Real talk: I am a child of the mid- to late-’70s. My mom braved fiery lines of other sleep-deprived parents to ensure I got an Optimus Prime action figure one Christmas morning in the ’80s. I might have cried a little as I tore into the glossy cardboard packaging with the Transformers logo. Later in childhood, I may have hosted a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” birthday party — or two. Yes, Raphael was always my favorite.
So why is Michael Bay messing with my childhood?
When I first learned in 2006 that Bay was taking on “Transformers” as a live-action movie, I knew we were doomed. Bay might have graduated from Wesleyan, but more importantly Bay was a disciple of the Jerry Bruckheimer School of Filmmaking. Car chases. Empty characters. Slow motion action. Explosions. Overwrought acting. CGI. Impossible romance. Gunfire. Crappy Aerosmith power ballads.
And while all of those things help define what “Transformers” means to us today, it has little to do with what “Transformers” used to be. The original TV series and animated movie meant something; The names, symbols and characters have since been co-opted for hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. The fourth film in the franchise, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” will star Mark Wahlberg when it’s released this summer. A fifth is already in the works.
And now comes the release of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trailer. The live-action film, produced by Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman, has been making old-school TMNT fans (of the graphic novels, the cartoons, the original movies, etc.) nervous since it was announced. And now that we have a trailer (above), it seems as if our fears were warranted. “Transformers” star Megan Fox plays April O’Neil here and is a beautiful human being but not much of an actress. The Turtles’ aesthetics are cartoon-y as expected, and they also lack emotional depth, from what you can tell by the trailer.
As the “TMNT” trailer suggests, this reboot is hardly an homage to old-school fans; It’s an introduction to a new generation of people who are for the first time meeting the turtles and their gang — people who aren’t aware of the rich back story, the subtle tenderness, the ominous humor, the omnipresent darkness. And while that’s to be expected, my 9-year-old old self is (and I quote Michelangelo — the turtle, not the artist) “pretty bummed out.”