In the war of popular opinion, the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is facing an uphill battle with a steep incline. I have yet to run into anyone who is extremely excited about it, but when the design of the turtles leaked a while back, I was slightly more on board. The release of the first trailer, however, has me taking a large step back.
At first, the tone seems to be much darker and brooding. It’s slick for sure, but in an oddly gritty way. However, the tone towards the middle and end of the trailer suggest a bit of an identity crisis. The first half features a voiceover by William Fichtner talking about the need for heroes in a city being overtaken by crime. Beneath the voiceover everything looks Transformers-esque (hello Michael Bay influence) as the aesthetic looks polished, but still dirty with an abundance of shots of the top of skyscrapers falling and crashing to the ground. The origin is indeed being tweaked as it is hinted the turtles were created, at least in part, by a April O’Neil’s father.
Then there’s a pretty cool shot of the turtles tumbling down a snowy mountain and ending as the green heroes come face to face with April. This is where the tone seems completely off- as Mikey tries to ease April’s nerves by insisting he’s wearing a mask and subsequently taking his orange mask off revealing that he’s obviously still a turtle. It’s this jokey moment that just doesn’t fit in with the first part of the trailer- see for yourself.
It’s obvious that this is an attempt to bridge a generation gap here, except the late 80’s-early 90’s crowd, the generation that is arguably the most nostalgic for this property, is just as familiar with the the jokey, Saturday morning cartoon turtles as are the current generation because the younger age group has its own comedic TMNT cartoon. Who is the dark more gritty tone supposed to satisfy? I suppose it’s because comic book films such as The Dark Knight are so popular and successful and studios are still riding this train to the bitter end. I won’t come right out and say that this looks terrible, but it certainly does not calm my nerves about the project.
I still love the design of the turtles and we get a really good look at Leonardo and some of Mikey, but there’s a definite cartoon look to them still. Jonathan Liebesman doesn’t have a fantastic track record of competent action flicks, but the mountain scene definitely looks like it could be fun. I’m crossing my fingers for more of that. I was hoping though that Bay wouldn’t have a heavy hand here, but it’s clear to me that he does. This looks like you could just add a couple robots in here and it would look exactly like the new Transformers movie.
Time will tell if this ends up being worthwhile, but the first trailer shows that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has some more work to do to impress this viewer. The film is due to open August 8, 2014.
What do you think of the first trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Are you still excited for the film or less excited? What is your relationship with the old and new series? Sound off below!