Who cares if the Ninja Turtles are neither teenage nor mutant?

Nothing dark and gritty here.

If you’ve been anywhere on the internet for the past week, you’ve probably heard a lot of folks getting all bent out of shape because of Michael Bay’s plan to reboot the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as aliens which are neither mutant nor alien (though presumably still somewhat turtley). Now, I’m not particularly looking forward to the Bay-produced Ninja Turtles flick, but that’s on account of the fact that those Transformers movies did nothing for me – NOT because of some deep-seated, righteous anger that someone would dare tamper with the bastion of sacrosanct perfection that is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thing is, I, like most fans of the property, originally came to the TMNT as a fan of the cartoons, toys, movies and video games, and the nature of their appeal was far different from that of the original comic. For more detail, check out my article over at IFC.com.

And, as a special DROPKICK OUT THE JAMS bonus, some extra thinking I’ve been doing about TMNT that just refused to fit into that IFC piece…

There are countless factors that played a role in the success of TMNT: Timing of the series, a bitchin toyline, the amazing synergy between the two, etc. But looking back, what impresses me most about the cartoon are the core characters. Now, they certainly aren’t well-rounded dynamic characters – really, they’re little more than caricatures, but that’s actually what makes them so great. For a young boy glued to the television set, there was always someone with whom to empathize on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was a kind of angry kid, so my favorite was Raphael, but I also thought of myself as pretty bright, so Donatello was an obvious touchstone. And at my most self-confident moments, I felt like a Leonardo-type, while I pretty much always wished I could be the Michelangelo of whatever group I was in.

The four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are near perfect archetypes, seemingly designed in a lab to appeal to young boys, who by their very nature, are by turns angry, clever, bold and wild. Even the extended cast of the show seemed to play into young boys’ perceptions of themselves by offering hyperbolic versions of the Turtles’ own personalities. Casey Jones was obviously Raphael ratcheted up to 11, while the Neutrinos partied harder than Michelangelo after a bottle of Mountain Dew. Taking that into account, it should come as no surprise why so many kids, including me, lost their absolute minds over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and remain extremely devoted to the concept today.

Of course, a giant evil brain from Dimension X and a neverending parade of anthropomorphic villains might have had a teensy-weensy something to do with it as well.

3 responses to “Who cares if the Ninja Turtles are neither teenage nor mutant?

  1. Gotta say that making the turtles aliens knda kills the whole premise of the show. I admit that I’ve never read the turtles comics or even was aware that it was a parody but reading Miller’s DD just the other week (awesome stuff BTW), I can totally understand the meta joke part of it. I, like many others, saw the turtles kick serious ass on TV.
    Now I dont know the concept story in the orginal comics but as far as the toon goes, They were just regular turtles who fell in to ‘the ooze’ and became mutant turtles. Splinter who was actually a human that got turned in to a rat courtsey of the same ooze some years ealier. took care of the now mutated shell backs and taught them ninjitsu (what else would you do with mutated pets ?).
    Now Spliter has some serious beef with Shredder (guess where my avvie comes from..) and his evil plan of world domination so we get to see the weekly ninja shenanigans of the turtles as they kick the foot’s ass (is there a pun in there ?).
    Now making the turtles, Splinter & Shredder in to aliens doesnt really make much sense. Ok so ‘blow shit up’ Bay wants to turn mutants in to aliens but Shredder was never a mutant to begin with. He wears the face mas cause he was disfigured. Thats just one point.
    If all of the main cast were aliens, why the fuck are they fighting on Earth ?? and why on ‘whatever world they came from’ are alien turtles named after famous painters on Earth’s past ??? Also if this is a case of bad aliens trying to take over Earth but good aliens stopping them, lets not forget that the Foot Clan is fucking army of aliens with no doubt, even more forces and even bigger guns from whatever world they came from and the good guys are just 4 turtles and a rat! So whatever evil empire is at the back of it, they dont need to even care about the turtles as even with their skills, they cant stop a world invation if the even aliens decide to go all out a la ‘independence day’ style attack on the world.
    Now back to Shredder, if he’s not turned on to an alien, then why the hell is an alien rat and some alien turtles from outer space are having a beef with a local buch of hoolgans to begin with ?? plot holes galore..

    Still none of this is going to matter as this is ‘blow shit up’ Bay we’re talking about and there’s gonna be shit blowing up every 10 seconds or so in the movie. So its gonna be a box office success and at the end of the day, no matter what the critics or thte TMNT fans are gonna say, its the dineros thats gonna have the final word and b.s.u. Bay will be already making a sequel.

    • Really interesting stuff – thanks for reading. But all this seems like is frustration that the show won’t be exactly as you remember it, which reads more like fan entitlement than anything else. You can still have Splinter, Shredder, the Foot, Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop, Napoleon Bonafrog and whoever else you want in there if they’re aliens – the “fall in ooze, become teenagers” thing is just an origin that is quickly pushed aside once you get past the credits. What’s great about the turtles is the characters and the fact that they’re ninja turtles – everything else is disposable.

  2. You seem to miss the point that the characters of the turtles are defined by the fact that they are Earth grown teens who grew up in NY (specifically, the tunnels below).
    When this is taken out, the characteristics go out the window. and only thing common with this movie and the TV or comic series will be that there are 4 turtles with ninjutsu (another Earth bound tradiition) training.
    Might as well say that 2001 Planet of the Apes movie was an adaptation of the original movies since it had freaking apes in it!

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