So back in June it was reported that a new film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series had begun development. While news on this new film is minimal (only a screenwriter and producers have been announced), I’m sure that fans have already speculated what the new film could be about and have already made elaborate lists of what they don’t want to see and how this film “should” be handled. Well, not being above getting my hands dirty, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I started wondering what this new film should be about. More than likely this new film will be another reboot, complete with an origin story and a shoehorned appearance by the Shredder, I started thinking about how things should play out.
Disclaimer: Making a film is incredibly hard work, work that we as fans and filmgoers take for granted. I just want you all to know that I am not a filmmaker, producer or a real writer of any kind and I have no business believing that I know how to make a good film. This is just a fans wish list for a new Turtles film.
Make this film a Sequel to the 1990 film
If the popularity and success of the recently released Halloween sequel is to be believed, audiences will accept filmmakers rewriting cinematic history if you do it well; and the 1990 film ends with a perfect jumping off point for a sequel with the Shredder dead and the Foot Clan disbanded. The 1990 films is so popular today because it feel the least gimmicky of any Turtles film. The film made sure you knew that these characters existed in as real a world as ours and made no excuses or a big deal about it. It was nothing more than a story about four brothers that took itself seriously. And as a result, we took it seriously.
Also, by making this a sequel to an already established film, you have the look, setting and timeframe of the film already locked down. Set the film in Manhattan in 1991 one year after the events of the first film and go from there. And with regard to how the Turtles will look, if you want parents to take their kids to this film, you have nothing to lose by making it look like something we watch as children. Take a look at the cg art below that is obviously based on the 1990 film by artist Guilherme Duarte and you can see that this look still works. As much as I enjoyed the look of the Turtles from the 2014 film and its 2016 sequel, you have everything to gain by going back to what has been proven to work.
Let the villain be an original character
Let’s be honest, the Shredder is THE Turtles villain, but he has had a presence in five of the six TMNT films, it’s time to let him rest and move on. With this new film, let’s have the villain be a direct reaction to the first Turtles film.
Remember this guy, the Foot Soldier that accidentally electrocuted himself and started April’s apartment building on fire?
Well, let’s say he joined the Foot because he never met his father and his mother chose her career as a high-priced defense attorney over being a good mom. Now that her son is dead, she realizes that she was never there and in her rattled state-of-mind, she decides to use her resources and vast wealth to find and dismantle the ones that killed her son. Using her knowledge of major crimes in NYC, maybe she personally hires a professional killer named Hun and a local gang called the Purple Dragons to act as cannon fodder in her war against the Turtles, Splinter, April and Casey Jones. The main antagonist of this film shouldn’t be somebody we already know as fans because we already know the Turtles will win. If the villain isn’t someone from the Turtles own vast history, then we’re all as in the dark as the Turtles would be and therefore we would have no idea what to expect.
Now my idea of a villain can really be anybody, but if we’re going with the first Turtles film as a predecessor/benchmark, then we should let the Turtles be the only mutants in the series. What makes them unique, in both their world and ours, is that they’re a freak accident that shouldn’t have happened. On paper, a small group of mutated reptiles trained in martial arts fighting a guy made out of knives is a ridiculous idea that does not work…but somehow it does and the villain of this film should reflect that. Taking a risk by having an original villain is the shot in the arm this series needs because the audience deserves to not know what’s going to happen next.
The action needs to be on point
This should be a no-brainer. Yes, the Turtles are ninjas, they strike hard and fade away into the night. But while most fans seem incredibly obsessed with the whole fading away part, it looks like most forget about the whole striking hard angle of the previous statement. The Turtles, while not masters yet, are incredibly adept fighters that can bring some serious pain to any and all opponents.
Honestly, let’s not worry about the Turtles weapons for a moment, and focus on how their fighting ability should be portrayed.
Here’s hoping you took five minutes and watched the video above because that’s the standard for this film, or at least it should be. That’s right; this film needs to have bone-breaking and quasi-realistic action. When the Turtles punch someone, we need to feel it. When Raphael get hit in the face, it needs to hurt. When there is a fight to be had, it needs to have narrative purpose, the Turtles have to know that if they don’t win a fight, any fight, it means they will die. And no one in Hollywood can convey that better than stunt choreographer Philip Silvera. Silvera is on a seriously hot streak as of late given the success of the Netflix Daredevil series. He’s also worked on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (the BEST MCU film) and Deadpool, just to name a few. The reason he’s the only choice for a Turtles reboot is because he understands the importance of story in any given fight scene. To Philip, it’s not just about punching, but the danger the character is in and how that story revolves around that. The above video shows the viewer that Daredevil is in way over his head and has to dig deep if he’s going to make it out of his current situation. Stakes like that have never really been conveyed in a Turtles film outside of the first movie. Plus, it would be a cool nod to the origin of the Turtles as a concept to have the guys that worked on Daredevil working on this film. This leads us to my next point.
Do not be afraid of a PG-13 rating
This one is really for older fans here, but it needs to be said that this film, while violent, should not be ultraviolent. Let’s be honest, the Turtles have never been ultraviolent. Sure, the first issue of the Mirage comics had some blood in it, but that wasn’t what the book was about. Sure, there was a comic called Bodycount that saw Raphael and Casey Jones solving their problems with bullets and a can-do attitude, but for every story of that ilk, there’s about a decade of family friendly (gasp) entertainment. Look, we’re never going to get an R-rated Turtles film directed by someone like Robert Rodriguez. A film like that would kind of betray what the Turtles are all about. Ask yourself, do you really want to see Leonard chop off some purse-snatcher’s head and dance in the blood of his enemies? Would Leonardo even do that?
Besides, why does the PG-13 rating have such a bad rap anyway? So youcan only say the word “Fuck” once, who cares? No nudity, no problem. Minimal gore? This isn’t Jason Voorhees, its Ninja Turtles for crying out loud, kids are going to see this. The first film was dark in tone and this film should follow suit, but it should be dark the way a film like the Dark Knight, Taken or Drag Me to Hell is dark. It should take its characters and audiences seriously and push the limits of its rating. You may think that a PG-13 rating is a huge hindrance to a film that is just a ploy to get the most people in the theaters; and while this is the case at times, it can also prove to be a huge inspiration to the storytellers to craft drama, tension and action within the “confines” of this rating. It can be done, but whoever the filmmakers will end up being have to understand that it will be no easy task, but anything worth doing is not supposed to be easy.
Say NO to the franchise/cinematic universe
Seriously Hollywood, we need to talk. You have been putting cart before the horse for years now trying to chase the success of Iron Man and the rest of the MCU, and it needs to stop. Sure, a new Turtles film has franchise potential written all over it, but whoever directs this film needs to take the Spider-Man approach to this film. When director Sam Raimi directed his Spider-Man series, he focused on one film at a time and didn’t even think about a sequel until the previous film was done and in theaters. Sure, contract a director and a group of actors for a series of films if you want, but everyone should be focused on making the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that they can.
Bring in someone like director Gareth Evans or Justin Lin, people that take care to understand that character and action need to work hand in hand to make an all-around successful film. Bring in writers and creators like Tom Waltz and TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman to consult on the story being told by screenwriter Andrew Dodge. The goal of this film shouldn’t be to plant seed for five more sequels that may or may not happen. The goal of a new Turtles film or any film really, is to tell a great story about a hero or heroes facing some kind of oppression keeping them from their goals. Don’t worry about setting up a Casey Jones film or a prequel revolving around the Shredder, the focus needs to be about the Turtles, four brothers trying to live in our world (or at least the world of 1991), using their skills to protect us and themselves from whatever lurks just beyond the dark corners of New York. Don’t worry about post credit scenes or toy deals, worry about the story and the world established by director Steve Barron. Speaking of Barron, maybe he would like another shot at making a Turtles film. Maybe he has more to say about their world or maybe he would like to show off what he’s learned in the years since the original films release.
Hire voice actors to play the Turtles
Whether you’re going to use practical effects or cgi to bring the Turtles to life (Jim Henson could kill it with another shot at the Turtles, just saying), there is no need to hire “name” actors to portray the Turtles themselves. You want to know why every film about a superhero ends up with them fighting with their mask off? It’s because the studio invested a stupid amount of money in a name actor to play a character, there is no way they’re not going to show off his or her chiseled mug and plaster it on posters everywhere. Since you can have stuntmen playing the Turtles at all times, why not get voice actors who know what they’re doing instead of actors just lending their voice to a film?
Sure, the obvious answer is to just get Nolan North and Troy Baker to voice all four Turtles, but why not someone like Tom Kenny or Johnny Yong Bosch, Phil Lamarr or John Dimaggio? There are so many great voice actors who deserve a shot at a big film like the Turtles, why not just let the Turtles be the stars? Plus, I hate to do this, but this film doesn’t need to cost a hundred and fifty million dollars to make, paying for big name actor will balloon the budget more than it needs to be.