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Monday, April 27, 2009

Looking Back at TMNT 2007 to look forward to TMNT 2011

Earlier today I spent some time considering all the different variables that are preventing me from jumping for joy over the new TMNT movie project. The list got quite long and long-winded, so I'm going to try to tackle the bigger ideas in a series of posts.

To start, I've pulled out a series of interviews published before the release of TMNT 2007 from my personal archives. The point of bringing these out is to illustrate how similar the attitude and direction was for TMNT 2007 compared to what (granted, very) little has been said so far of the new project. And in some cases, how the exact opposite of the ideas sold to us for the 2007 movie are now being moved forward.

You can download a PDF of these interviews here.

Before I go any further, I'd just like to make it clear that I really, truly love TMNT. Kevin Munroe gets the characters and I would have no problem were they ever entrusted to him again. I think he did a fantastic job working within all the limitations he was given. TMNT wasn't a bad movie, but it seemed to scratch the surface on what could have been a reallyreally great and more-successful movie.

But anywho, moving forward...

Comics used as the source
One of the big talking points for TMNT 2007 was that it was going back to the comic books for inpiration. Now, almost as if that's been completely forgotten, the new movie is going back to the comic books once again. And in TMNT 2007, where both the Turtles' origin and Shredder were left out of the picture because, "Been there, done that," now the new movie will be not just be revisiting both those points, but will seemingly be built upon them as a foundation.

How this can work
The TMNT, particularly in the last 10 years, have struggled emensely to escape the first 11 issues of the comic book. It seems that each adaptation isn't good enough so then we have to do it all again... it's become tiresome and boring. The comic books should be used as inspiration, but straight adaptation should be kept to a bare minimum. Change things up while maintaining all the elements that have kept fans around through thick and thin (A LOT of thin) for 25 years.

Live action vs. CGI
There were two key reasons for the 2007 movie to be done in CGI. The first, and apparently biggest factor, was cost. A live action film was predicted to cost at least three times as much as a CGI film. The second reason was to avoid the limitations presented by having guys in rubber suits do ninja moves. Makes sense, but now we have this new movie apparently ready to once again put live action guys in rubber suits.

How this can work
So long as all parties involved are willing to spend the money needed to make the rubber suits and CGI combine seamlessly to look believable and not cheesy, this could work out fantastically. But they have to be willing to spend the money. Up 'til now, the most expensive TMNT movie was 2007's at around $35 million. Before that was 1993's TMNT 3, at around $26 million (and we all know how that turned out).

The Batman Begins analogy
Batman Begins has become the ultimate point of comparison when it comes to reinventing an old franchise into something new, exciting, and extremely successful. Rightfully so? Perhaps, although I think it's become overused to the point of cliché. To what extent does the comparison exist with the TMNT? Well, not only was this instantly discussed when news of the new movie broke last week, but - wait for it - it was discussed with the 2007 movie as well.

Click the pic below to compare words from Animation Magazine in April 2007 to an MTV interview with Peter Laird released just today.

What is the point of all this? Well, just because all the creative minds have their hearts and intentions in the right place doesn't mean the project is going to come out and be embraced as they anticipated it would be. By the sounds of it, TMNT 2007 started out in the very much the same place that TMNT 2011 seems to be now.


  1. They should just make the movie out of Paper Mache. That's the wave of the future.

    In all seriousness, I think the Batman Begins comparison on TMNT 2007 comes mostly from the baggage that TMNT had simply by being an animated movie, something certain fans completely lost sight of when criticizing that particular film. It was quite different than what is typically expected of animated movies and was more similar in tone to Batman Begins.

    I was just about to write something about the potential cost to produce a live action TMNT compared to the animated TMNT's budget and if it really made any sense. But I figure that once the final penny is counted, most every movie, even ones considered failures, make their money back eventually, so maybe it doesn't matter that much.

    I'm just bypassed towards TMNT 2007 because I like cartoons better than actual living nouns.


  2. Concerning cost, I absolutely think that spending an "huge" amount of money to make the new movie (say, $100 million) would absolutely pay off even though the investors might hesitate to spend that much. But that's the big question, as everything TMNT has traditionally been on the "cheap."

  3. I don't agree that Kevin Munroe necessarily "gets" the characters. Leonardo wouldn't tell Raphael that he's "better" than him. They shouldn't then fight each other with deadly weapons. Michelangelo should be fun-loving, not childlike and dumb. Donatello shouldn't be boring just because he's smart. Everyone should just write the Turtles as they were in the first live action movie. They really achieved something special there.

  4. I tend to agree with Roseangelo in that Kevin "gets" the Turtles, though I think Big D makes some interesting and solid (if perhaps a bit nit-picky) points. Personally -and this may be a bit irrelevant to this post, I know - I thought that the 2007 flick had a horrid, abysmal story. It was poorly crafted, extremely laden with exposition to the point that it felt amateurishly written (particularly that very unnecessary introduction), and overall, it had absolutely zero to do with the Turtles that the world has grown to love over the last 25 years. In order to have a good story, people have to care about the characters. This is one of the most basic rules of writing, and I categorically say, without a shred of doubt, that I could not care less about Max whatever-his-name-was, or those lame excuses for demons, or any of the other worthless stuff that Munroe brought to the table (and again, I'm speaking strictly on the story here, nothing else). He took what could have been an awesome Ninja Turtles film and made it about something that has nothing to do with the TMNT, and something that TMNT fans care nothing about. The those 4 protagonists did not have to be Leo, Mikey, Raph and Don; they could have been anyone, making this a story that was not unique to the Turtles, and thus unimportant on all counts. I'm all for a new angle and a new story (though, side-note: I'm pumped about the "reboot"), but this was not a story that ever needed to be told (much less when bringing back the TMNT to the big screen after a decade of absence).

    But despite that major issue, I cannot deny that the film did one thing VERY right. The characterization of the Turtles, their mannerisms and speech patterns and voices and even their bodily gestures, was excellent, and it really served to individualize them. They were similar but at the same time very distinct in every way, like real brothers usually are. The dialogue was both serious and funny at the appropriate times (Raphael and Casey's "roof" exchange still remains the highlight of that film for me), and had the story itself not been such a pile of horse turd, I would have absolutely loved the movie. So, yes, I agree with Roseangelo that Kevin Munroe gets the Turtles.

    As for Big D's points - I didn't find Donatello boring at all; I thought he was very well written. The problem was that he (and Mikey) played supporting roles instead of co-star roles. I found Munroe's Raphael to be excellent (in fact, this was, for me, the best interpretation of Raphael ever). I do agree about Leonardo. He probably was a bit out of character at some points. And yes, Mikey was a bit childlike - probably slightly too much, considering that he was supposed to be well into adulthood in this film - but I still found him to be well done, because he was unique unto himself, he stayed true to the essence of the character, and he offered up some great moments of comedic escape from the lackluster story.

    Longer rant than I planned on writing - thanks for another good post, Rose!

  5. The way I look at the story of the last movie in the general sense is that it was just too much story for too little movie (not even 90 minutes). And yes, during that < 90 minutes too much time was spent on stuff that wasn't the Turtles.

    I don't agree about Leonardo. We saw a side of him that we don't often see, but I don't think it was out of character. And all the staunch Leo-fans I know absolutely loved everything about him in the movie.

    As a staunch Mike-fan myself, I really did like Mike in this movie. Childlike? Sometimes. But dumb? No, I didn't think so. It's the dumbing down of Mike that I loathe, so this was ok for me. Of course, what wasn't OK was the severe lack of screen time. Perhaps I'd be more judgmental with the childlike aspect if I had more material to base an opinion with.

    I also thought Don was fine (although with the same severe lack of screen time). Interestingly, while Big D says they were all perfect in the first movie, I know Don-fans who were severely disappointed with him in that movie.

    Also, my judgment of Kevin comes from having seen him speak at two conventions (including answering a full range of questions) before the movie was released and by his forum participation leading up to the release. He definitely gets the characters, but yes, a stronger, more-experienced writer is needed for this next endeavor.

  6. Donatello was great in the original movie because they didn't just make him the brain (in fact, they played his smarts very subtly-- instead of sitting around on a cartoonish computer console, he was seen helping Casey fix the pickup). Primarily, he was fun! He rode around on a skateboard and never stopped joking around with Mikey. And it wasn't just generic one-liners. They were constantly commenting on the situation in front of them, whether it was a ninja fight that wasn't going well or a quarrel among their family. And you know, I think a huge part of it was that uniquely froggy Corey Feldman voice. How good were the voices in that movie? Man!

    I also preferred Mikey's sense of humor in the original. In TMNT07, he's kind of an innocent goofball, and yes, childlike. This is nice, but it's not my fave. See, in the original, he seems more adult. He teases the pizza guy, him and Donny take the piss out of Raphael, and he has a nunchuck trick showdown with a foot soldier, for no reason other than to amuse himself. In TMNT07, he makes a "your mom" joke. Seriously? That kinda schtick dates the movie and makes it lame. But "ninja kick the damn rabbit!" -- That's good forever.

    Like I said about Leo, he didn't ring true (in my opinion) in TMNT07. He seems really temperamental and he's way too into himself as the leader. I think part of what always made him such a good unofficial leader was that he was the seemingly the wisest, calmest, and morally surest Turtle. He wasn't entitled about his leadership. You certainly wouldn't catch him saying something so despicable to one of his brothers as "I'm better than you." And it's that cool wisdom that would never allow him to be sucked into a pointless duel with his brother. The idea of two Turtles going at it is intriguing, but I just didn't think it was realistic.

    I don't have too many problems with Raph in TMNT07. He was, again, "the angry one," which is fine. Though I think at points the writer was really forcing his anger just to drive the plot. Even in the original, he wasn't that angry all the time.

    His costumed persona also seemed kind of unnecessary. Though it did lead to that one funny line where Casey tells him he looks like a big metal Turtle. But I think it's generally accepted that the story itself in TMNT07 was awful.

    Oh, and why are Casey and April suddenly so young? I thought that was weird. They don't need to make their characters seem younger in order to attract the younger audience. Kids will watch the Turtles in any form.

    What's interesting about the characterization of Raph is that in every incarnation, he seems to be "the angry one," EXCEPT the 1987 cartoon. Cartoon Raph was the wisecracker! It was a very interesting dynamic that they never repeated anywhere else. Though, as I said, I prefer the first movie's characterizations.

    I suppose everyone has their own personal idea of who the Turtles should be. So maybe there is no right version. But for me, it came in 1990. :)

  7. I agree with BigD that the first movie got Mikey and Donnie much better than TMNT 07 did. It wasn't just the lack of screen time - Michaelangelo really seems dimwitted, and his jokes were lame. The Cowabunga Carl part-time job was fine though.

    However, I didn't think Leonardo was out of character in the 07 film. If he behaves a little differently, his extended absence from the group and the country is reason enough for me.