Saturday, May 11, 2013

From The Idea Hole: How I Would Make The Reboot (Trilogy) Of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Recently, I read an article online that mentioned how William Fichtner, a character actor I almost always enjoy (most recently in the absurdest indie comedy Wrong), had been cast in the new Michael Bay produced live action re-launch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Up to this point, I was not aware that this film was still in production, as the last thing I had heard about it was that it had been postponed indefinitely as a result of the collective Internet pants wetting over the whole Teenage Mutant Alien Turtles non-controversy. On the second episode of my podcast I'm on record expressing my exasperation with the misplaced nerd rage of last year, and on this very blog I've talked about my general ambivalence concerning the original cartoon. Still, this news of the film's continued existence got me thinking about how I would do it myself, and here's what I came up with.

First off, obviously I would do it as a trilogy, as that's pretty much a pre-requisite at this point with any big genre franchise. The first movie would go the Amazing Spiderman route, re-telling the origin story and presenting a traditional Turtles versus Shredder tale to set the stage for a more expansive exploration of the canon elements than the previous trilogy ever did. I'm thinking two tiers, one following the Foot Clan trying to take over the criminal enterprises of the city, and the other following the Shredder's personal vendetta against Splinter. The one twist, in the final climactic battle, as the Turtles rescue their newest friend April O'Neil from an army of ninjas, Splinter and Shredder face off on the roof of the TCRI building, only for both to seemingly plummet to their deaths, Reichenbach Falls style.

The epilogue of the movie would focus on two characters to be featured more heavily in the sequels, the first being a seemingly minor character appearing throughout this first film. He would come off as a bystander, constantly being rescued, or finding himself witness to the bizarre events of the movie. With the very public reveal of mysterious creatures in a major metropolitan building, this story thread ends with this character watching a news report of an urban legend involving four large green monsters, and we see that this person has decided to take the law into his own hands as he sees his city falling into chaos, pulling on a suit of makeshift armor, revealing him to be Casey Jones. The other character would be BaxterStockman, who shows up in the Mayor's office with an offer to help eradicate the city's newest pest problem, placing a large metal box on the desk containing something with two glowing red eyes.

The second film in the trilogy would open with the Turtles demoralized and under assault from all sides. Their master is dead, and Leonardostruggles to maintain his leadership and keep the family together while Raphael routinely goes out on his own, eventually running afoul of Casey Jones. Meanwhile, Baxter Stockman unleashes his Turtle hunting Mousers upon the city, as well as a new breed of android Foot ninja, flanked at all times by two lunkheaded city officials hired by the Mayor to monitor the situation. Casey Jones would quickly become an ally, and Stockman would be in constant communication with a mysterious benefactor, later seen to be a still living Shredder. It will also be hinted at that Stockman was involved in the experiment that led to the ooze that created the Turtles, TCRI being a front for a darker conspiracy. 

In the end, the Mousers will infiltrate the Turtle's sewer lair and self destruct, collapsing their home all around them and apparently killing them. The epilogue would lead into the finale with Stockman revealing that his real benefactor is not the Shredder, but rather their mutual master Krang. It is here that we would discover that this whole plot was simply a ploy to attain DNA samples from the Turtles to synthesize the ooze that made them, in order to create an army of mutants. The first test subjects, Baxter's two government flunkies, are turned into the film's versions of Bebop and Rocksteady. We would end on April O'Neil and Casey Jones mourning the apparent loss of their friends, as we see underneath the city, the Technodrome is being excavated.

The third and final film would start with revealing that the Turtles were saved by The Rat King, an enigmatic homeless man telepathically controlling rats who lived in the sewers all along and helps them recuperate. He eventually becomes something of their new master, training them to take on this new threat they face, unaware that the Rat King is indifferent to humanity and secretly wants both sides to destroy each other so that the rats can take over. Meanwhile we see enemies gathering their forces as Krang, a newly cybernetic Super Shredder, and Baxter Stockman are building a massive army of mutants to take over the surface, and a new antagonist, the warrioress Karai has re-unified the original Foot clan under her control as Lady Shredder.

The final film would culminate in the epic battle across New York City as the Technodrome rises from the Earth, leading an army of mutants, mostly sewer rats stolen from The Rat King (who would have manipulated this situation to his benefit, eventually taking control of this army for himself after the battle to set up possible sequels beyond). The Turtles and Casey Jones would team up with Karai's new Foot Clan against the mutant horde, with Karai ultimately fighting her cybernetic former mentor, seeing him as abdicating his calling to the Clan. Through all of this, Stockman's attempts to create his mutant army resulted in his own DNA being mixed with a fly, leading to a gradual Brundelfly-esque transformation.

Of course the good guys save the day in the end, infiltrating the Technodrome and taking on not only the mutated Bebop and Rocksteady, but also Krang himself in his super suit, sending him and the largest bulk of his forces back through the portal into Dimension X. The movie would end with April and Casey seeing the first glimmers of a burgeoning romantic relationship, Karai consolidating her control of the city's criminal underworld and preparing for a coming war with the Turtles, and The Rat King corralling his new super powered subjects, revealing that he has secretly discovered and mended the body of Splinter, who wakes up in the final scene.

After seeing Pain and Gain, I'm more excited about the Bay-ified TMNT remake than I once was. I think Bay's latest film is proof positive of my theory that he has always been more self-aware than most critics give him credit for (most notably in his masterpiece of understated self-parody, Transformers 2: Rise Of The Fallen). The news article I read concerning William Fichtner theorized that he might be cast as the Shredder, which I doubt, and as much as I like the guy, I do not think he would be right for the part. I'd go Jet Li, whose old enough now that he could probably pull off the gravitas needed for it. As for the Turtles themselves, since they're just going to be voices and motion capture, I'd say go back to the 90's. Hell, Corey Feldman could still pull that shit off, and maybe throw in Will Friedle in there somewhere.

For April O'Neil, I'd go with a newly returned red head Emma Stone over the current choice of Megan Fox, and for Casey Jones, as much as I haven't always liked him in the past, I'm thinking Johnny Knoxville. Fichtner might actually be a good choice for the voice of Splinter now that I think about it, or the Rat King in the third installment (though I was thinking a somewhat zombified looking Doug Jones for the latter character). For Baxter Stockman, I'd cast Tim Blake Nelson (the skinny guy from Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, and Samuel Sterns/The Leader from The Incredible Hulk) and Karai would go to Maggie Q from Nikita.

Again, I was never the biggest fan of this series in any of its incarnations outside of the toys, which for some reason I had quite a sizable collection of despite my casual indifference to the source material. I'm not well-versed enough in the minutiae of this canon to know if and where my treatment might step on any nerdy toes, except to know enough not to throw in those Tricerotops aliens. In any case, this is the TMNT movie series I'd want to see. Well, I'd also have that Samurai Rabbit guy in it, but I'm pretty sure that would violate a copyright somewhere. 
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