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Dear Michael Bay: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I wasn’t sure what to title this at first.  Should I just talk about the Ninja Turtles, or Michael Bay in general?  In the end I decided to make this a letter to Michael Bay.  The first of what I believe will be many.  So here we go:

Dear Michael Bay,

Though they weren’t the first to report it, I read over at Blastr.com that you have a new vision for the Ninja Turtles (the article I am referring to can be found here).  Your new vision, it appears, is that they are not turtles affected by ooze that has since mutated them into a humanoid form with an intellect that makes them capable to understand and master the martial arts taught to them by their sensei, but rather members of an alien race who have brought their fight to us.

Why, Mr. Bay, is such a change necessary?  Do not get me wrong, there are franchises out there who could use an update to their origin stories (I’m looking at you Power Rangers.  Five teenagers with attitude?  Really, that’s all we get?)  But the Ninja Turtles?  I must disagree.

To take something away that is so important to who they are they it is in the title (they are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after all) is not only unnecessary, but disrespectful to their creators and fans.  Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had a vision for these characters, one that included a mutant status.  And one which you choose to blatantly ignore.

Now one  could say that I am being too rigid and not allowing new artists their creative liberty when it comes to this franchise.  That is possible.  But on the other hand I am open to new ideas for heroes that I grew up loving.  Did anyone complain when a new villain was created for TMNT?  I surely did not.  And the reason is simple:  Who the turtles are was not changed.

For every writer who takes on the challenge of a new franchise they are faced with the difficult problem of making it fresh for new audiences.  The ones who succeed are not the ones who change who the characters are, but the ones who inspect those characters under the lens of modern society.  You have chosen not to do this.  Instead you rewrite their history in an attempt to make it new and exciting.

Let me give you an example.  Your Ninja Turtles will be from a highly developed (presumably, because they have space travel) race that has landed on our planet.  This brings us to the common “fish out of water” story where they must learn to adapt our society while desperately trying to return to their own.  The Ninja Turtles are actually miracles of modern science who often see themselves as nothing more than mistakes of society.  They feel that they don’t belong in any world, especially not the one they must hide their presence from.  Sound familiar?  For anyone who has ever been a teenager it should.  There is a reason the Ninja Turtles resonate so deeply within the hearts of their fans.  Because we are the Ninja Turtles.  We are the oddity that feels out of place with a need to prove ourselves.

By taking this away you take away any ability we have to relate to the Ninja Turtles at any sort of emotional level.  Instead we have another “awesome” movie that promises intense action, huge explosions, and giant robots (Krang anyone?).

I have no doubt that this movie will be made as you describe it.  I also have not doubt that it will make money at the box office.  As a die hard Ninja Turtles fan since the age of four, I am sure I will see it. But just because you can do it, should you?

J.

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