No, Superfans, Michael Bay’s New ‘Ninja Turtles’ Isn’t “Raping Your Childhood”

It feels like we’ve been hearing about the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot for a decade now, but, inexplicably, it still hasn’t been released — and that big day may have been delayed yet again. Geeks of Doom is reporting that the movie’s been pushed back from its August release to a holiday slot, with roughly one-third of the film being “completely reshot” under the personal supervision of producer Bay. (That should put everyone’s mind at ease.) The culprit? Presumably last week’s release of the film’s first full trailer, which made the iconic story of pizza-chomping, mask-wearing ninja turtles look way stupid. Fans took to the forum and Twitter, furious at how Bay and his evil henchmen were ruining their beloved franchise, seemingly unaware that said franchise was always stupid.

It hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride for the Bay TMNT. It’s been knocking around for years, and getting knocked around since early 2012, when Bay offhandedly mentioned, at an event for co-producers Nickelodeon, that his mutant ninja turtles weren’t even ninjas — they were “an alien race.” Fans went bananas, and Bay had to hit his official forum to calm them down (actually using the phrase “Fans need to take a breath, and chill,” because, y’know, Michael Bay). Shortly thereafter, the production was temporarily shut down, its release date pushed back from its original December 2013 date to May of this year, which was delayed again to August, and now may see yet another shift on account of that dastardly trailer.

Here’s my confession: I’ve watched the trailer (above), and I just can’t get all that pissed off about it. Maybe I’m not the target demo for outrage here; I just barely missed the whole Ninja Turtles thing, though I read enough of the underground comics to find it hilarious that they’d become a honest-to-God juggernaut, with action figures and backpacks and live-action big-screen vehicles (with Vanilla Ice cameos, even). Don’t get me wrong — it looks fucking terrible, and I can’t imagine the kind of person who watches it and thinks, “God, yes, I’m plunking down my $12 on that post haste.” But it doesn’t look any worse than any number of big, terrible, dumb summer action movies. And it certainly doesn’t look any worse than Bay’s Transformers series, which, sorry, is directly responsible for all this — if he hadn’t made Paramount a gagillion dollars on that kitschy, stupid ‘80s property, they wouldn’t have put him in charge of this one.

And that gagillion dollars is what it comes down to, and what these superfans will never fully grasp: when something like this comes along, it isn’t about legacy, or preserving your precious nostalgia. It’s about making fresh money. Over the past decade or so, Hollywood has completed its metamorphosis into an endless remake and reboot machine, and if the familiarity of a brand gets the green-light, the thinking of those writing the checks is to find what makes it marketable beyond those familiar with the brand (or, at least, those whose familiarity with the brand is passing at best). This isn’t even the first time for this franchise; after the initial early-‘90s trilogy, we saw a CGI-animated TMNT back in ’07, to say nothing of the three revamped television series that followed the initial, 1987-1996 animated show.

Still image from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (2014)

And lest we forget, many of these sneers and complaints and cries of (ugh) “raping my childhood” preceded Bay’s first Transformers movie as well, which was just as ridiculous then as now — after all, the idea of someone angrily defending the artistic integrity of a half-hour cartoon advertisement for a toy line is downright comical. But it’s easy to lose track of one simple truth as you get older, and it’s this: Just because you liked something when you were a kid, doesn’t mean it was good. Revisiting some of this swill with a critical eye and an open mind reveals that many of our beloved childhood properties haven’t aged all that well. We’re attached to them as totems, symbols of a particular moment in our lives, rather than as works of art (or, more often, commerce).

But that blurry line is indistinguishable for much of the Internet’s angry-fan contingent, which blasts away at every perceived slight to their well-cultivated entitlement. So here’s a wild thought, for fans of Ninja Turtles and Star Wars and whatever other aged masterpiece Hollywood is ruining: you’re under no obligation to go watch the train wreck. Back in 1999, I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, said, “Whew, that stunk,” and didn’t bother with the rest of the prequels. And here’s what’s amazing about that: Not only did the original Star Wars movies not disappear from my shelves, but I continued to view and enjoy them. Your cartoons and movies will still exist, superfans. But when you throw a giant tantrum every time someone touches them, you look less and less like the adults you’ve presumably grown into.