Michael Bay's comments about the new origins of the Ninja Turtles (or what's now being called Turtlegate) hasn't sat well with fans; myself included. Through a few of my rantings on the site, I've made it known how I feel about fanboys hating things simply for the fact that it's something different. So rather than just bitch about something on the Internet like a lot people do, I'm going to actually justify my reactions and negative feelings. One thing needs to be made clear, I'm not hating on the new film. I haven't seen it, so there's no telling how good or bad it might be. Instead, I'm expressing my dislike for this new idea that the new film is taking. It just doesn't work for the Ninja Turtles.
This may not be entirely true now, with the director, Liebesman, coming out and trying to clarify Bay's statement. Basically Liebesman is saying the TCRI company (who created the mutating goo) is run by aliens and wind up creating the Turtles. This is really in line with the comics and would be great. Even so, I still feel the need to explain why this has been such a big deal for me (if not all fanboys).
Taking Away What's Unique
One of the things I enjoyed about the Turtles comics, and a reason I think for their initial success, was how unique they were. In an industry dominated by costumed heroes wearing spandex a suit and wielding superpowers, the Turtles stand out as something different. While the ideals may be the same, they aren't your traditional superheroes. They are singular and the product of a freak accident (though that's pretty common with all superheroes).
They are incredibly close to one another, not just because they are biological brothers, but because they are the only ones of their kind. It forces them to deal with one another and resolve their issues, because they have no one else they can really turn to who's like them.
So if you make them aliens that are part of a larger race, you take away that sense of uniqueness about them. Instead you make them but a handful among many, and the mysticism and mythos about them is torn. You still have the brotherly connection, but essentially you're telling the audience there is an entire planet full of these Ninja Turtles so there's not much reason to treat them as special (outside of them being on our planet).
A Reason to Fight for Their Home
Great heroes are great because they do everything in their power to protect their home turf. They selflessly place themselves in danger to save their cities or even the world. The point being, when a hero is fighting for his home, we cheer all the harder for him. This is true even of Superman who, despite his alien heritage, is the adopted son of Earth and has found a new home here.
The same concept applies to the Ninja Turtles who are the consummate New Yorkers, with all the attitude and persona that comes with that. That aspect has always been a big part of their charm, something that made the four Turtles so relatable despite their large differences from us. It gave them more of a 'human' factor and provides something for the audience to empathize with and make their journey all the more impactful. In short, being from Earth and from New York, gives the Turtles more reason to fight back injustice and protect the citizens from evil (even if those citizens will never accept them).
By removing this element of the Turtles' backstory, a crucial link is broken in the establishment of their characters. A new explanation would be needed for why they feel the need to protect this new alien world (to them) and the people in it. A new connection for the audience to relate to them will have to be established as well, and let's face it, that doesn't always work (Transformers comes to mind). By taking the Turtles out of their 'home' and from another planet the audience has less to relate to them, and the characters themselves have far fewer reasons to care as much for the ones they're protecting. Thus there's some loss of 'base' tension in the film.
Lastly, we need to remember one important thing when considering this switch to an alien race; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...are turtles! I seriously doubt there's an alien race out there that would refer to themselves as turtles. It just isn't plausible. Besides which the name says it all "Mutant" "Turtles", they are just mutated animals and have nothing to do with aliens.
Sure a lot of their villains and nemesis' come from outer space, and they were mutated from alien goop, but they are your normal everyday turtles. That alone makes the whole "they're aliens" thing not work out.
All right, those were the main reasons for me, but here are some minor ones for why it doesn't work:
- If they are aliens, why would they be named after Earth artists?
- Is Ninjitsu, a style developed on Earth, taught throughout the entire galaxy?
- If they are in fact still teenagers in the film, will that be by Earth standards, or their alien standards?
- Why would they use traditional (and even dated) Earth weapons instead of some super-duper alien tech?
Like I said earlier, this may all be moot based on Liebesman's comments, but I feel it necessary to explain. Making the Ninja Turtles part of an alien race, changes them fundamentally as characters the people we know them to be. If this turns out to be the case, that doesn't mean the film will automatically suck. In fact, I'm hoping it can still be awesome; but to me, they just wouldn't be the Ninja Turtles I know and love. They would be new and different (which is fine), but they wouldn't be my Turtles.