Trailer Thursday: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Welcome to “Trailer Tuesday” where I talk about trailers for upcoming movies, since I’ve always found them to be fascinating.

Here’s the thing, I absolutely love the 1990 film version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I watched the VHS obsessively and it was one of the first films I completely memorized.  I had all of the action figures, watched the cartoon every day, and was a Ninja Turtle twice for Halloween (Michelangelo and Donatello).  But above all the other Turtle-related things, the film was what cemented my attachment to the characters.  It was dark and unique, funny and emotional, with a great cast and some truly impressive design work.  It was also very New York.  The Jim Henson-created Turtles will always be the perfect incarnation of the four brothers, and are what I immediately picture whenever they’re mentioned.

So it’s more than a little understandable that when Michael Bay announced that he was rebooting the series I was not happy.  Michael Bay has had a wildly successful career, and has actually made some genuinely good movies, but he is in no way the person I want involved with the Ninja Turtles.  Add in his comments that the Turtles would be aliens (a statement he has since retracted) and his casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil and things started to look pretty grim.  So I was prepared to hate the new trailer that debuted today.  Imagine my surprise when I came away with some mixed feelings after all.  Take a look below and read on for my thoughts:

The trailer starts out the way any Michael Bay trailer starts these days, with a big CG shot of city destruction, something that’s far removed from the subtlety of the 1990 film.

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And in case you couldn’t tell from that shot who was behind this film (even though he’s not actually directing it), we’re informed in bright green letters that Michael Bay is responsible.  Needless to say, this is the moment in the trailer that made me want to vomit.

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We get our first glimpse of Megan Fox as April O’Neil, not at all giving off the vibe of a reporter.  She’s being lectured by William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sachs, who tells her that “violence and fear have run rampant” and that “people want heroes, Miss O’Neil, but heroes aren’t born, they’re created.”  There’s a quick action sequence in the subway, where some bad guys (probably not the foot clan, seeing how everything else is going in this film) are beat up by the Turtles, who move in the shadows while April tries to film them on her cell phone.

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As Eric Sachs talks about heroes being made, we see some interesting and familiar images.  Yes that’s right, here’s our first look at the glowing green ooze which turned our four ordinary turtles into six foot tall mutants with a craving for pizza.  Importantly, we see the logo for TCRI, the Techno-Cosmic Research Institute from the comics.  In the comics the TCRI was actually cover for aliens who crashed on Earth in the 60s, which is possibly where Bay got his “alien” comment that caused so much stress to fans.

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Fichtner seems to be making a career turn by focusing on playing villains, but it seems that Eric Sachs is more than he seems.  Of interest is the fact that he claims to have worked with O’Neil’s father.  We’ll have to see how that plays out in the film, but I hope it’s not used as some huge conspiracy/mystery like it was in The Amazing Spider-Man.

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But the big reveal is that Eric Sachs is also Shredder.  Cue the fans crying that his name isn’t Oroku Saki.  I can only assume that those behind the film wanted the film to feel more American and less Japanese, despite the styling of the armor worn by the Shredder and the Turtles.

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There are some more quick action clips, including a shot of Donatello from behind where he appears to be wearing some technological device, which is fitting as he’s the brains of the group.  Though I see this picture and all I can think is that he’s joined the Ghostbusters.

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There’s also a sequence of the Turtles sliding down a snowy mountain while being chased.  I’m not sure where this is supposed to be, as there aren’t any snow-capped mountains in NYC, but perhaps Splinter took them on a field trip.  One of the Turtles has an unfortunate encounter with a Hummer, perhaps indicating that the Turtles will come face to face with the military in the film.  (It’s not a Michael Bay film without the military.)  I think this is Raphael, because I think I see a sai, but I can’t be sure.

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But the money shot/sequence of the trailer features what I assume is the first face-to-face meeting between April and the Turtles.  It’s spread out over the trailer a bit, but I put it all together here.  We first see Leonardo, the group’s leader, looking menacing atop a water tower.

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He lands in front of her and we get our first look at the proportions of the Turtles.  Leonardo is clearly rocking some Japanese-styled armor along with his trademark dual swords, which makes sense, although I’m not a huge fan of the size of his shell.  I feel like it’s too small and too high, and that it should extend a bit lower, but that’s just a first impression as we haven’t gotten a good look from the back.

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I’m not sold on the face design, which we get to see up close.  Obviously he’s supposed to look serious and stern, which I appreciate, but the Jim Henson design is so ingrained in my mind that it’s hard to accept anything else.  I’m going to try to keep an open mind.

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April is obviously shocked at Leonardo’s appearance.

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She backs away and who should she bump into but Michelangelo.  He takes her shock as being caused by their masks…

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which he helpfully removes.  I don’t think that’s going to make anything better, though.  I like that Michelangelo has a different sense of style than Leonardo, with a surfer-style necklace and such.  However I’m still not sold on the faces.  The Turtles and Splinter were all performed via motion capture (actors as follows: Pete Ploszek as Leonardo, Alan Ritchson as Raphael, Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, and Danny Woodburn as Splinter), which would theoretically give more life and expressiveness to the characters.  However, CG characters have to be handled carefully to feel real.  The 1990 film used some of the best costumes, animatronics and puppetry and the result was very tactile and authentic.  With CG characters, even motion captured ones, there’s a wide range in quality and it requires a really top notch director and actors to handle that balance.

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Despite all my complaints and my dread of the trailer before I watched it, I have to say that there’s still a part of my that’s kind of excited by this.  Seeing the iconic canister of ooze, watching Leonardo leap out of the fog, hearing Michelangelo’s playfulness, it all conjures up some very strong memories.  With a project like this it’s tough not to be blinded.  On the one hand, my dislike of Michael Bay and the casting and the generally differentness can blind me to the possibility of a good movie.  On the other hand, nostalgia can blind me and fool me into liking something that’s not nearly as good as I think it is.  We still have a while before the film comes out (August 8th), and I’m sure we’ll see more of it before then.  At the very least I can say that I’m interested to see what else they have to show, even if I’m still undecided as a whole, and that’s a step up from where I was before this trailer.  Until then, however, I think it’s time for another rewatch of the 1990 film.

What do you think?  Are you a Ninja Turtles fan?  What’s been your favorite incarnation of the Turtles thus far?  Am I the only one who loves/obsessed over the 1990 film?  What do you think of the new Turtle design and effects?  Do you feel like casting William Fichtner as Shredder is white-washing?  Is there any chance that Megan Fox could surprise us?  Are you glad the Turtles aren’t actually aliens?  Would you rather Michael Bay keep his hands out of our childhood memories?  Where’s Casey Jones?  Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Trailer Thursday: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  1. Pingback: Trailer Tuesday: Crossbones | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  2. Despite that most of the things you said were true I think that US! turtle fans should at least give this film a chance I mean at least the turtles are back. You didn’t see them as much in the 90s until now because of this film. The turtles are a huge franchise now!

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    • I’m definitely going to give the film a chance. It’d be hard for me to pass up a TMNT movie, even if my hopes aren’t particularly high for it. I’ll watch it with an open mind, though, as always.

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