March 6th, 2015
An Open Letter to Michael Bay: Please Don’t Screw up the Ninja Turtles Like You Did the Transformers
Dear Michael Bay,
You are a fine director who has achieved much in your 19 year career. According to Wikipedia, your worldwide box office totals make you the director with the eighth highest domestic US gross of all time. Bad Boys was a fun movie, and so was The Rock. I didn’t see the Texas Chainsaw movies, but I heard they were a hoot. Rotten Tomatoes averages be damned, the people love your movies and you should be proud.
But this brings me to a very sore topic – The Transformers, and the latest movie you will be putting your name to – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Normally I wouldn’t say anything as there are hundred of movies released in Hollywood every year that I could spend countless hours criticizing, but these two movies touch upon a key stage in my personal development.
Your interpretation of Transformers was, how shall we put it, disappointing.
I was first introduced to the Transformers in 1985 on my 4th birthday when a friend gave me “The Transformers”: Dinobot Island on VHS. My mum prescreened the video, decided that it was too violent and hid it from me until I was older. Unbeknownst to her, I quickly found the hiding place on top of the wardrobe in her bedroom and rigged up a makeshift ladder out of my baby brother’s high chair in order to get to it. The video was literally the greatest thing I had ever seen. In the episode, the Autobots discover a prehistoric island with dinosaurs on it where they could house the rowdy ‘Dinobots’ (a subset of the Autobots). The island also had a massive energy source and a big fight between the Autobots and the Decepitcons ensues. It was epic stuff and I watched the video over, and over and over again, putting myself at great danger (both physically and from my parents) to replace the video every time I saw it. And when the Transformers officially came to UK television, my Saturday mornings became semi religious events that could only be disrupted by natural disasters or deaths in the immediate family.
So you can imagine my disappointment when sitting down to watch your movie almost quarter of a century later to find out that while you used the original actor for the voice of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, you didn’t even bother to use the cartoon series voice of Frank Welker for Megatron. This, in the eyes of any true Transformers fan, was an unforgivable act. Forget all the silly explosions and the ludicrous plot, are you telling me that with the $150 million budget you couldn’t afford to bring him on board? Needless to say, I stopped after the first movie and refused to pay attention to the sequels.
This brings me to the Ninja Turtles. In England, it was released at the ‘Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles‘ because for some strange reason Ninjas were deemed to be too violent by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The Nunchuck scenes were also deleted from the cartoon and the original Ninja Turtles movie released in 1990. I remember this well because a friend of mine’s brother managed to get hold of a pirated American copy of the movie where we could see the film in its original glory. Illegally watching the Michelangelo nunchuck scene was to a 9 year old the equivalent of a teenage boy watching the unedited version of Basic Instinct. The point is, the movie was that important to the diehard fans; the disciplined minority who got up at 5am in the morning to watch the repeats, the fans who forced their parents to go on holiday to France because it was rumored that the action figures were released there before they hit the UK (they were), and the fans who literally fought in the playground over who would win in a fight between Raphael and Donatello (Raphael hands down).
Mr Bay, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles means something to us, and on behalf of all true fans, I’m asking you to remain as faithful as you can to the original cartoon. Have some explosions, hire a ridiculously hot chick to play April (as I see you’ve done), but for heaven’s sake, please use the original actor’s voices for at least the core characters. And seriously, no Aliens. The Ninja Turtles (and their master, the rat ‘Splinter’) came about because they were exposed to radioactive green ooze as babies. You can even buy the stuff in toy stores.
They are not a species from another planet.
March 5th, 2015