Man, this the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are completely-lovable space aliens thing, huh? This is like when Pluto stopped being a planet and when Brontosaurus stopped being a dinosaur, except this is even more inconsequential because it's about made-up turtle ninjas being alien turtle ninjas instead of mutant turtle ninjas. An adulthood in which myself and other fully mature, voting-aged humans go back and forth about the legitimacy of such a change is never the adulthood I imagined for myself. We should be saving for retirement! We should be out there building a richer world! But not the richer world Michael Bay is building by making the ninja turtles be aliens now. That sort of richer world building is too circular to get us anywhere.
Anyway, the good news is it's not just us internet adults still talking about how alien ninja turtles are not my ninja turtles. TMNT co-creator Peter Laird has weighed in on the matter, too, as has future Teenage Alien Ninja Aliens director Jonathan Liebesman. As you could probably guess, they disagree on whether this idea is creatively bankrupt or a very clever idea birthed from Michael Bay and the director of Wrath of the Titans.
First off, here's Laird's defeatist, often-sarcastic response to the news. It's kind of long, but it's fine because there's a "sigh" intermission to let us all pause and exhaustedly exhale in chorus:
I have had several requests from TMNT fans during this past week to comment on the idea of the Turtles being "reimagined" as aliens for the upcoming TMNT movie to be produced by Michael Bay. A few people -- who don't seem to understand that I am no longer in control of the property -- want me to stop this, somehow. Obviously, I can't do that, even if I wanted to.
But I would actually encourage TMNT fans to swallow the "chill pill" Mr. Bay recently suggested they take, and wait and see what might come out of this seemingly ill-conceived plan. It's possible that with enough truly creative brainpower applied to this idea, it might actually work. I'm not saying it's probable, or even somewhat likely... but it IS possible.
However, as I have pondered this further, I have realized that in one way it IS truly a genius notion. Let me explain...
Over the years, I have made no secret of my distaste for what I consider to be the weak, facile, creatively bankrupt idea which can be summed up like this:
"If FOUR Ninja Turtles are good, then FIVE (or more) Ninja Turtles MUST be better!"
It was in large part this brain-dead notion that led to the creation of the execrable "Venus de Milo" character in the blessedly short-lived live action TV series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation". And I can't tell you how many times we got mail in the early years of the Turtles from people who thought it was simply an amazing idea to do a "fifth Turtle", and how many times those same people suggested that this fifth Turtle be named "Picasso". And many times, the brilliant idea to explain this extra Turtle was that, instead of there being just four pet shop turtles in that glass bowl in the origin story, there were really FIVE.
I'll admit -- I have played with the idea of more Turtles myself, a few times. There was the character of "Kirby", the "fifth Turtle" that Kevin Eastman and I came up with for one of the several movie ideas which never came to fruition. And I created the "Super Turtles" in Volume 4 of the TMNT comics published by Mirage... and they eventually appeared in one episode of the 4Kids animated TMNT TV series.
... in both those instances, I was careful to make these Turtles not just MORE of the same, i.e. just extra TMNT. In both of the above cases, the extra Turtles were from other dimensions... and the Super Turtles, especially, were VERY different from the Ninja Turtles. I don't remember all the details of the work we did on that "Kirby the Fifth Turtle" thing, but I DO remember being adamant that if we were going to agree to the idea of a "fifth Turtle", it would have to be something other than the harebrained "there was an extra Turtle in the bowl, etc." idea.
Is that too fine a line? Yeah, maybe... but to my way of thinking, anyway, it is a CLEAR line.
Anyway, to get back to the "TMNT are aliens" thing -- the reason I say it could be a "genius" idea is that -- for the first time -- someone has come up with a way to have as many freakin' Turtles as they want. I mean, if the TMNT are actually members of an alien race, there could be a whole PLANET of them!
Joy. -- PL
But while Laird clearly seems cynical about the whole alien thing, his co-creator, Peter Eastman, is decidedly more cooperative about the idea--probably because he's being paid to be. According to Turtles director Jonathan Liebesman, Eastman is working right alongside him on the project, and they're "locked in a room" together developing something that Liesbesman thinks will make fans "go apeshit," which probably isn't so far off. Said the director of Battle: Los Angeles:
I'm glad there's such a passionate fanbase--I think that was good news for everyone--but literally, I've just been locked in a room with Kevin Eastman. I think what we're developing, the fans will love. I'm a fan, and I love what we're doing. It's a lot of stuff Kevin's been thinking about for a long time and just hasn't done. Anything we expand will tie right into the mythology, so I think fans will go apesh*t when they see it."
That enthusiastic description does fit in with Eastman's recent statement that what Bay and Liesbesman are doing "IS AWESOME." But at the same time, shut up, Kevin Eastman and Jonathan Liebesman.