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Opinion: Who cares if the Ninja Turtles are neither Teenage nor Mutant?

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Ever since producer Michael Bay casually mentioned that the eponymous heroes of his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie would be aliens, and not, you know, mutants, the internet has been abuzz with complaints and a resounding chorus of childhood-rape accusations from fans as well as folks involved with the franchise. Now, the latest word is that the film will jettison not only the whole mutant thing, but the teenager aspect of the characters as well, calling itself, appropriately, “Ninja Turtles.” And unlike the rest of TMNT fandom, I’m completely fine with it.

This latest news comes via Bleeding Cool, which has verified that the title change is definitely happening, but has yet to pinpoint why, though their sources opine that it’s likely a marketing decision. This news has thrown additional fuel on an already considerable furor over changes that Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) may be making to the TMNT source material. Just last week, IFC’s Rick Marshall spoke with Liebesman, who did his best to ameliorate the fan outcry, even pointing to the fact that TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman is actually involved in the production.

The biggest complaint about these changes appears to be that it deviates from and somehow corrupts the core concept of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This assumes that being Teenage and Mutant is a crucial part of why the characters resonated with audiences in the first place, and as a lifelong TMNT fan, I can attest that just isn’t the case.

A little history lesson: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were co-created by Eastman and partner Peter Laird back in the halcyon days of 1984. The original comic book series was conceived as an elaborate parody of the hottest trends in mid-80s comic books. The series’ most obvious target was Frank Miller’s “Daredevil,” exchanging Stick for Splinter, the Hand ninjas for the Foot ninjas and keeping the gritty, violent, dark world of Miller’s New York City. But TMNT also parodied the popular DC book “The Teen Titans” (teenage), Marvel’s “Uncanny X-Men” (mutants) and the growing market for black-and-white comics starring anthropomorphic characters (turtles). While the parody aspects of TMNT might have been crucial to its initial success, however, the vast majority of fans first experienced the characters in a very, very different manner: The cartoons, movies and toys.

The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoons, movies and toys kept the basics of the characters’ origins and identities, but the parodies and inside comics references were largely tossed aside – understandable given the material’s much younger demographic. Speaking anecdotally, of course, but many people who grew up with TMNT, while they might be aware of the characters’ comic book origins, don’t realize that the whole thing was an elaborate, meta-joke about what was popular in 1984. That’s because the TMNT cartoons and movies were far, far simpler, and concentrated less on parody and more on lovable, easily identifiable characters fighting an endless stream of ninjas, aliens and anthropomorphic henchmen while shouting absurdly 90s catchphrases. You know, stuff that’s totally awesome and blows kids minds.

Putting aside the actual abilities of Bay and Liebesman, if the two want to lose the most confusing, least resonant aspects of the TMNT concept, I’m completely fine with it. TMNT wasn’t a massive success because they were mutants or teenagers, but because they were Ninja Turtles, and as long as that stays in tact, I think the film has as fair a chance at success as any of the other numerous TMNT reboots – maybe even better. Additionally, I believe fan concern about the Turtles’ more identifiable characteristics getting lost to be extremely premature. To take one very specific example, anyone thinks that not being teenagers would prevent the Ninja Turtles from enjoying pizza hasn’t ever seen this full-grown man do work on a hot pie. Just because they are no longer teenagers doesn’t mean Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo can’t be fun, funny, likeable characters.

I have no idea if the Bay/Liebesman “Ninja Turtles” flick will be any good. Judging from my feelings about Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, I’m guessing it won’t really be up my alley, but that has little to do with concept or anticipated changes to the original intellectual property, and much more to do with my affinity (or lack thereof) for Bay’s work. Sure, as a comics guy, I appreciate and enjoy the in-jokes of the TMNT mythos, but I think they’re far from essential when it comes to distilling down that still totally bodacious concept. Cowabunga, motherf*ckers.

What do you think about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” becoming just “Ninja Turtles”? Do you think it damages the entire concept, or is it a lot of fuss over nothing? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Face Melting Cameos

The 10 Most Metal Pop Culture Cameos

Glenn Danzig drops by Portlandia tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Glenn Danzig rocks harder than granite. In his 60 years, he’s mastered punk with The Misfits, slayed metal with the eponymous Danzig, and generally melted faces with the force of his voice. And thanks to Fred and Carrie, he’s now stopping by tonight’s brand new Portlandia so we can finally get to see what “Evil Elvis” is like when he hits the beach. To celebrate his appearance, we put together our favorite metal moments from pop culture, from the sublime to the absurd.

10. Cannibal Corpse meets Ace Ventura

Back in the ’90s,  Cannibal Corpse was just a small time band from Upstate New York, plying their death metal wares wherever they could find a crowd, when a call from Jim Carry transformed their lives. Turns out the actor was a fan, and wanted them for a cameo in his new movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The band had a European tour coming up, and were wary of being made fun of, so they turned it down. Thankfully, the rubber-faced In Living Color vet wouldn’t take no for an answer, proving that you don’t need to have a lot of fans, just the right ones.


9. AC/DC in Private Parts

Howard Stern’s autobiographical film, based on his book of the same name, followed his rise in the world of radio and pop culture. For a man surrounded by naked ladies and adoring fans, it’s hard to track the exact moment he made it. But rocking out with AC/DC in the middle of Central Park, as throngs of fans clamor to get a piece of you, seems like it comes pretty close. You can actually see Stern go from hit host to radio god in this clip, as “You Shook Me All Night Long” blasts in the background.


8. Judas Priest meets The Simpsons

When you want to blast a bunch of peace-loving hippies out on their asses, you’re going to need some death metal. At least, that’s what the folks at The Simpsons thought when they set up this cameo from the metal gods. Unfortunately, thanks to a hearty online backlash, the writers of the classic series were soon informed that Judas Priest, while many things, are not in fact “death metal.” This led to the most Simpson-esque apology ever. Rock on, Bartman. Rock on.


7. Anthrax on Married…With Children

What do you get when Married…with Children spoofs My Dinner With Andre, substituting the erudite playwrights for a band so metal they piss rust? Well, for starters, a lot of headbanging, property destruction and blown eardrums. And much like everything else in life, Al seems to have missed the fun.


6. Motorhead rocks out on The Young Ones

The Young Ones didn’t just premiere on BBC2 in 1982 — it kicked the doors down to a new way of doing comedy. A full-on assault on the staid state of sitcoms, the show brought a punk rock vibe to the tired format, and in the process helped jumpstart a comedy revolution. For instance, where an old sitcom would just cut from one scene to the next, The Young Ones choose to have Lemmy and his crew deliver a raw version of “Ace of Spades.” The general attitude seemed to be, you don’t like this? Well, then F— you!


5. Red and Kitty Meet Kiss on That ’70s Show

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

Long before they were banished to playing arena football games, Kiss was the hottest ticket in rock. The gang from That ’70s Show got to live out every ’70s teen’s dream when they were set loose backstage at a Kiss concert, taking full advantage of groupies, ganja and hard rock.


4. Ronnie James Dio in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (NSFW, people!)

What does a young boy do when he was born to rock, and the world won’t let him? What tight compadre does he pray to for guidance and some sweet licks? If you’re a young Jables, half of “the world’s most awesome band,” you bow your head to Ronnie James Dio, aka the guy who freaking taught the world how to do the “Metal Horns.” Never before has a rock god been so literal than in this clip that turns it up to eleven.


3. Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

It’s hard to tell if Ozzy was trying his hardest here, or just didn’t give a flying f–k. What is clear is that, either way, it doesn’t really matter. Ozzy’s approach to acting seems to lean more heavily on Jack Daniels than sense memory, and yet seeing the slurry English rocker play a sex-obsessed televangelist is so ridiculous, he gets a free pass. Taking part in the cult horror Trick or Treat, Ozzy proves that he makes things better just by showing up. Because that’s exactly what he did here. Showed up. And it rocks.


2. Glenn Danzig on Portlandia

Danzig seems to be coming out of a self imposed exile these days. He just signed with a record company, and his appearance on Portlandia is reminding everyone how kick ass he truly is. Who else but “The Other Man in Black” could help Portland’s resident goths figure out what to wear to the beach? Carrie Brownstein called Danzig “amazing,” and he called Fred “a genius,” so this was a rare love fest for the progenitor of horror punk.


1. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World

It’s surprising, sure, but for a scene that contains no music whatsoever, it’s probably the most famous metal moment in the history of film. When Alice Cooper informed Wayne and Garth that Milwaukee is actually pronounced “Milly-way-kay” back in 1992, he created one of the most famous scenes in comedy history. What’s more metal than that? Much like Wayne and Garth, we truly are not worthy.

Exclusive: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” director weighs in on alien uproar and Michael Bay’s comments

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Everyone’s favorite heroes in a half-shell have been all over the news lately, thanks to a comment from Michael Bay indicating that the stars of the upcoming, live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie would be aliens instead of reptiles mutated by radioactive ooze.

The online uproar prompted Bay himself to tell TMNT fans to “take a breath and chill” after the online dialogue got hotter than Raphael’s temper in no time at all.

Offering yet another perspective on the controversy is “Wrath of the Titans” director Jonathan Liebesman, who will be the man behind the camera when the rebooted “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” begins filming. During today’s press junket for “Wrath of the Titans,” Liebesman reassured TMNT fans that the film will remain faithful to Leonardo, Donatello, and the rest of the Turtles — due in no small part to the involvement of TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman.

“I thought it was incredible to see how passionate the fans are,” he told IFC of his thoughts on the TMNT madness gripping the Internet. “To me, that is awesome — to be working on something where there’s so much passion. I missed a lot of it, because I’ve been stuck in a room with Kevin Eastman, the guy who drew the very first Turtle.”

“We’re sort of working away at the story and the mythology with the writers, Andre [Nemec] and Josh [Appelbaum], and all I can say is that if you’re a fan of the Turtles, you’re going to love what we’re coming up with,” he said. “A lot of the stuff comes from ideas Kevin has had that he never had a chance to do in the way that we’re going to be able to do things, because Paramount is allowing us a great budget and stuff like that.”

While he couldn’t go into details about what Bay’s comment meant for the Turtles and how their origin story will play into the film, Liebesman reiterated that everything will be tied into the original mythology of the TMNT universe.

“It’s not fair to just take some comments out of context and go crazy, but I totally understand and really appreciate the passion, and I can’t wait for those exact people to see what we’re doing,” he said. “Because the stuff I see that Kevin’s coming up with, the ideas… As someone who grew up with the Turtles and loved them, I think it’s awesome.”

Liebesman also emphasized the part Eastman is playing in the film’s development, and why it’s not just an advisory role for the Turtles’ co-creator.

“What was important to me was to ask, ‘Kevin, when you created these characters and did these things, why did you make these decisions?'” he explained. “So any expansion on that universe comes from that exact same place. I don’t want to put anything in the movie that’s not coming from the exact same sentiment that created the Turtles or created any mythology around them. That is why anything we do is going to tie back into the mythology people love. It’s all coming from that same place.”

So there you have it, TMNT fans, straight from the director of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot himself.

Keep an eye on IFC.com for more from the “Wrath of the Titans” press junket, including a preview of what you can expect to see when Perseus returns to the big screen and takes on the massive Titans and a host of other nasty creatures from Greek mythology.

Do Liebesman’s comments make you feel any different about the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Bay tells “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fans to “take a breath, and chill”

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Only a day after the Internet went nuts over Michael Bay‘s comment regarding turning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into aliens in the upcoming remake of the classic story, the “Transformers” director has issued a response to the fan uproar.

“Fans need to take a breath, and chill,” he wrote in the comments section of his website. “They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world.”

Our first response: If anyone but Michael Bay had said that, we might believe him. But since this is the man who gave us the universally hated jive-talking Autobot twins in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” we’ll err on the side of skepticism. While we will agree that we have not read the script and that the pissed off fans should take a chill pill or a thousand, for some reason the idea of turning our favorite mutant turtles into aliens to build “a richer world” doesn’t really sit well with us.

The original quote reads as follows:

“When you see this movie, kids are going to believe one day that these turtles do exist, when we are done with this movie,” he said. “These turtles are from an alien race, and they’re going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable.”

Do you want Bay tinkering with the “Turtles” source material? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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