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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – trailer analysis

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So here, at last, we have the first full length trailer for the upcoming live-action Turtles reboot:

I’ve been waiting a very long time for the heroes in a half shell to return to the big screen and I should be excited for this movie. But unfortunately, like many other people, I have mixed feelings about it based on everything we’ve heard to date. Now that we’ve seen the new trailer though, let’s take a look at what it’s taught us.
Ever since we were given our first glimpse of the Turtles, opinions on their appearance have been very much divided. We’ve had our best look at them yet in this new trailer and I still can’t decide what I think about them myself. They definitely seem unnecessarily large.
I understand that the huge shells and small heads with nostrils atop beak like noses resemble real turtles more accurately. On the one hand I appreciate the effort to make them appear as realistic as possible, but on the other hand I have to question the need for such a big departure from their iconic look. Realism and originality are fine but let us not forget that these aren’t real turtles, these are mutants. It seems that they could be – and have been – sold just as well in a live-action environment with an appearance more in line with what people have been used to for three decades.
I don’t think I’ll be able to really decide whether I like their redesigned appearances or not until I’ve actually seen the film. One thing I definitely do not like though is their lips. There’s something very bizarre about them. It’s as if the filmmakers tried, and failed, to find a perfect balance between anthropomorphising the Turtles and maintaining their reptilian characteristics. The Turtles don’t have to look too human, the fact that they’re humanoid is enough.
Each Turtle is also adorned with a lot of accessories. Of course each of them should appear unique and have their own personality, but they already do. One characteristic that has been pretty constant in every incarnation of the franchise to date is the personality of each Turtle.

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The degree to which decorations such as badges and sunglasses work varies between Turtles. While we know who each of these guys are as people (for want of a better word) without needing extra attire to differentiate them, it doesn’t bother me in every case. Leo’s not looking too bad, definitely the best in terms of appearance.

Donatello TMNT Movie 2014

Donny though – he’s the smart one, we get it. You don’t need to drive the point home by covering him in gadgetry and sticking a pair of glasses on him – the glasses are the worst new addition to the appearance of any of the Turtles in my opinion.

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Hopefully I’ll be able to get past any cosmetic criticisms as long as their personalities are right. It’s hard to tell whether that will be the case from the trailer. The few words of dialogue Raph spouts suggest he’s still the tough guy, but his voice is a bit too gruff. I was hoping for his classic Brooklyn accent.

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Mikey is really the only one who’s in the spotlight throughout and, to be fair, they do seem to have gotten him fairly spot on. His voice suits him perfectly and he demonstrates that immature, fun attitude for which he is well known. We’re not given much insight into Leo or Donny so we’ll have to wait and see, but if they got Mikey right at least, I guess there’s no reason to assume that they’ve messed the others up.

TMNT 2014 - Splinter (3)

Then there’s Splinter. We only receive brief glimpses of him here but from other promotional material his appearance seems okay, paying homage to his Japanese heritage. Here’s hoping that they’ve maintained his backstory with Hamato Yoshi, whatever the spin they may put on it. With any luck this iteration of the character will be more of an able bodied ninja master than a decrepit old man. They made him CGI so they might as well take advantage of it for action scenes. Fingers crossed as well that the conflict between Splinter and Shredder will be at the root of the plot. I do not like Splinter’s voice though, his accent isn’t Japanese enough.
It’s very clear that there is going to be a lot of CGI and special effects in this film. While that’s certainly not unusual for a big budget superhero movie, based on this trailer I worry that it will be a bit excessive in this case. There’s a lot that seems to be CGI for the sake of CGI and I’m not just talking about set pieces, I’m talking about another famous character – the Shredder.

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Shredder is not a mutant. He is a human being who masks his identity behind samurai armour. Yet what this trailer showcases is a costume that is far too over the top, particularly in relation to the blades on his arms. I understand making the mutant characters CGI, but I don’t understand doing the same with Shredder’s armour. There’s too much of a sense that bigger means better here. Old Shredhead no longer looks like a man in a suit of armour, he looks like a “robot samurai”, as Will Arnett’s Vernon Fenwick puts it in the trailer.

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The most interesting thing we learn from this trailer about Shredder though – and about the movie in general – is that William Fichtner’s Eric Sacks may not be Shredder after all, as we had previously been led to believe. We see Sacks telling a shadowy figure that he’s upgraded his armour, suggesting that he is in fact talking to the man beneath the costume. Could this actually be Oroku Saki himself? I sure hope so!
By far the most controversy surrounding this movie since its inception has been the apparent reimagining of Shredder’s alter ego – a Japanese ninja by the name of Oroku Saki – as a white American man named Eric Sacks. Given the history between Splinter and Shredder, this had the potential to alter the entire backstory of the Turtles for the worse and up until now it was my primary concern about the movie.
But this trailer has given the masses of purist TMNT fans worldwide the first glimmer of hope that we’ll still have Oroku Saki and that his conflict with Hamato Yoshi will play a part in the plot. According to the cast list, the character of Karai will also be featured. While originally Saki had no familial relation to Karai, he has been reimagined several times as being a father figure to her. So could this be further evidence of Saki’s presence in the movie? Only time will tell.

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If Oroku Saki is the main antagonist, this begs the question then, who exactly is Eric Sacks? Is that even his name? Has his character been a misdirection from the start? There’s no proof of who he might be from the trailer, but there are certainly some interesting theories, the best of which is that he’s actually an Utrom.
For those unaware, in TMNT lore Utroms are an alien race that resemble brains. The most famous villain for which they were the inspiration was, of course, Krang in the 1987 cartoon. They also served as the inspiration for the villainous Kraang race in the 2012 cartoon. More significantly however, in the original Mirage comic, the Utroms fronted a company called TCRI and were responsible for the creation of the Mutagen that spawned the four Turtles. This may be the greatest clue thus far as to their having a presence in the new movie.

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While not shown in this new trailer, the movie’s first teaser very clearly showed a canister of ooze labelled “TCRI”. It also featured a voice-over from Sacks alluding to his having a hand in the Turtles’ creation. Could this, added to the apparent revelation of Oroku Saki’s presence in the new trailer, point towards Fichtner’s character being an Utrom all along? Could he even be a live-action reimagining of Krang himself?
As someone who grew up with the eighties cartoon, I’d be lying if I said that the prospect of seeing Shredder and Krang together on the big screen doesn’t excite me. Whatever the relationship between Sacks and Shredder, admittedly I am very curious to find out after this trailer. It’s certainly the most intriguing aspect of the movie so far and if nothing else I’m breathing a sigh of relief that Shredder may still be Oroku Saki. It might also be worth noting that Shredder has been portrayed as an Utrom himself in the past.
The trailer certainly showcases plenty of action, there’s no denying that. I just worry that it will fall into the Transformers trap of having so much CGI that it will be an assault on the senses. I suppose at least there’s only the four Turtles to follow as opposed to an indeterminate number of interchangeable giant robots.

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One aspect of the action scenes that I definitely don’t like is that the Foot Clan are using guns. They’re ninjas, keep them that way. I know the Foot soldiers in the eighties cartoon used laser guns, but they were robots created by Krang who just sported the original clan’s uniform. I’m assuming that is not the case here, so are the guns really necessary?
Some of the action looks a little ridiculous too. For example, Donny seems to be using his bow to knock bullets out of the air. That’s a bit too silly for my liking. It does appear that both Splinter and the Turtles will face off against Shredder themselves, which is good. However, with all the CGI involved hopefully it doesn’t end up looking like a bunch of animated characters fighting each other. If I want that, I’ll watch one of the cartoons.
Judging by this new trailer, the Turtles do seem to be the actual protagonists of the movie as it doesn’t dwell too much on the human characters. I’ve been worried that Megan Fox will be front and centre, with the Turtles playing support to the humans. This movie should belong to Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael.

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On the topic of the human characters, I’m still not sold on the idea of Megan Fox as April. Anna Kendrick was allegedly on the shortlist of candidates and I think she would have been perfect for the role. This trailer also gives us our first glimpse of Whoopi Goldberg as Bernadette Thompson, the new iteration of Channel 6’s Burne Thompson from the 1987 cartoon. I like Whoopi Goldberg but the decision to make Burne a woman really seems like a change just for the sake of making a change; as if someone at the pitch meetings said, “How about we make Burne Thompson a woman?” “Why?” “Because we can!”
Tonally, the movie doesn’t look like it takes itself too seriously, which is fine. A Turtles movie should be fun. But it shouldn’t be a comedy. A tone similar to that of the 1990 movie would be welcome. Although either way I’ll be very surprised – even 24 years on – if this new movie is better than the original live-action Turtles adventure, which nailed the story perfectly.
In the end, I still have very mixed feelings about this film. I have a great deal of nostalgia for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it’s a franchise of which I feel very protective. It would pain me to see the four heroes done a disservice, especially after having waited so long for a new movie. I can only hope that once you strip away the CGI, there’s a good script buried underneath it that honours the mythology. As long as there is and as long as the characters are who they should be in spirit, I can probably get past the many cosmetic issues. For now though, all we can do is wait and see.

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2014 by in Movies.
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