Our Two Major Problems with the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Trailer

After watching the new trailer for Michael Bay’s production of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Hollywood.com staff had a couple of issues. One was the tone that seemed to envelop the film, the other was the aesthetic of the turtles in question:

Julia Emmanuele, on the tone
There are quite a few jokes in this trailer, including a well-done dig at the original idea to turn the turtles into aliens. But there is much more emphasis on the action and grit of these mysterious vigilante heroes. While action was always a significant part of what made the Turtles so cool, their insane, goofy nature made them the Turtles. A certain amount of humor and suspension of disbelief is required to tell a story about pizza-eating mutant turtles who live in a sewer and use their ninja training to keep the city safe, and that humor is nowhere to be found in this trailer. It’s irreverent, sure, and Michelangelo even gets in a few wisecracks, but it’s far too action-focused to truly inhabit the spirit of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

And we haven’t even gotten started on a scene that appears to hint at a dramatic death for Splinter, one which inspires the Turtles to band together and avenge their dead father. It’s a staple of the action genre, but it’s the antithesis of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re already a team; they’re already devoted to one another and Splinter. Like all teenagers, they fight with one another, but there’s never the sense that the Turtles are anything other than a unit. Very little of that familial, brotherly dynamic is present in the trailer, other than a quick shot of them huddling up near the beginning. Instead, they seem to be setting out on their own, which goes against anything they would do, or anything Splinter would tell them to do. Besides, considering how many times Splinter has had to rescue them from certain doom, it seems unlikely that they would ever have to avenge his death in the first place.

All of these things might seem like nitpicking, but without them, the essence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won’t be translated into this film. These are weird, goofy guys who care about each other and their leader, and who just happen to be junk-food loving, wisecracking mutant turtles. That needs to come through in the film, or else it’s just another summer blockbuster.  

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesParamount Pictures

Jordan Smith, on the CGI
There’s something seriously up with the CGI in this latest trailer. Now that we’ve gotten an extended look at the Turtles in motion, the heroes in a half shell just don’t look all that convincing. Not that rubber suits of old were that much better. We all knew as kids that there were actual human actors inside the blubbery green reptiles from the trio of ’90s movies, but at least those versions of the Turtles felt like they were a part of the world around them.

What it boils down to is that there’s something really intangible about the new Turtles. The CGI looks off when the turtles are interacting with real things in the environment, and as our heroes mash their way through dozens of Foot ninjas, there’s a certain lack of humanity (turtality?) there. That crisp, shiny brand of CGI that works oh so well for something like Transformers, where the combatants are shiny metal robots, looks really off when applied to living, breathing, supposedly organic ninja turtles.