Thursday, April 12, 2012

Triptych: Slime Creatures From Outer Space

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"Maquinitas" by Andrés Ariza

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"Foot Soldier Beat Down" by Bobby O'Herlihy

"Ancient Ninja Xenomorphs" (t-shirt) by Billy Allison

There's been a lot of uproar lately over Michael Bay's appropriation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and his decision to mess around with the canon, and while I don't have a lot to say about it due to the fact that (while I have very little faith in Bay and the touted 'co-creator' involved, Kevin Eastman, is the slightly douchier of the Eastman and Laird duo) it feels like a bit of a tempest-in-a-teacup situation, I feel like I should say something.

So the issue at stake here is that Michael Bay is producing a reboot of TMNT. The director on-board is one Jonathan Liebesman, responsible for such cinematic masterpieces as Battle: Los Angeles and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. The title of the film - or the working title as of this writing, at least - is "Ninja Turtles", and the summary on IMDb reads: "Aliens invade Earth and inadvertently spawn a quartet of mutated reptile warriors, the Ninja Turtles, who rise up against them to defend the world." Already, you can see why the TMNT fanbase has been provoked:

1. Michael Bay is not known for respectful treatment of source material;
2. This Jonathan Liebesman bloke is hardly a subtle or adroit filmmaker;
3. The "Teenage" and "Mutant" parts of TMNT have been dropped (in favour of being, one presumes, a more edgy 20-something-ish and alien);
4. "Aliens spawn mutated reptile warriors" sounds like the plot of a direct-to-video Asylum mockbuster of TMNT, rather than a legitimate TMNT summer blockbuster.

While all of this is more than valid, I think the one big takeaway here is that Michael Bay clearly does not understand, or care, how fan culture works. The man is not a geek - he's the furthest thing from a geek imaginable. He does not love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles any more than he loved Transformers. To him, Transformers and now TMNT are properties to be exploited, and the worst part is, the world has proven him right. Michael Bay made millions, and grossed Paramount BILLIONS, with his execrable Transformers franchise, and paying homage to the classic animated series, or lip service to the now 20- and 30-year-olds who grew up watching it, was never part of his equation. So my question is not, "How DARE Michael Bay pervert the Turtles that I know and love?!" My question is, "Why do you keep expecting something different from Michael Bay, and what right do you have to be so outraged?"

This bears repeating: Bay's first Transformers movie grossed over $700 million dollars worldwide. Do you know how much the animated Transformers: The Movie made, back in 1986? $5.8 million. Accounting for inflation, that's a little over $12 million, meaning that Bay's Transformers reboot made FIFTY-EIGHT TIMES as much money as the original animated Transformers. And that's just the first of his unholy trilogy... The two sequels grossed $836 million and $1.12 BILLION worldwide, respectively.

The argument could be made that Bay would have made just as much, if not more, money by sticking to the script and paying heed to Transformers canon. My response to that is: bullshit. He didn't do that because he didn't care, even a little, about the fans. He knew that the formula ("Giant CGI Robots" + "Big Explosions" + "Hilariously Stoned Parents") x Established Toy Franchise = Success. Now, this makes me just as furious as anyone out there, because it means that something I love from my childhood has been exploited and prostituted in the interest of crass commerce, but let me just say this:


He's going to keep pimping out everything you love until the world stops paying him more money than you or I will ever see in our lifetimes. He will remake, reboot, warp, degrade and poison anything and everything with the slightest sheen of nostalgia that he can get his hands on, because the movie-going populace is proving him so, so right. Frankly, I'm surprised that he even condescended to respond to the TMNT fanbase with some nonsense about how the Ooze was originally from outer space and besides, he's got Kevin Eastman on board with this so everything's kosher, guys. I'm surprised because it seems out of character for him, but I'm also surprised because it indicates just how little he thinks of the fans he's so thoroughly discounted his entire career. He is pretending to care about the fans, when he has been given ZERO reason to do so up until now, and now that he's said his piece, he's going to ahead and just do whatever he wants regardless.

Stop thinking that there's any hope for TMNT. It was dead the minute Michael Bay got ahold of it. The only thing you can do now is refuse to pay to see it and hope that enough other people in the world feel the same way. To a man who understands things only in financial terms, critical feedback is meaningless, so instead of trying to reason with Michael Bay's brain or appeal to his heart, go for his pocket. Your internet outrage only proves to him that he's getting attention. Stop paying for his movies and direct your anger at anyone who does. Make it a genuinely shameful thing to have seen a Michael Bay movie.

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