Pop-Ed: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were my childhood. I had the toys, games, movies, and even the cassette tape of when they were a band. Yeah, remember that little ditty? In reading the comments of my fellow contributors on the latest live action trailer, I absolutely understand the concerns and fears with this film. I even outlined them myself in my Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014 piece. But before I break down my thoughts on the trailer and this film in general, I just want to say one thing:

Let’s just all take a step off the ledge and give this a chance, because while I’m not crazy about the trailer, I did get a more positive reaction than I expected. Believe me, no one shudders more at seeing Michael Bay’s name on a movie than me. It’s only 90 seconds, but here’s my two cents on the latest Ninja Turtles trailer.

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The Positives

The Look of the Turtles
No one is more of a proponent for practical effects over CG than me. Trust me on this. I despise CG, but also understand it’s part of filmmaking like breathing is to a human. CG is usually fine when it’s literally the only option, not when it’s abused in every single scene (George Lucas). Getting to the turtles, I adore the Jim Henson suits from the early nineties. They are truly awe-inspiring. Having said that, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was equally impressed by the CG turtles in this trailer. That last shot of Michelangelo is pretty damn impressive.

Moving away from the CG though, I absolutely love how big they are. They look like linebackers for crying out loud. The other element they add is slightly more clothing to the turtles. This is something I didn’t think I’d like at first, but was pleasantly surprised. It really brings out more of each turtle’s personality rather than just the bandanas. Leonardo’s body armor is especially cool.

Speaking of their personalities, what impressed me most about this trailer is that in 90 seconds, they captured all four of the turtle characteristics perfectly. There’s a quick shot of Donatello with some kind of gizmo/proton pack on his shell. Leonardo looks very leader like and an absolute bad ass. And even though you only see one shot of him, that growl from Raphael as he’s launched into a jeep is all I need to see. I loved that. Michelangelo certainly gets his moment at the end as well, which is what leads us into our next topic.

The Humor was Toned Down
What I detest most about the Transformers movies is the absolute bottom of the barrel humor. When Michael Bay was brought on as Producer, this was one of my biggest fears for the film, and still is. We haven’t even seen Will Arnett as Vernon Fenwick, or Whoopi Goldberg yet, and that’s where I’m sure most of the humor will come from.

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But having said all that, I was very encouraged at how low key the humor came across, and that was very apparent in Michelangelo’s last scene. I love Michelangelo, but everyone knows he’s the wacky wild jokester turtle. This is a character who could potentially be unbearable in a Michael Bay produced film. But his last scene of “It’s just a mask,” was not only funny, but extremely toned down for the character. That is extremely encouraging.

I also didn’t mind the whole “Batter Up” thing. That’s a classic turtles gag – they are in the middle of a huge battle, but go for the quick obvious one-liner. No problem with that whatsoever.

William Fichtner
I’m really impressed they were able to get someone like William Fichtner for Shredder. I liked his voiceover, and it looks like he’s taking the role very seriously. I understand freaking out over this guy being a business man named Eric Sachs, and not Oroku Saki. My theory is that his name will be revealed as Oroku Saki in the film, so let’s just wait on that. We’ve also seen Shredder in a business suit several times on the animated show, so whatever. They also show him talking to April in a dojo like setting with a huge backdrop of Feudal Japan on the wall, so I have no doubt he’s more of a bad ass ninja master, and his business persona is really just a cover up. I’m very appreciative they included a shot of him looking at the classic Shredder suit though, because then I would have been a little worried he wouldn’t become the full fledged Shredder.

One of the other complaints is the origin of the turtles, and how it appears Shredder is actually responsible for creating them. Shredder had ties to the ooze in the cartoon, so this shouldn’t come as a big shock to anyone. I’m fine with it.

Photo Credit: Simon Davison
Photo Credit: Simon Davison

The Whatevers

Megan Fox
Yeah, Megan Fox is April. I’ve come to terms with this. Honestly, I don’t think she’ll hurt the film that much. She’ll just be there. Even Batman Begins had Katie Holmes. It is what it is.

Where’s Splinter?!
I understand it’s only a teaser trailer, so they want to save this reveal for the full trailer. Still, it would have been nice to see one shot of Splinter.

The Negatives

The Foot Clan
We aren’t even sure this is the Foot Clan, but they appear to be more militaristic rather than ninjas. I’ll give it a chance, but if that’s the case, I’ll probably be disappointed.

Jonathan Liebesman
I’ve talked mostly positive about this trailer, but this is where the negatives really start coming into play, and a significant reason of why I’m absolutely terrified about this movie. Everyone is so focused on Michael Bay. Michael Bay. Michael Bay. Michael Bay. STOP FOCUSING ON MICHAEL BAY’S NAME! He’s a producer on this movie. I repeat – Michael Bay is not directing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The real man you want to be afraid of is the director, Jonathan Liebesman.

For those of you who don’t know, Jonathan Liebesman directed the 2011 film Battle Los Angeles. To put it bluntly, Battle Los Angeles is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve written countless number of reviews on how much I despise shaky cam. Out of all the movies I’ve ranted and raved that have shaky cam, Battle Los Angeles is the worst culprit of this filming technique. It is absolutely disgusting.

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When I watched this teaser trailer, I got the shaky cam vibe, especially when April is filming the turtles with her phone. If there’s one thing I want to urge people with in this article, it’s this: Forget your fears about the turtle origins, forget your fears about Megan Fox, forget your fears about the turtle look, and even forget your fears about Michael Bay’s involvement. Shaky cam action is what you need to be most terrified with in regards to this film.

At the end of the day, I’m hopeful about this movie. I like a lot of what I saw, and we have to remember, it’s only a teaser. The next trailer will be the true barometer. But let me just say this right now – if the turtles fighting is ruined because I can’t tell what’s going on in the action because the filmmakers thought it would be edgy and cool to shake the camera, I will absolutely obliterate this movie. That I can promise you.

TURTLE POWER!

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.