Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Turtles From Space?

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.Recently, at the Nickelodeon Upfront event in New York, Michael Bay let some rather interesting news slip about plans for the 2013 film that will reboot the franchise. Shortly after this news hit the net, it went viral with a firestorm of hatred from the fans. Why? Well, when talking about the film, Bay referred to the new TMNT gang as aliens rather than mutants. Yep, it would appear that he and his team are planning to change the origin story. It's nothing new for certain origin stories of popular franchises to be changed from time to time, whenever it is necessary to do so in order to reach a newer audience. However, this would appear to be a needless change that doesn't really add anything to the formula. Needless to say, a lot of fans are completely outraged by this move.

Rather than flat out crying foul, let's look at this reasonably. While it's probably true that the original origin story for the turtles had some basis in fears surrounding the cold war era, aliens were also a popular subject of science fiction and fantasy in the 80's. In other words, if the original creators wanted them to be aliens, they would have made them aliens. Turning them into aliens now doesn't really make much sense, because this sci-fi origin is just about as popular today as it was in the 80's. While fear of mutation isn't quite what it was back in the day, the turtles didn't really promote fear of it – they actually promoted acceptance of the strange and the different. The mutation origin would most likely do just as good of a job at conveying this today as it did 25 years ago.

Sometimes it is necessary to make a few changes when you're rebooting a franchise or doing an adaptation of a story that has already become popular in other formats. For instance, when they took the turtles from the pages of the comic books to the television screen, they made them much more child friendly in order to reach the audience they were looking for. This change ultimately lead to huge success that has subsisted on to this day, as most TMNT fans started out with the original animated series. However, changes like this are not really necessary and don't really add anything to the story in any meaningful way. If the turtles aren't even mutants anymore, why are you still calling them Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Shouldn't it now be Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles?

In closing, there are plenty of reasons to be upset about this change, but ultimately we won't know exactly how this will play out until we see the finished results. Turtles fans everywhere may be mad, and they may have good reason to be upset, but we just don't have enough information to be able to say definitively whether or not this change is going to be a problem. At its worst, this is simply a needless change that doesn't add anything to the plot and makes no sense. Here's hoping that they didn't totally screw up the formula for TMNT, but even if they did, we've still got tons of old school turtles to enjoy on DVD!