Monday, February 8, 2016

Nerds can not be Satisfied: Ninja Turtle Edition

This emergence of geek culture has been pretty awesome for everyone that enjoys comics. We have actual well-made films adapted from comic book heroes now. Which is huge. In case you forgot, before Marvel started taking more responsibility for their live action properties, we had to watch crap like Captain America, and Lou Ferrigno's Hulk tv show. And the Super Friends. And Joel Schumacher's garbage bin of Batman films.
This exists.
My point is, die hard comic book fans had much to complain about up until recently. Now there are actual comic book writers producing comic book movies, and although there are things that need to be changed and rearranged for film, there are fewer executives forcing major changes to characters and plots that they don't care about or understand. Comic nerds ought to be rejoicing. But, as with everything, people forget things. Like how much progress has been made.
maybe this will help those memories...
I bring this up because, recently the trailer for the second Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released. Predictably, it was met with disdain from old school TMNT fans. I don't understand any of the arguments meant to smear the film that hasn't even been released yet. I get why fanboys distrust Michael Bay (the Transformers franchise sucks). But I really can't understand what fans of the original Turtles comics, or cartoon show, expect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Teenage_Mutant_Ninja_Turtles_charactersKevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic in 1984. Soon this comic was turned into an animated cartoon series in 1987. The comic (and cartoon) is about four people-sized mutated turtles who live in a sewer in New York, and practice martial arts with their surrogate father, a giant talking rat.

The plot of this story revolves around their unending battle with a secret ninja cabal led by The Shredder, an evil samurai warrior who is also in league with a race of extra-dimensional talking brain aliens. Also, there is a rotating cast of anthropomorphized mutants that all seem to know martial arts, both villains, and allies.

There is a full list of supporting characters on Wikipedia. Click the picture to the left to see for yourself. It's pretty nuts. Aside from four giant ninja turtles, a rat kung fu master, and a race of brains, there is a mutant mosquito, sentient garbage, a giant talking eyeball, Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs, a sumo wrestling hamster and several other mutant lizards, frogs, and small woodland creatures. Clearly, this series is a well grounded, realistic comic book franchise that's not at all silly or ridiculous.

Critics of the 2014 movie didn't like how the new digital turtles looked compared to the rubbery suits worn by actors in the 1990 film. This is a little like Godzilla fans pining away for the days of b-movie magic. These new turtles actually look like turtles, instead of green blobs with masks.

a little side by side comparison...
Perhaps nostalgia for the "good ole days" gets in the way of actual honest criticism for older films. 
Not only did the 1990 film showcase actors in foam suits with goofy fish mouths, but the plot itself doesn't really make any sense either. Four giant turtles are required to stop a crime wave in New York City? Pretty sure if the largest police department in the United States is having trouble with a gang of criminal ninjas, four freaks with ancient hand combat weapons isn't really going to make a difference.

To be fair the plot to the 2014 remake isn't much better, but at least there is a super villain with a super villainous scheme, one that is far better than just leader of a gang of pickpockets. The Shredder in the 1990 film is no better than samurai Fagin covered in knives.

The 1991 sequel is even worse. As I recall, fans were expecting Bebop and Rocksteady from the comic and cartoon show. But what we received was The Secret of the Ooze with Tokka and Rahzar, quite possibly the worst comicbook movie villains of all time. This new film, Out of the Shadows, promises to have the real Bebop and Rocksteady, and Krang. So... we finally get what we asked for 25 years ago.

The franchise has always been about silly nonsensical adventures of teenage, pizza eating, sewer dwelling, ninjitsu testudines, and their giant rat karate master and all their various mutant allies and enemies. Of course the films are going to reflect the source material. Is the 2014 movie perfect? Probably not. Is it better than the movies from the early '90s? Absolutely. Does it follow the source material in all it's wacky, cheesy glory? Not completely, but that's ok, because we all want an actual good movie, not Batman and Robin.

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