A common criticism of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer, released yesterday, is that looks a lot darker than what most fans of the original “cowabunga!”-filled Saturday morning cartoon expected, both tonally and visually. Another criticism: That it looks like a generic Hollywood blockbuster, all the charm of the original leeched out of it. A third: That it just looks bad. In an interview with Coming Soon screenwriter André Nemec talked about the first criticism, though not the second or third. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t dark! It’s a light, fun movie! A light, fun movie where buildings collapse and everything is shadowy and the turtles look like they were spat forth from some fiery hellscape.
Take your kids!
“Tone was a very interesting question on this movie as far as how dark we really wanted to go. It’s really all in the conflict between the characters. That was the driving principle,” says Nemec:
“The color palettes that were chosen were not designed to be Dark Knight-ish in that regard. We weren’t looking to make that movie. I’m a huge fan of that movie, but I didn’t eat gobs of popcorn while I was watching that movie. We certainly didn’t want kids to be running for the exits. ‘Mommy! Why did he do that?!’ We weren’t looking for that. We really wanted to entertain and have fun with it. I think we skate — we live — on a very fun line in this movie, whether it’s the action feeling real and exciting, but also fun and adventurous. It really never feels dark in a way that would startle you out of your chair or make you fearful.”
He added that growing up the Turtles were always just “fun to watch. I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when I’ve seen anything Turtle-related that didn’t put a smile on my face when I was watching it.”
So: Happy good times, at least according to Nemec. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a trailer misrepresented a movie. Gritty reboots are so hot right now; maybe the Paramount Marketing team just threw something ~~dark~~ and ~~mysterious-looking~~~ together for maximum impact, and the next trailer will be all about pizza and ’80s slang and ridiculous inventions and fanservice.
Then again, the screenwriter isn’t the only one who has a say in how the movie turns out. Nemec notes that the film has “Michael Bay aesthetics,” Bay being the producer of the film, which indicates to me that we’re looking at explosions and property destruction out the wazzoo. And the director is Jonathan Liebesman, who directed the gritty alien invasion drama Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans, which was ridiculous, but not intentionally so. I’m not sure I’m entirely confident in his ability to deliver a pizza with extra cheese.
Nemec also revealed his influence for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon, which seems to me like he’s barking up the right tree—and spoke about his reason for changing the Turtles’ origin story. Specifically, in this new movie Shredder and April’s father were responsible for creating the Turtles. (Our buds at Geekosystem take an optimistic approach here.) “You guys all show up and you all know the story,” says Nemec:
“To show up and know the story when you’re walking into a movie — as much fun as it is to be beholden to the stuff that came before — it’s sort of no fun for the people that will think, ‘Oh yeah, I saw this movie before’ or ‘Oh yeah, I read the comic of this movie.’ We wanted to make sure that we were adding elements that at least added some sense of unity. That could take you on the journey and not make you feel like it was a road that you already traveled down.”
Whether Shredder was specifically written as a white dude or whether it was someone else’s call to whitewash him: Not addressed.