley feeling and the fan sure improved these Turtles. But then I watched the trailer.
And, you know, I think Bay’s redesign—so long as you’re not looking at a still photo—actually works really well. If for no other reason than in the previous live-action films the faithful-to-the-source material facial designs never really worked. In the comic and cartoon those absurdly wide mouths and not having nostrils was fine. It was a comic, it was a cartoon, suspension of disbelief was easy. Sure, they had to breathe through their mouths like, well, I guess like teenage boys, but they looked cute and goofy and fitting for a cartoon. This new take on their appearance makes them strangely more relatable. They’re hideous mutants, more-so than before, but in a kind of cutesy, charming Quazimodo way. And I can kind of believe in them.
In the old movies, let’s be honest here, the Turtles just seemed like a really, really stupid idea and looked really, really dumb.
Now, if we want to talk about potential problems revealed in the trailer (which at first viewing looked surprisingly decent) I think we can find a few things.
- Megan Fox as April O’Neil. She appears to be doing an okay acting job this time out but you only actually see her in flashes. I’m not sure she even says more than one or two syllables in the whole trailer. The only “acting” we see is a horrible pantomime fainting spell. Besides the obvious question of SINCE WHEN DOES APRIL O’NEIL FAINT? this gives us an indication of the level of humour we can expect. Namely a low-level but pervasive misogyny (hahaha she fainted like a weak girl hahaha) and I suspect this will be a running gag. Undoubtedly, former role-model April will be little reduced to little more than a damsel to be placed in successively more distressing rescue situations until the bound-to-be explosive finale explodes in an orgy of fireballs, heat shimmers, flying debris and sub-sonic detonation bass-drops. I also expect fart jokes (that’s fine, if you’re into that) and some homophobic digs between Turtle-bros. I hope not, but this is where’d I’d place my bets if I were a betting man.
- The plot appears to just be Robocop but with mutant turtles instead of a cyborg. The city is basically RoCo’s New Detroit and the Turles, just like our buddy RoCo, have been created specifically to combat the waves of crime and terrorism which plague the city. It’s not the derivative nature of this scenario that bugs me (though it does seem lazy and boring) as much as that in the original Turtle mythos our boys originated from pets lost in the sewers that got into some toxic waste. There was a nice irony that our toxic follies are what will create our mutant saviors—sort of a reverse Godzilla-effect. Also, the Turtles took it upon themselves to become our heroes instead of it being something they’re being forced into—and will supposedly struggle with in various annoying and boring angsty ways.
- Perhaps the worst though is that sliding down the snowy mountainside scene. I can’t help but feel this points to what will prove to be a reliance on “theme park ride” action set-pieces which are, I think everyone except Hollywood has figured out by now, never as exciting as they promise to be. Yet action film plots these days continue to be little more than the glue which holds a half-dozen of these things together. On the plus side, there’ll lots of opportunities for bathroom breaks if you (unlike me) are planning to see this in the theatre.
So far the only thing I can see that looks legitimately good about this film is the kind of creepy Turtle redesign.