An Open Letter to Michael Bay: Please Don’t Screw up the Ninja Turtles Like You Did the Transformers

transformers-2-shia-labeouf-and-bumblebee

Transformers Movie: Not one for the real fans

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.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Cohen

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Stephenson/1085899547 David Stephenson

    Sorry that the most pivotal points in your adolescence were so completely pointless. Thanks for sharing, though.

  • JozefAL

    “you didn’t even bother to use the cartoon series voice of Frank Welken for Megatron.”

    Ben, you might want to correct the name. While it does link to the correct person, his last name is Welker (with an R, not an N).
    Of course, wtih respect to the Turtles, I’m afraid you’re likely to be disappointed. After all the hostility between them during filming on the first two Transformers films, Bay and Megan Fox will be working together again. (Or, at least, that’s the news as of today. Knowing those two, by Monday, Fox will be calling Bay a Hitler and Bay will be apologizing for making her do any work, and blaming Spielberg for having to fire her.)

    • Aaron Litz

      First I’m glad to see that Ben is a geek. It’s something to be proud of.

      That you for pointing out that Megatron was voiced by Frank Welker, not Welken, but knowing Ben I imagine it was just a typo (need to do a little better job of catching those, Ben :)

      My big hope for the TMNT movie is that they stick to the original comics story, and not the cartoon. The original live-action movie did a surprisingly good job of that, actually. Unlike in the cartoon, in the comics and movie Splinter was not Hamato Yoshi, but was his pet rat.

      Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was created as a parody of the Daredevil and X-Men comics of the early 80′s, parodying the grim and violent urn hose comics were taking at the time. The original comics were an ultra-violent, grimdark, black and white parody of (mostly) those two series (where the Turtles actually KILLED The Shredder fairly early on.)

      These two comic books are why the Turtles were Teenage Mutants (a la The Uncanny X-Men) and why they were Ninja (from Daredevil.) In fact, the origin of the Turtles is actually the SAME INCIDENT as the origin of Daredevil! The toxic waste that mutated Splinter and the Turtles is the same toxic waste that blinded the young Matt Murdock and gave him his super senses and kinesthetic powers. In the original panels the canister of toxic waste that created the turtles is fist seen hitting a young red-haired boy in the face and across the eyes, before it fell into an open sewer grate and landed beside the Turtles (that young boy was Matt Murdock, the future Daredevil, himself!)

      This is also why the Turtles fought the Foot Clan; Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil introduced the evil mystical ninja clan of The Hand, a group which also worked its way into X-Men lore by way of Wolverine and his connections with Japan, and also from Frank Miller’s collaboration with Chris Claremont on the original Wolverine limited series, and subsequent ongoing series. Thereafter the Hand became a recurring enemy of Wolverine, and, by extension, the rest of the X-Men (although to a much lesser extent.)

      Although it is highly doubtful there will ever be any acknowledgement of the ties to Daredevil or Wolverine in the movie, it would be EXTREMELY cool if they showed a scene of the Turtles mutation and had the toxic waste/mutagen hitting a redhead kid before it landed in the sewer.

      Just a little bit of comic book history and trivia for everyone (from an accredited Arch-Geek.)

      • Aaron Litz

        And of course, after I chided Ben for his typos, my post is riddled with them. Ah well.

      • Benthedailybanter

        Great stuff Aaron. Can’t say I knew any of that! And yes, hear you on the typos. We crank stuff out at a pretty high pace here and don’t have a huge amount of time to get stuff checked/double checked etc. Thank God for the readers!

  • MrDHalen

    I feel your pain on the Transformers front. I can’t forgive him or the studio for what they did to my beloved Transformers. I walked out of the second one and now I prey at night that J.J. Abrams or Christopher Nolan will find it in their hearts to reboot the franchise and give the die hard fans like us, the Transformer movies we deserve.

    • Benthedailybanter

      Christopher Nolan would do it justice. It was amazing what he managed with Batman.