Most comic book/genre film fans bristle when they hear the word ‘reboot’, and I completely sympathize. Of course, it’s worse when a studio forces a previously successful director to do something that he doesn’t want to do, so certain elements seem shoehorned in, and THAT poor film kills an otherwise well-done franchise. (Examples: Sam Raimi didn’t want to put Venom in Spider-Man 3. Warner Brothers didn’t want the dark tone that Tim Burton had established, eventually going back to it after the horrors of Batman and Robin). But is there any beloved character of yours that was done so poorly that you actually WANT them to reboot it? Well, I can think of one and here is what I would do if I were a Hollywood hot-shot who was given the reigns to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
NINJAS ONCE AGAIN
I read somewhere that it would have been possible for a fantasy character in a movie to have a CGI head instead of just being fully CG, which is more expensive and part of the reason that the 2014 TMNT movie focused on the human characters. Godzilla movies, the ones they are still making in Japan (not the American one that few people liked) still use rubber suits, but they are much better-looking than the ones they used in previous decades. It stands to reason then, that the producers of a TMNT reboot could have gone with rubber suits that were better than the 1990 Jim Henson version, but made the characters more expressive with CG heads. This would have solved the problem of the turtles being enormous hulking monstrosities that can’t hide anywhere convincingly. You could put actual martial artists in the suits for the fight scenes and actors for the close-ups, combining CG and practical effects the way that the last Star Wars film did successfully.
FOCUS ON THE TURTLES AS CHARACTERS IN A STORY
With the budget cut for the CG characters themselves, I would develop a story that concentrates on the turtles themselves and their family ties, their vendetta against the Foot Clan/Shredder and introduce the sci-fi elements subtly at first. This is a family. Four stepbrothers and a loving, adopted, elderly father who are ninjas because they need to defend themselves. Yes, the ooze brought them together, but they just happen to be mutants. Family first. Then ninja. Then mutants. The recent IDW comic series did this brilliantly, as the story started out with Raphael being missing, Splinter and the turtles having to find him and then the story branches out from there with side characters (April, Casey, etc.). No focusing on human characters who just happen to stumble across the title characters like Transformers and the 2014 TMNT did.
The story would focus on the turtles individually, not short-changing their screen time by the excessive focus on the humans. I would go back to Ninja Turtle stories that made you cry, like the 1990 film. (“I have tried to channel your anger, Raphael, but more remains. Anger clouds the mind!”) And not pointless, logic-free action films that made me angry and clouded my mind.
Fans of the original, black-and-white indie comics remember that Splinter, in the first issue, trained the turtles to go kill Shredder. That was the whole story from TMNT #1. They were assassins, just like real ninjas. True, Eastman and Laird thought that would be the only Ninja Turtle comic they would ever make. And, as the story developed and moved into family-friendly turf, Splinter’s motivation changed. Now, he trained the turtles to fight because he loved them and wanted them to defend themselves.
What I would do in MY TMNT reboot is bring Splinter back to the guy who trained his sons to be assassins, to avenge his Master Hamato Yoshi and his beloved Tang Shen (who were both murdered in the comics). But as the story progresses, Splinter would realize that doing that is wrong, something that Raphael screamed at him during one of their heated arguments (before storming off per usual). And there would be a touching scene where Splinter tells the turtles, “You are not my soldiers. You are my sons.” And, in a twist for Mirage comic fans, Tang Shen would still be alive in my version, an elderly woman who has remarried after Yoshi’s death and who gives Splinter parenting advice as they play chess in Central Park. The turtles still fight Shredder at the end because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s a movie, but not because of revenge, something Shen has convinced Splinter is needlessly destructive.
How do you make a shared universe out of an indie comic that was made by two guys living in a small apartment in Dover NH? Well, Eastman and Laird did it in 1983/84 by publishing a story called Fugitoid in a magazine called Gobbledygook and then crossing it over with TMNT when those issues started selling.
His storyline was about a scientist (Professor Honeycutt) from a far-off planet whose body was trapped inside of a robot that he built, making him a fugitive android (fugitoid). This robot is being pursued by soldiers on opposite sides of a galaxy-wide conflict that includes giant Klingon-like, anthropomorphic triceratopses called Triceratons, which would look awesome in a movie. They both want the trans-mat (beaming) device that Honeycutt had invented to use in their war. Honeycutt is a pacifist and has consistently refused to build one for them. Eventually, when the TMNT are beamed to this far-off galaxy, they help Fugitoid escape while he helped them get home.
Again, if this were up to me, I would greenlight a Fugitoid movie immediately after my first TMNT film blew the minds of audiences. Then, the second one would end with the turtles getting beamed off-planet (an Empire Strikes Back ending), and they would show up at the end of the Fugitoid movie, setting up TMNT 3. Kids know who Fugitoid is from season four of the Nick cartoon. There was a great old issue of TMNT called Return to New York, which was more recently adapted for the Nick TMNT show, which included one of the Triceratons being trapped on Earth and he inadvertently helps them fight the Foot, so this storyline has ramifications for future movies.
But Fugitoid was never in the original 1987 cartoon, you say. No, but he was in the (way better) original indie comic books. When it comes to characters that started out in comics, the comics are the Bible. This is true of Marvel and DC. Fans always point to the comics when they feel that something was done wrong in a film. But because TMNT started out as an indie comic and more people remember the glorified toy commercial that was the cartoon (most 80’s cartoons were toy commercials), they don’t raise their standards as high as they would for an MCU movie. They don’t think TMNT can be any more than a mindless popcorn flick. They are wrong.
People swallow a cinematic abortion (legal in all fifty states, but disgusting to watch) Michael Bay TMNT movie that rips off Amazing Spider-Man 2, tries to dance around a whitewashed Shredder with poor edits and makes no sense, but rip into Batman v. Superman for changes made to the lore. Rightfully so, but I think TMNT is capable of so much more if the comics were tapped into for material instead of being looked at as a nostalgia piece with no potential for anything other than a “popcorn flick.” The sillier elements of the 80’s TMNT cartoon were watered down versions of what was in the comics first (example: a race of brain-like beings called Utroms became Krang, a “brain from Dimension X” who never tells us whose head he fell out of.) Even the old Archie-published TMNT comics, which started out as reprints of the 80’s TV show, but then went its own way, has a lot of story potential for future movies.
Kids who watch the new Nickelodeon TMNT show know who the Mighty Mutanimals are. They were kind of like the Guardians of the Galaxy if the GOTG were all mutant animals. They had a much bigger roster in the Archie Comics, including characters that I would die to see on the screen. I would probably need to make 5 or 6 TMNT movies to greenlight a spinoff, because I wouldn’t want to rush it like ASM2 did. But who wouldn’t want to see Mondo Gecko, Slash, Leatherhead, Pigeon Pete, Wingnut, Screwloose or Ray Fillet in a movie? If you are too young to remember those last three. Google. TMNT Wiki. And if you need still your nostalgia bone tickled, the Triceratons were in the third TMNT NES game. Well, one of them. Check that one and picture Michael Dorn voicing him. Epic.
Is there any character that you love that you hope they reboot because you hated the movie version? What untapped TMNT character would you love to see in a future TMNT movie? Comment below.