Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Back in Live Action Movie in 2011?

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesA few months ago, I wrote about a rumor that they were going to be doing a hybrid Ninja Turtles film, with live action actors and CG Turtles. It appears that it wasn’t too far from the truth. In fact, depending on how you look at it, I was exactly right. But I didn’t expect them to do it like this, or to take it in the direction that they are. Take a look at this story. I’ll comment on it at the end.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are making their way back to the bigscreen.

The Mirage Group, which owns the property, is moving forward with a live-action film focusing on the origins of the iconic crime fighters. Project, targeted for release in 2011, would mark the fifth bigscreen outing for the sewer-dwelling heroes Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael as well as their master Splinter.

News coincides with the Turtles’ 25th anniversary celebration, which kicks off Thursday in New York as the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film unspools at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Legendary Pictures former chief marketing officer Scott Mednick is producing the new pic alongside Galen Walker, who produced the 2007 computer-animated “TMNT” pic, the most recent installment in the franchise. Peter Laird, Gary Richardson, Frederick Fierst, Eric Crown and Napoleon Smith III are exec producing the film, which is based on the characters created by Laird and Kevin Eastman.

The characters first appeared in a May 1984 comicbook before spawning a lucrative line of toys, cartoons and three films released in the early 1990s. In 2003, the Turtles were reintroduced to a new generation via a TV series, the “TMNT” film and a revamped merchandising program.

The latest project is being financed by Lightbox Prods.

“The original dozen comics created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman are some of the best source material one could hope for,” said Mednick, whose exec producing credits include the upcoming “Where the Wild Things Are.” Laird, who bought out Eastman’s share of the property several years ago, said the film will remain true to the spirit of the original comicbooks. He added that the pic may employ face replacement technology, which would allow the turtles to be much more expressive.

Today’s 25th anniversary “Shell-ebration” will also include lighting the Empire State Building in “turtle green.”

Got all that? Okay, let’s focus on the important parts of it.

First, let’s get this out of the way: they’re hoping to use the original twelve comics as source material From what I understand, having never read those, they have pretty well covered that spirit in the most recent film, TMNT. It was pretty dark, thematically, and I don’t see them getting much darker than that.

Here’s where the CG comes in: the film may employ face replacement technology. That’s a very interesting thing to suggest… I’m not as keen on that as I would have been to see hyper-realistic CG turtles roaming around in the world, like Transformers. To make the turtles more expressive? Yeah, it will make them more expressive than they were in the first three films, but only as expressive as in TMNT.

In the first paragraph, they mention that they want to go back and tell the origin story of the Ninja Turtles again. The story that’s been told in the comics, the cartoons, and the movies. The only questions are: how in depth are they planning on telling the story and what version of the story are they going to do?

You see, Splinter has two origins. In the 1987 animated series, he was a human to start with. In the movies he was always a rat.

I’m also curious to see Splinter train the turtles for the first time, as well as how they all learn English. Not that it really matters much.

Does this mean that Shredder will return? Will he return, then, as leader of the foot clan? In the first three films, they kind of wrote themselves into a corner. They had Shredder done right in the first film, while the second film turned him into Super Shredder. The third film departs from Shredder as villain, even though the Turtles wind up in feudal Japan, by time-travelling. Had they taken their time with the story, they could have had an ancestor of the Shredder as the primary villain. That would have added a layer to the history of the battle between foes. It would also have made sense as to why Shredder recognized the turtles as a valid threat, if he had a family legend that was passed down to him.

It would have made a much more interconnected saga.

The fourth film features a new leader for the foot clan, as well as the Shredder’s helmets from the first two films. At the end of the film, it even references the Shredder’s rumored re-appearance. This left the series wide open for another film, like TMNT: Revenge of the Shredder or something like that.

Now, we’ll never know where that story was headed, and can only dream of what might have been. The new turtles film might have nothing to do with that. I’m looking forward to it, but only as far as the potential that the movie has. And out of curiosity. It should prove an interesting movie. We have some time though, it’s still a couple of years off.

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