Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
The sullen critical reaction to the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is unsurprising, but the box office intake for the Michael Bay-produced feature's opening weekend might warrant a double take: early numbers indicate that Turtles took in $65 million, a sum that allowed the flick to trounce expectations by 20 grand, top Guardians of the Galaxy by a similar figure, and — perhaps worst of all — spawn a sequel. Via the Los Angeles Times, Paramount is moving forward with a second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, already scheduled for 2016.
Considering the fact that Turtles was hardly the worst thing we've seen this year (perhaps not even the worst thing to come from Michael Bay, in fact), we don't want to write off the newly developing follow-up just yet. There might be a way to save this '16-bound film, but it'll entail a few major changes to the process that brought us this year's Turtle movie:
1) Clean up the Turtles' look
The choice to make the Turtle brothers look darker, grittier, and more "real" this time around is a particularly confusing one considering how broad and silly the film goes with its material. The grotesque appearance of the foursome doesn't mesh whatsoever with the tone of the movie, nor is it at all pleasant to look at. A dramatic redesign might not be necessary, but something smoother, cleaner, and altogether sillier would benefit future audiences. Splinter, on the other hand, could use a complete makeover.
2) Replace Jonathan Liebesman as director
Liebesman proved with Turtles that he is still developing his directorial skill set. A filmmaker with an established understanding of how to harmonize action and comedy would serve the second feature well.
3) More time on the shelled foursome
With so much ground to cover in regards to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' nonsensical plot, too much time was spent away from the Turtles themselves. Although they might not be the work of comic genius, they were more or less endearing in the grand scheme of things. More Turtles, less everything else. Oh, and for that matter...
4) Simply, simplify, simplify!
Whoever it was that demanded this movie's premise to be more tiered and complicated than A Most Wanted Man does not understand the appeal of the Ninja Turtles. Keep things light, simple, and straightforward. We don't need several dozen conspiracies, puppet regimes, and plot twists. Oh, and for THAT matter...
5) Enough with that one sci-fi contrivance that seems to be popping up in every big movie this year.
If you don't know what I'm talking about (I'm being coy for fear of spoilers) check out Mike Ryan's excellent diatribe against the phenomenon.
6) Oust Will Arnett's character
Will Arnett is an adroit comic actor, but his character in Turtles is about as pointless as a pastel bandit mask on the face of a gigantic reptilian vigilante. If April O'Neil had her own car, Arnett's character's contribution would have been instantly nullified.
7) Encourage an actual performance out of Megan Fox
While Turtles can get rid of Arnett without missing a beat, it's unlikely that Fox can be dismissed so easily (although there Bay-universe is precedent for such banishment). If we're stuck with her, then let's at least try to get her invested in the story and character this time; all she does in this latest Turtles entry is babble flat exposition and grimace in ambiguous dread.
8) Make Michelangelo less creepy
An innocent crush on April O'Neil would be fine, but Michelangelo's character was full on sexual deviant with his obsessive come-ons and offhand erection jokes.
9) Stop destroying New York City
We've seen it. We're sick of it. It weighs hard on those of us who actually live here. Enough.
His big screen debut is long overdue.