So the internet is having a complete meltdown because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will no longer be teenage nor mutant. They will be aliens, they will not be teenagers, and there will be no garbage-truck-radioactive-chemicals origin story. Redditors have been panicking with each new development, the guy who did the voice of Michelangelo in the first movie is also panicking about it, and someone even started the biggest waste-of-time petition in history.
Michael Bay has been spending all of his time reassuring everyone that they are being complete babies about this, but alas, I feel the problem is actually the oppostite of what the fans are saying. The problem is that Michael Bay might not be rebooting the Ninja Turtles as much as necessary. The series is tired and needs new life. Rebootds are allowed to make major changes. If James Bond could lose his gadgets and Q and Moneypenny for Casino Royale and if Star Trek could swap Spock with Kirk for Uhura’s love interest, then surely a few changes can be made in order to liven up the origins of the Ninja Turtles (especially considering their origins are heavily plagiaristic of those of another superhero.) And the answer to how Bay can thoroughly reboot TMNT is simple: Christian Bale as Casey Jones.
The biggest problem with the original TMNT film trilogy is that there is no protagonist in any of the films. The first film gives us a number of potential main characters to follow, each with their own depth and story arch. Unfortunately, with a running time of 93 minutes, this cast of characters is not able to develop beyond “They learn a couple things about the value of family and friendship,” which is an important message but fails to connect with all the things going on at once.
This clearly is not going to be resolved if we have another chaotic storyline with all four of the Ninja Turtles (whether they are Teenage, Mutant, neither or both) playing off of one another and hogging up the screen. In a previous post on this web-log, I have suggested that a Casey Jones film be made in which Bale plays Jones and the only appearance made by the Turtles is the moment when we see them in the background of Ben Kingsley’s kitchen. Also, that they are just turtles.
This suggestion might be overkill. But Casey Jones is the best option for a Ninja Turtles protagonist. Anti-heroes are very popular right now: consider Don Draper, Omar Little, Nucky Thompson, Tyrion Lannister, Bruce Wayne, and Frank Reynolds. Vigilantes are also perpetually popular, as evidenced by most of the previous list and the continuing popularity of comic book superheroes. Casey Jones is both of these things, and more.
While “Ninja Turtles” can remain the name of the film, as well as the theme, Jones must be the main character: a homeless man, paranoid and questionably hallucinatory, who has found himself at war with the evil Foot Clan, a sinister Illuminati-esque league that rules not only Central Park, but the entire world. As Jones begins fighting them, he realizes he can never win.
The tables turn when he rescues a local conspiracy theorist from a Foot Clan attack in the middle of the night. Her name is April O’Neil, and she explains to him that she was in the park in order to report on a supposed alien invasion. Instead of laughing her off, he listens to her and they go in search of these foreign beings. Soon they meet a series of large, green warriors completely unlike anything they have ever encountered. Jones labels the creatures as resembling “Ninja Turtles” and soon they join forces.
Of course, to keep it really dark, you can eliminate all that stuff and just make it about Casey Jones hallucinating he has alien friends who help him fight strangers in the park. It doesn’t matter what the plot is. The fact is, Casey Jones has always been an under-utilized character and has always been one of the darkest elements of the TMNT franchise. Remember when he crushed Shredder’s head, shrugged and said “Oops.” That was his best moment, considering he wasn’t in Secret of the Ooze and did nothing but babysit in the third film. Only Bale can bring out the depths of this character, in a way that revitalizes him for the entire fan base, both old and new.
No matter what, Ben Kingsley still has to portray Splinter.