Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weasel of the Week: Michael Bay

Everyone knows the story behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who were a comic book phenomenon first before breaking into TV in the late 80's. And, you know what they say. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Someone had better pass that homily on to filmmaker Michael Bay ("Transformers"), and quickly. Bay took a ton of heat when it became public on Wednesday that he intends to tweak the Turtles' by-now familiar origin for a feature film due next year from Paramount & Nickelodeon. The script isn't finished, but what has leaked out so far has fans in an uproar. You see, what Bay and his writers intend to do is suggest the Turtles are actually..........aliens. You know, like Superman, who just happens to also have a movie out next year. Hmmmmmm.............!

I first read this in a wire service article that appeared in today's New York Daily News, as well as a smaller piece on Yahoo!. In both, actor Robbie Rist (ex-The Brady Bunch), who voiced one of the Turtles in the first of their live-action feature films in 1990, was quoted as saying that if Bay goes through with what has been documented, it would be tantamount to "raping our childhood memories". In the wire service article, another actor, Brian Tochi (ex-Space Academy), who had played another of the Turtles, gave his approval of Bay's plans.

Too often lately, Hollywood creators have been too quick on the draw to put their own stamp on cherished cartoon & comic book icons, and the result has usually been disaster. Fans prefer to have a more faithful adaptation of their favorites brought to the screen, not some silly, let's-blow-the-special-effects-budget-and-see-what-happens, misguided mistreatment. Under the right circumstances, and script, some adaptations succeed better than others, like, for example, last year's "The Smurfs", which hit #1 despite mixed reviews. 2002's "Scooby-Doo" was a clear case of playing to the internet, and showing little respect to the franchise's history. Sure, it made a good chunk of money, but it could've been better.

The Turtles' last big screen go-round was just a few years ago in an animated movie, after 3 live-action films in the 90's. Bay wants to, in a sense, reinvent the wheel by reinventing the Turtles, and he claims that one of the creators (he didn't specify) is working with him on the project. Apparently, whomever is writing the script did one heck of a sell job, but, to use another time-honored cliche, if you play with fire, you're bound to get burned.

That all having been said, we bestow the Weasel ears this week on Bay. Just because he revived one 80's franchise, doesn't give him license to mishandle another.


Anonymous said...

In a capitalist society, everything becomes a commodity. If you own the commodity, you have the right to do with it as you will, regardless of what others think. Sad, but true.

hobbyfan said...

Ah, but here's the rub. If the commodity is being licensed to a 3rd party, which technically Paramount is in acquiring said license for the Turtles, you have to respect the pre-established fanbase, and there are a lot of people who aren't exactly putting Bay on their Christmas card list, if you catch my drift......

magicdog said...

I can understand wanting to reboot a cartoon or movie franchise, but there is a difference between honoring your source material (and its fanbase) and just wandering off the reservation completely.

I had heard about Bay's announcement and once he said the turtles were going to be aliens, I knew Bay had gone off the deep end. He might as well have changed the characters to fluffy pink bunnies and he'd have received the same reaction.

Worst of all, he followed up with a statement that essentially blamed the fans (the people who are potential ticket buyers) for "jumping the gun" on their instant negative reactions to the announcement.

Remember why happened when "The Last Airbender" was mangled into a shadow of its animated counterpart? The same thing that's going to happen if Bay refuses to acknowledge that it's not all about him and his vision.

hobbyfan said...

Last Airbender was hamstrung by the fact that it's actual animated title was "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (which I'll be reviewing soon), and the Avatar name was, of course, co-opted by James Cameron to start another movie franchise.

Bay is messing with something that has been successful for nearly 30 years, and is too busy counting his money to realize his mistakes.