10 things we want from the Ninja Turtles movie (with Lego)

With Megan Fox cast in the forthcoming Ninja Turtles reboot, Matt outlines the 10 things he'd like to see in it - with the help of Lego...

The recent announcement that Megan Fox will be playing April O’Neil in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film caused the internet to do that thing it does whenever Michael Bay’s name is mentioned. While I love bellowing, I’m not really going to get into that today, as it seems like the thing people are most angry is about is Michael Bay’s face and I don’t really have a problem with it. I think his face is all right.

What I will mention, though, is my surprise that they didn’t cast someone made entirely out of Lego bricks. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lego has just come out, and goodness me, it’s great. I’m not someone who is into Lego, as I can’t really work it, but as a Ninja Turtles obsessive I had to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised, not least by how detailed the sets are. It’s brilliant having tiny little Lego Ninja Turtles with tiny little Lego foot soldiers for them to fight in a tiny little Lego sewer lair. If things don’t work out with Megan Fox, I’ve got a tiny little Lego April O’Neil that director Jonathan Liebesman is quite welcome to have a borrow of.

A new screenwriter, Evan Daugherty, is currently working on the script, and we here at Den of Geek have decided to write to he and his colleagues at Platinum Dunes a list of some things we’d like to see in the film (accepting that, sadly, we’re not going to get an 18-rated slash ‘em up ninja war). I can’t imagine that they won’t be delighted to read what we have to suggest. We’re well respected in Hollywood.

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Maybe this is crazy. Maybe I’m going mad. Maybe I just wanted to include Lego in this article so badly I’ve come up with this ridiculous and utterly tenuous link (although I’ll point out to you that the editors of this site deemed this list more acceptable than ‘Top 10 Oh My God Ninja Turtles Lego!!!!!’). But if we all want the new Ninja Turtles movie to be awesome, shouldn’t we be looking to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lego for inspiration?

It would take a real maverick to even attempt to drag this soft connection out any further, much less across an entire article. Luckily for you, Den of Geek prides itself on being something of a maverickapolooza. So, here this is. Platinum Dunes – a selection of things from this list would no doubt provide you with the bricks* you need to build a great Ninja Turtles movie. 

1. A decent story

Last August a script for this film leaked online. Producer Bay dismissed it as something that was worked on before he officially came on board and suggested that it “saw the shredder a long time ago”, while internet people suggested that he was a liar and a cad. Shortly afterwards, the start of production was delayed, with script problems the rumoured cause. Now a different writer is working on it.

Whatever the truth, I’d like to express hope that the film will have a strong story, taken from a finished script that is in place when it starts shooting. A simple hope, perhaps, but it’s not uncommon for Hollywood movies to start shooting without a finished script. Bringing in a new screenwriter suggests that Platinum Dunes is aware that it will be under scrutiny, and is trying to get things right.

Legosplanation: The Turtles Lair Attack set is made up of around 14 million pieces of Lego. The instructions (both books!) are kind of important.

My ability to put Lego together is nothing short of appalling. I tentatively join bricks together like they can never be taken apart. Watching me build even the most basic Lego construction is akin to watching a drunk negotiate an escalator while cradling a beloved kebab. There’s a cheap joke at the expense of the team behind this Ninja Turtles movie that could go here, but I’m not your guy. 

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If we’re having instructions for Lego, a $100m blockbuster could probably do with a decent set, too.  

2. A film that uses the source material

The original TMNT comics are great, and there’s definitely stuff in there that would work in a Ninja Turtles film. If you’re not in some way setting up a sequel based on the City At War arc, what are we even doing here? I really hope they’ll take advantage of all the cool older stuff. Not just the comics, either.

I can’t say I’d be too enthused to see a close match to the cartoon series that launched TMNT into the stratosphere, but there are certainly elements of it that you could dig into and have some fun with. There’s going to be a lot of people in your audience who remember this show, and there’s nothing wrong with giving them something.

Legosplanation: I’m not necessarily young, and Lego hasn’t changed in my life. It still works the exact same way and it’s still incredibly popular. No one has given Lego a military title or switched the bricks out for alien bricks or… er… I don’t have more. 

This is another really simple one. If it ain’t broke… 

3. A film that uses the current interpretations

Two different versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are currently running. The Nickelodeon television series is so much fun (it’s on Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings). In it, the TMNT are proper teenagers, which I’d love to see represented in the new film. Honestly, a film version of this show would be good with me.

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That said, I’m hopeful that some thoughtful soul has been sending copies of the recent IDW comics to the team working on the film. The current arc is called Krang War, which is a film subtitle that I could get on board with. The comics are doing a fantastic job of marrying elements of the old cartoon with a tone close to that of the original comics. It seems crazy that series writer Tom Waltz isn’t involved in the film, because what he’s doing (along with co-writer Kevin Eastman and some other great writers on the micro series side books) is exactly what Platinum Dunes should be aiming for.

Legosplanation: Who doesn’t love Lego crossovers? This article is mostly just me enthusing about Lego Ninja Turtles (based on the new cartoon, at that). You can get Lego themed sets based on all sorts of great series (Lord Of The Rings, Batman, Spongebob Squarepants – the list goes on). Lego is embracing what’s going on now and it’s working out great.

4. Aliens

But not the Turtles, obviously.

I’m talking about squishy alien brain things in robot bodies. The originals were called Utroms, the most famous version is villainous megalomaniac Krang and the latest ones from Nickelodeon are called Kraang, and are sort of a mix of the two.

We’re yet to see a squishy alien brain thing in a Ninja Turtles film (the scientist in TMNT 2 was originally to be revealed as an Utrom in the stomach section of a robot body, although it didn’t end up happening in the film).  It’s time, guys. Give us a Krang!

Legosplanation: Lego Kraang! 

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5. Good fighting

Michael Bay’s reputation is such that we’re all expecting quite a few explosions in the upcoming movie. There’s even a rumour that one of the fire clouds from Bad Boys 2 will make a cameo appearance. That’s fine with me, although I hope they won’t forget what we really want from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – four little green guys fighting an overwhelming number of ninja baddies using their trademark weapons and martial arts skills.

Kevin Eastman (the co-creator of Ninja Turtles, who has been working with Platinum Dunes on this movie) referenced martial arts smashfest The Raid when talking about the fight choreography for this film. Whether they’ll achieve that remains to be seen. Still, lots of punch ups that look like the fights in The Raid is a good target. The fighting is the fun part, after all, and if nothing else, this film needs to be fun.

Legosplanation: If you don’t know how to play with Lego, there’s no point in having it. Lego and Ninja Turtles are there for us to have fun with.

6. Big Trouble In Little China 

It baffles me how much trouble filmmakers seem to have deciding what to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. If you’re not immediately struck by an idea, just copy Big Trouble In Little China. It has everything a Ninja Turtles movie needs – a light comedic tone, heroes with personality, martial arts, dastardly villains, ninjas, creatures and even a squishy alien brain thing.

In fact, Kevin Eastman has previously spoken of the film’s influence on the character Casey Jones. 

I sincerely hope that Platinum Dunes has worn out its Big Trouble DVD while preparing for Ninja Turtles.

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Legosplanation: I don’t have one. I could have watched Big Trouble In Little China twice in the time it took me to not put this Lego together? There should be Big Trouble In Little China Lego? I don’t know. 

7. Lesser known villains

We’ve seen the staple villain of Ninja Turtles in two of the four Ninja Turtles films. The movies that don’t use him invented their own villains, and they made something of a hash of it. There are some great villains in the world of TMNT, most of whom we’ve never seen on the big screen. How about using some of them?

They don’t even need to be the main villain. How about a supporting part or even a brief cameo? Why not assume the film will be a big success and set up a different villain for the sequel? I’d love to see The Rat King or Slash featured. Also, it’s surely time we saw Bebop and Rocksteady, right?

I’m not asking for everyone at once (in fact, attempting to do everything on this list in one film would likely result in a bigger mess than my Lego efforts), but it’d be cool to have a couple. 

Legosplanation: Lego have got loads of villains involved. Seriously, we’ve had four theatrical Ninja Turtles films, and no Baxter Stockman. Lego included him in their first wave and the set looks brilliant. 

8. Shredder

Shredder is so closely associated with TMNT for good reason – he’s an excellent villain. Other bad guys, a squishy alien brain thing and whatever else working against the Turtles is fine, but for the first film at least you’re going to need Shredder in there, and he’s going to need to be impressive. I’d strongly recommend wrapping a skilled martial artist in as many sharp edges as you can find.

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Legosplanation: Of course there’s a Lego Shredder, and of course he looks brilliant, with a big scar over his eye and cool pointy blades. Lego have put the work in, and we have a really great rendition of an iconic character. 

9. A good cast

The human characters in this thing should be cast well, and this is the only area that I’ll express my concern at Platinum Dunes. I’ve seen most of their horror remakes and I’m not a fan of their casting. They tend to go for the kind of actors I’d expect to see in teen soaps, like The OC or whatever the modern equivalent is, who look like catalogue models and may not be the strongest performers.

The first Ninja Turtles movie was really well cast, with Judith Hoag (who, as a Bay regular, needs to pop up in this new version) and Elias Koteas putting in excellent performances. I hope Platinum Dunes will consider this, and also take a look at some of the great actors filling out the roles in other recent major blockbusters.

This isn’t a knock on Megan Fox, either. Fox was fine in This Is 40 (a film in which her character had almost nothing to do) and she was great in the utterly underappreciated Jennifer’s Body. If the part’s written right and she gets the direction she needs, Fox will do a good job. That said, I was outlining this article before she was cast, and I originally chose Kat Dennings or Brie Larson.

Legosplanation: Maybe the actors should be blocky? I don’t know. Look, Legosplanation turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I said I would review this Lego and it’s just been really hard to frame. I’ve said it’s terrific, and you can see from the pictures that it’s great, what more can I do? I can barely put the stuff together. My wife had to do it for me, and it took her no time at all. It looks brilliant and is, apparently, really easy to put together.

10. A film about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’ve tried to shy away from Bay comparisons and assumptions in this piece as much as possible, because I like to be constructive (hence the Lego). However, I’m going to reference Transformers here, because I think this might be the only genuinely important point in the entire article. Sorry you had to read so far to get to it*.

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The Transformers films were about Shia Bebooooffff’s character, not the Transformers. I don’t think anyone wants to see the Turtles reduced to supporting characters in their own film. I love the character Casey Jones and I’m sure a spin-off movie about him would be terrific. There’s no reason April O’Neil couldn’t be a significant part of this film. But people are the supporting characters in TMNT and they need to stay that way. 

I suspect there may be some trepidation about the characters not being relatable, but that’s simply not the case. The Turtles have very human personalities and are commonly defined by their position as outsiders. That’s why they attract outsiders, like April O’Neil and Casey Jones – the Turtles even relatable in their own stories.

Legosplanation: Lego gets it. Every set in the Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes with at least one Lego Turtle. 

And if all this is simply too confusing for the team behind Ninja Turtles to handle, I suggest director Jonathan Liebesman steps aside and lets my wife direct it. She’ll have the film sorted out and looking good in no time at all.

*I’m so sorry.

** I’m actually not sorry.

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The pictures in this article feature the Turtle Sewer Attack Lego set, except for the Kraang picture which features the Kraang lab set. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lego is available to buy now and is brilliant. Cowabunga?

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