Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer breakdown

Feature Matt Edwards 28 Mar 2014 - 11:25

In the wake of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer, Matt provides an in-depth breakdown of what it all means...

Yesterday we got our first look at the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. If you missed it, you can find it here, although it’s weird that you clicked on the trailer break down article before watching the trailer. 

Now, I know a lot of people are angry about this trailer for all sorts of reasons, as is their right as members of the internet, and I also know that Michael Bay’s Transformers films are insanely popular even though it seems like everyone on the internet hates them. I’d do a whole thing about that to introduce this piece, but I’d just be going through the motions. We all know all of that, don’t we? Michael Bay didn’t even direct this (although his name pops up all super-big in the middle of the trailer). Shall we just get on with having a closer look at this trailer?

“Our great city is being destroyed”

So says William Fichtner in the voice over at the start of this trailer (in what turns out to be some of his conversation with Megan Fox’s April O’Neil). We don’t have the context of this conversation but, quite helpfully, we get some visuals of a bit of their great city literally falling down. And another bit of it being flown through by helicopters. No sign of a Turtle Blimp, mind.

Cut into this and throughout the trailer are several clips of military-looking Foot Soldiers ‘sweeping through’ locations in what I believe are referred to as ‘formations’, and sort of waving machine guns and rat-a-tat-tatting them about. They’re wearing smart black clothing and have some pretty cool masks on. The Foot Soldiers look pretty cool, right? I think they look cool.

Scale wise, we’re looking at a save-the-city type of situation (or possibly larger), it would seem. Because otherwise, the top is falling off a building and they say the city is being destroyed but it’s all incidental to the plot. The scale of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is always going to pose an interesting question. As these establishing shots show us, the new film is very much New York set, which has traditionally been the home of the TMNT. But if we’re referring back to the original comic books, or even the 1990 movie, the urban NY-set stories tend to work on a smaller scale. They’re hand-to-hand combat between not that many people/turtles to resolve personal disputes or exact revenge, which I don’t think we’re going to see in a hundred-plus million dollar blockbuster. So we can, it seems, expect a bigger story than in previous Ninja Turtles movies. 

As for specific action set pieces, it looks like the Foot are up to something in the subway. They’re shooting into the ceiling, people are hitting the deck and April O’Neil is covertly filming them. There are all sorts of light effects going on, but at this point in time we don’t know if that’s a style choice from the director (Jonathan Liebesman) or whether the Foot’s nefarious plan involves taking control of the concept of light and playing silly buggers with it. Amidst all of these subway shenanigans a Foot Soldier is struck and flies through the air, smashing into a wall. Others follow suit, being bashed into things by an unknown basher. If I were gambling man, I’d have a pound on Raphael being that basher, just like when he rescued April O’Neil from a subway attack in the 1990 movie (in a scene that, it should be noted, is awesome). 

Also, that looks like the Foot Soldiers in the sewer. I’d put a second pound on them attacking the Turtles’ lair (it also looks like it’s a CCTV image, too, so expect the Turtles to know they’re coming). But that’s it for me, gambling wise. I’m not made of money.

Where you from? You Sachsy thing!

So, traditionally, Shredder has been Oroku Saki. Through the years, though, there have been several Shredders in Ninja Turtles comics and cartoons. In the 2003 cartoon series, we ended up with three different Shredders, one of whom physically came out of the internet. In the Image comic run, Raphael becomes Shredder for a bit. In this version, it seems likely that a good part of the story will involve Eric Sachs (William Fichtner), which sounds like a westernised Oroku Saki, becoming Shredder, however that happens. Sachs is a slick, important-looking chap in a nice suit. We had an Oroku Saki a bit like that in the 2003 cartoon series, albeit Japanese. He turned out to be a small alien in a robot suit. 

Here’s Sachs looking decidedly unShredder-like as a silhouette in a dapper suit with April O’Neil in front of a cool, Japanese looking background thing. Maybe not so westernised after all, eh?

And here he is meeting his own armour in front of maybe a space warp?

So, where is this armor coming from? It looks more spacey to me than old Japanese armour. I’d be hopeful that it’s got something to do with alien brain things (with variations called Utroms, Krang or Kraang depending on your favourite flavour of TMNT canon). In the recent IDW comic series, Utroms have been sticking their noses into Earth during all sorts of time periods. I wouldn’t put it past them to be making an appearance here. There’s a bit more to this guess, but I’ll just leave this hanging for now, all mysterious, and come back to it in a few paragraphs with more evidence.

“That’s what your father and I were trying to do.” 

The above is a quote from Fichtner’s Eric Sachs, because I love quoting that guy. This hints at a new origin story for the Turtles (as does the “Heroes are not born…” voiceover bit), which I’ll come to in a second. First, what’s going on with April’s dad? He’s appeared in both the new TV show (utterly brilliant, by the way) and recently in the IDW comic series (also utterly brilliant) as a scientist. In the comics, he worked with Baxter Stockman at Stockgen, the lab where the Turtles were accidentally mutated during a ninja break-in. They might be doing that in this film, I think. I think that origin story, obviously depending on how it’s executed, has the potential to work well in this film, connecting April O’Neil with the Turtles’ inception.

Then there’s the above shot; a canister of ooze with the TCRI logo on it (and another word – ‘something-rator’ that I can’t make out that probably holds a vital clue as to the plot). Some of you will probably be thinking that they’ve botched the name, as in the film TMNT II: Secret Of The Ooze the company TGRI. Well, they changed it in that film from TCRI in the comics, so it’s this film that’s got it right and now you look like an idiot. Ahem.

Anyway, TCRI stands for Techno Cosmic Research Institute. So, going back to our mysterious Utroms bit earlier, the cosmic part really does make it seem like there will be aliens in it. Plus, when they were debunking the alien Turtles thing, Bay specifically mentioned alien ooze. God I hope there are Utroms/Kraang/Krang in this film. 

“People want heroes Miss O’Neil”

So where are the heroes in this thing, anyway? Well, April O’Neil is all over the place, just sort of reacting to things and sometimes filming them. In fact, when she does finally meet the Turtles, she reacts herself completely out of consciousness. To be fair, this is in line with how April O’Neil has traditionally reacted to meeting the Ninja Turtles (the most notable exception is the Nick TV series that subverted the trope by having Casey Jones faint upon meeting Splinter). There’s really not enough here to know anything about how Fox does in this film as April O’Neil. 

We get our first peek at a TMNT when Leonardo appears, sort of lurking on top of a water tower. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘Matt, that’d probably be a reference to the comic book story City At War, or perhaps the 2003 cartoon, I reckon.’ I agree with you. In fact, the first time they killed Shredder in the 2003 series (he was always getting killed in that series) he got swept off a roof by the water from a collapsed water tower. Water towers: significant to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and remarkably dangerous.

As the trailer shows us little flashes of action things, we get to see the four Turtles, either a bit or a lot depending on the Turtle.

Here’s Leonardo:

Here’s Donatello with his back to us wearing a proton pack:

Here’s Raphael kersplatted against the side of a car:

And here’s Michelangelo without his mask on:

I have heard the complaints that Michelangelo looks like Shrek. You may have noticed that I’ve been quick to defend this film against complaints. In this instance, yes, Michelangelo does look like Shrek, and yes, it is funny. Sorry Mikey.

So, although we haven’t had a good look at Raphael and Donatello yet, we now have a pretty good idea of what the Turtles look like. They look better in motion than they did on the leaked promo standee a while back. The lips actually look fine when they’re talking. As for the noses? Well, it looks a bit odd, doesn’t it? I do understand the complaints, but as it stands it’s not really bothering me. Also, the TMNTs are really physically big. No idea how that’s going to work, but they were pretty big in the 2003 series, which I feel like I’m mentioning a lot, and it didn’t seem like a problem.

The trailer builds up to a reveal of the Turtles, so we don’t get to spend much time with them. We see a sequence of them sliding down a snowy hill, before Raphael hits the side of a car. Kersplatted is the term I used earlier. That leads me nicely to the word gritty. Everyone on Twitter, even the parody accounts, has mentioned that the new Ninja Turtles film is gritty. Er, but is it? I know it looks quite dark and the Turtles don’t look very wacky, but it looks light and fun to me. We see a Foot Soldier get flung through the air into a wall and Raphael land like he’s hit a vehicle made by Acme. We’ll see, but I think the tone of this film may be lighter than some are expecting.

Finally, then, is the Michelangelo mask joke. That’s such a funny joke, and one that I can’t believe I’ve not heard before. It’s kind of a zinger. I don’t have much to add to this, other than that Noel Fisher, who’s playing Michelangelo, seems like a great fit for the character.


Honestly? I like it. I think it looks really fun. I’m keen to give the team behind this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a chance, even if they wouldn’t necessarily be anyone’s first choice for the movie. The way they’re using other versions (particularly the current ones) is interesting and I’m excited to see how the changes work and what surprises there will be. More than anything, though, I bet William Fichtner is the business in this.

Moreover, this is a one-minute, 20-second trailer that doesn’t actually feature the main characters that much and doesn’t feature a bunch of supporting characters, such as Splinter (Danny Woodburn), Vernon (Will Arnett) and Burne (Whoopi Goldberg). This is only giving us a vague idea of the film and it’s too early to draw much in the way of conclusions. It sort of makes you question what the point of this article was, doesn’t it? As it stands, I’ve written about 25 words for each second of trailer. This is insane. 

So, to conclude, it’s got new ideas and old ideas and is short but I think it looks good.

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Disqus - noscript

You're my hero. Kersplat.

Awesome article. Also, the "rator" is just part of "laboratory", so I don't think it's too major a plot point.

You deserve a pay rise.

only analysis on the internet worth reading.

I'm with you man!
Excited for the film and I hope it is like the 2003 cartoon cause that's the one I grew up with!

Great article. All the negativity for this is utter nonsense. What exactly are people expecting from this film? The Godfather? Citizen Kane? They're giant mutated ninja turtles that fight crime for crying out loud! I think it looks superb and the turtles look spot on. Michaelangelo is obviously gonna look young. He's the youngest of the group! Im all over this and cant wait to see it. TURTLE POWER!

excellent article. i am really looking forward to this movie, the turtles look amazing and i was really impressed with how natural there movements where. thought that Fichtner’s Shredder came off as cold and Machiavellian, which is awesome, and Megafox has it going on as Miss O’Neil.

Great analyisis. I liked the trailer too, all in all, it doesn't tell much (which is good) and I seriously don't like Megan Fox for April but I can deal with her. I just hope this doesn't become another half-an-hour-of-buildings-falling thing.

Orange and Teal: The Movie

Loved this show growing up. Used to wake up at 5:30 am as a kid to watch the show on Sky TV in the late 80's, a puppet cat presented if I remember rightly. I'm looking forward to the film, but they seem a lot bigger than I remember.

Or maybe the early 90's. Getting so old I can't remember.

I love this trailer.

Surely it's Shrek who looks like the Turtles? And not the other way around.

I definitely wanna watch it. I used to watch the old cartoon and have the movies, and I had the sewer, the technodrome, the turtle van, and beaucoup action figures. You mentioned the blimp and I said "man I always wanted that! And the submarine!" As much as you wanna see krang, that's how bad I wanna see Bebop and Rocksteady. Maybe part 2? Unless we get Taaka and Raazar again, what with all the similarities you've pointed out. An Ernie Reyes Junior cameo would make my day.

I'm glad you like the new cartoon too. Never watched the 03 one but my kids watch this one, abs I love how Mikey always names the badguys, and one time he was ranting about something and suddenly his head looked like the classic cartoon, I was rollin!

I think it was both

Katt Williams once made a joke about their masks, "it's not like you're a giant turtle or anything"

Amy Adams would've been a great April.

Shame she's playing a spunky journalist in another blockbuster series, ain't it?

Which is also more culturally relevant and 'serious and gritty'. Still, a TMNT by someone like...Edgar Wright could work. Amy adams doesn't fit in that scenario either. But still.


TCRI Laboratory

Nope, Shrek and The Turtles never looked similar, until this iteration.

Dammit, can anyone tell me why I can never properly login to Disqus on here, everytime I try I get the window pop up, I log in, it disappears and then nothing happens and I'm not logged in. I want to talk about TURTLES!

Definitely getting old then.

Fichtner's awesome in everything.

That makes 2 of us

It looks good and its nice to have a trailer that doesnt give all the plot away

The DJ Cat Show on Sky! What a blast from the past! That was the Turtles series I grew up with and loved - with Hero instead of Ninja in the name - haven't really paid attention to other iterations to be honest.

Well in the current comp anim one, my kids watch it, Mikey said some joke I can't remember, but his face turned into the 80's 2d look, and I bout fell back out of my couch. Which is against the wall.

Freeze frame the first foot soldier being thrown into the wall. Its not a foot soldier! Its a main character ;)

I wonder what a desert-camouflaged US army Hummer is doing in the snowy mountains? Perhaps they're repeating the story of the Turtles being exiled and taking refuge in the countryside, except that here the Foot/the military follows them?

Glad somebody else mentioned that how is that not obvious?

Still not convinced. I mean, have we not learned already? MB is a man who thinks we're all idiots, looks down on the audience as idiots and just makes insults to the audience as idiots, not matter what role he plays in the film, his 'stink' still lingers. As for director Jonathan Liebesman, to me, he has just directed dull film after dull film that has no joy or life to them. If you like Texas Chainsaw the Beginning or Battle: Los Angeles, or Wrath of the Titans, fine, some people like that.

Not to mention the main purpose of a trailer is to sell the film to a potential audience by teasing good bits or just straight out showing the best parts of the film... marketing strategy and so-on. Turtles is no great work of art, I know, but it can be great pop-corn fun and Bay and his wrecking crew can't even do GOOD pop corn films anymore... just insane insults to our intelligence. And wallets.

This article settled it for me. I loved the ninja turtles as a kid but moreso the idea of them rather than following the cannon, same with street sharks and biker mice from mars, so I don't have a childhood on the balance here. But this movie definitley brings back the old feelings I got imagining badass mutant turtles with ninja gear roaming the streets fighting other ninjas and talking animals. I feel like that's all we really need right? As long as there isn't too much focus on Megan Fox's boring ass this movie should be fire.

here I was thinking i couldn't be any more disappointed in Fox's casting :p

I had no idea that the mask joke had never been used before. I had a pretty good laugh when I first watched the trailer. Now when you point out that it was never done in any of the many iterations of the franchise I actually have a hard time believing it. It's such an obvious joke lol.

Technodrome. I want there to be the Techonodrom.


There will probably be 9 other films showing the same time this comes out. Just pick one of those and your wallet and intelligence will remain free from insult.

I'm sure I will give it a miss. What's just sad however, is that tons of other people won't, and probably complain and do the same thing they did with the Transformers films.

lol, this is true

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