I have been a die-hard Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan my whole life. I am one of the many fans in the world to claim possession of the biggest collection of Turtles toys, which I do, and also still have (I know, call me nostalgic). Besides my childhood love for the toys, apparel, television show, and video games, the cinema also brought us some great big screen Turtle adaptations.
The first live-action movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released in 1990. This film was gritty, hardcore, and as realistic an environment that walking/talking martial arts trained turtles could exist in. It is set in the dark alleys and sewers of New York City as the Turtles creep in the shadows upholding justice like a band of vigilantes. The movie perfectly manifests this setting watching the first scene when April O'Neil is attacked by a pack of looters and is rescued by the elite ninja skills of Raphael as he stealthily takes care of the thugs. This dark imagination of the Ninja Turtles with a profound sense of realism is the kind of movie I crave, and this first adaptation was by far the best Turtles film in everyone's opinion (even if you think otherwise, you really don't, because the first is the best).
Then on to the second movie, Secret of the Ooze, which was more playful, riddled with goofy comedy, and targeted at a younger audience. I still enjoyed the movie (much more as a child), but it didn't posses that sense of reality that made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles epic. The second film brought the rebirth of the Shredder and then the birth of Super-Shredder however, so it is hard to argue with those great plot points (not to mention Vanilla Ice?). The third attempt, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, was not only a disgrace to the great Ninja Turtles name, but to cinema itself. The Turtle team going back in time is one of the stupidest constructed stories ever to hit the pages of a script.
Of course, those first three movies were all live-action adaptations with each turtle being manned by a person in a "turtle suit." The year 2007 brought Warner Brothers into the Ninja Turtle game with a computer generated chapter called TMNT. This fourth film was the second best Ninja Turtle movie in my opinion. Even being CGI, the martial arts action sequences in the movie are off the charts, not to mention the legendary one-on-one fight in the downpour between Raphael and Leonardo. The rooftop battle is truly one of the best moments in Ninja Turtle history.
Wow, I really went rambling on there. But like I said, I'm nostalgic. Anyway, I'll get to my point. It has been nothing more than speculation and pipe dreams that a new live-action Ninja Turtles film would once again hit theaters anytime soon. But after the box office success of TMNT ($95. 6 million take on a $34 million budget), the dream seemed to come closer to a reality. Last year, the wheels for a new live-action project were actually set in motion when Nickelodeon bought the worldwide rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles name for $60 million from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment. With the rights now belonging to Nickelodeon and sister company Paramount Pictures, the two handed off the development of this project to Michael Bay's production team Platinum Dunes.
Before the Mirage Group sold the Ninja Turtles rights, they had planned on making a live-action movie with a script written by John Fusco. This attempt at a new Ninja Turtles project never appeared to pick up any steam or make any progress towards production. A recently leaked Paramount memo diagnosed the progress on many of the potential upcoming projects for the studio. The Ninja Turtles portion of the memo listed the project as "draft not looking great." This most likely is referring to the Fusco script, which now in most regards is dead. This can be concluded from the announcement (via HeatVision) that Paramount has hired Iron Man scribes Matt Holloway and Art Marcum to begin writing the screenplay for the new Turtles live-action film. The duo also has collaborated to write Punisher: War Zone and the upcoming projects Highlander and Buck Rogers.
When it was announced last year that the Mirage Group/Legendary Pictures were planning a new live-action reboot, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Peter Laird confirmed the use of a "hybrid" turtle with his statement below.
As you may recall from some of my previous comments, our initial discussions regarding the next film had to do with what we were calling a “hybrid” — live action with realistic Turtles rendered in CGI and blended in. This new idea — which, frankly, I am VERY pumped about — will have actors and stunt performers in full Turtle suits for filming in live action. As of right now, there is talk of using CGI to do “face replacement” for the suits so that we can get those great, expressive faces possible with CGI.
The main idea discussed for this newest Turtles live-action chapter is a "Batman Begins-style" reboot. As you can imagine, that is nothing but turtle wax for my shell (wink). Batman Begins is one of my favorite movies ever made. I think that movie set a new precedent for what audiences expect in superhero-type movies. The gritty/hardcore realism instilled as pillars by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins has become what die-hard superhero fans covet from their big screen adaptations. Not only does the new live-action Turtles seem to be mimicking the ideals of Nolan's Batman franchise, but the filmmakers are also planning on starting over to tell the origin story of these four turtle brothers.
If this creative team is going the route of reboot, highlighting the origin story, you can bet your shell (yep, I went there) the movie will feature the Shredder, April O'Neil, and I would guess Casey Jones. The Shredder has always been the ultimate evil adversary for the Turtles and his presence is what makes this story so great. Consider the Foot Clan along with the Shredder to be a lock for this film as an open casting call for martial arts experts was recently broadcast to anyone interested in being a Foot Solider. Ninja Turtle creator Laird has also commented on how the movie should resort to the roots of the more violent, less kid-friendly, comic book series.
Originally, when the Mirage Group was in charge of this project, a film was scheduled to be released in 2011. With Platinum Dunes now at the helm and the project still being in the early stages of pre-production (script-writing, hiring a production team, etc.), expect the movie to be hitting theaters in 2012 or 2013. I think the easiest way to characterize my elated feelings for this new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation would be, "COWABUNGA!"