Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Trailer Breakdown / by Steve Russell

In follow up to my previous post for the TMNT TV Spot, featuring our first glimpse at a certain Sensei, I’ve gone ahead and broken down the full trailer, including my thoughts on the project. 

So, what are we waiting for? Procrastination has always been one of my worst best friends (or is that best worst friend?) but let’s not waste another moment.

0:00-0:21

First things first: we’re greeted with an ominous, because of course it is, voice giving us some obvious exposition. “Crime, violence and fear have run rampant. Our great city is being destroyed.” This is done to the backdrop of, seemingly, everyday occurrences for the average New Yorker; gang violence in subways, mass antenna structures collapsing, you know the drill. Having visited NYC for the first time a fews years ago, I can confirm this is absolutely what happens there. Would every movie based in NYC lie to you? 

0:22-0:42

There it is, the simple name association that will have people decrying blasphemy before even seeing the movie. Granted, you could argue history tells the story for us *cough*Transformers*cough, but do you really think Michael Bay would be the prolific film maker, albeit not great public speaker, if the Samsung event is anything to go by, if he didn’t make films that had an easy mass appeal? His style of filmmaking is so well known now and, arguably, he has saturated his own ‘niche’ that his auteur characteristic is easily identifiable by even the most casual of cinema goers that, no matter what he does, his own movies almost look like pastiches of Michael Bay movies. Inception-style. 

Well, alright. Now we see who the mysterious figure is talking to; none other than April O’Neil herself, Megan Fox! Interesting that they are in a face to face meeting here, with the mystery man having somehow getting April to agree to meet with him.

We get a better look at the goons involved here and the question has to be asked: are these simply mercenary types, or are these going to be the Shredder’s Foot Clan?

We then get an idea of how contemporary this movie is, especially in contrast to it’s 90’s brothers, by having April hold up her cellphone to capture the beatdown on the Merc/Foot Solider. I think it’s a safe assumption that footage is going to go hella viral; it would be pretty awesome if they would purposefully ‘leak’ that footage for marketing purposes, a la Cloverfield. Yes, I would love to take a position as your new marketing executive for my amazing concepts. 

0:43-1:10

And here is, possibly, THE most interesting aspect to this trailer. The line: “Heroes are not born, they’re created.” Leading to the idea that TMNT are the product of scientific purpose, as opposed to freak accident, like every other iteration of their story. The man finishes by stating to April, “That’s what your father and I were trying to do.” Now the plot thickens, April has some sort of loose history with this man and his company, if only tenuous and associative. 

We finally get a few snippets of the Turtles themselves; Leo standing tall, Donatello’s shell, and we also get confirmation as to who the man, obviously, is as he approaches the Shredder armour. 

Shredder.png

More clips of New York and Times Square getting messed up, followed by Leo performing a terrific dive and landing, and we finally get a good look at the character design of the Turtles. 

At around the 1:00 mark we get to see some Turtle double team action as Raph and Donnie skid down the side of a snowy mountain, the kind they have in Central Park, as a rough Raph rasps out, “Donnie!” 

Donnie responds with a “Batter up!” before swinging Raph into the side of a military jeep, accompanied by the “FWOOM!”, ever prevalent in a Bay picture. 

1:11-1:30

Big title screen with the new font for the movie, followed by April reacting to Leo’s jump once again. This time, however, we’re treated to a close up of the fearless leder, complete with odd rattan body armour, in an obvious hero shot. Note the little NYC badge he’s sporting? Cute.

Mikey comes along to try and put April at ease, removing the mask to reveal himself to be, as someone I know put it so wonderfully: the lovechild between Shrek and Lord Voldemort. April faints and ‘August’ and quick credits roll us out. 

My immediate take away on the trailer when I first saw it, honest to God, was “Thank Christ, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Seriously. Which I suppose goes to show how much I expected from it in the first place; sad to expect the worse, considering how good I want it to be. It’s no secret I’m a big Turtles fan. As The Other Guy of UK AniFest team, I tend to get a lot of reviews and projects that doesn’t revolve solely around anime and its ilk; I’m the guy who talked about the Turtles, I’m the guy who talks about pro wrestling. I’m The Other Guy. But, considering my fanboy status for those brothers four, I’m happy to say I wasn’t sickened by what I saw. 

There are a few elements I hope play out for the best; Shredder being a white American male, for example. There are also aspects I hope get fleshed out and won’t simply be used for throw away fodder, namely Will Arnett as Vernon. Vernon was always used as slap stick comedy relief, no doubt, but in a movie that I’m sure will be pushing past the two hour mark, I don’t want every aspect of his screen time to involve him falling over or saying something dumb. Will Arnett is too good, and too funny, for that. 

The only thing that has stuck in my craw the entire time I’ve been charting the new Turtles movie (really brought to light when the production design model photos leaked) is the core design choices. Not in how they look, which I’ll talk about in a moment, more in the needless and totally unnecessary creative choice to give each Turtle a defining design trait outside of their weapons and different coloured bandanas. Leo has that weird rattan armour, Donnie sports sci-fi goggles and, possibly, the Gravity Gauntlet, Raph sports a full red bandana like some sort of pirate, and Mikey has that stupid necklace. Weapons and differently coloured bandanas are enough, Michael Bay. Perhaps there’s some sort of story reason as to why things are as they are, probably not though. More merchandising for a property that has already proven over the course of an upcoming 30 years (!!!) to be able of practically printing money. Silly creative decisions. 

Now, the Turtles themselves. When I first played this trailer I had a few friends with me and some of the responses ranged from confused, to enthused to vitriolic. Mostly to do with how they actually looked. Mikey does indeed look a little bit like a monster freak, and you know what? I think that’s a good thing. A great thing even! My concise argument? They can’t look cute or cuddly, not really. Why? Because they are MUTANT MAN TURTLES. Looking odd, looking different and playing that up will really allow the Turtles to suffer an inner conflict stemming from their ‘otherness’ and the need for acceptance; to fit in. 

There’s always been a depth to the Turtles; from their origin story to their brotherly dynamic, there’s more than meets the eye (see what I did there, Bay fans?) Don’t believe me? Go back and read the heavily inspired Daredevil/Frank Miller take in original comics. The darkness is there. It’s what makes them so damn compelling. Who hasn’t felt slightly different, as though they don’t fit in? That’s what makes their brotherhood so tight; no one could possibly understand, except for their brothers. 

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this movie as it comes out, and you’re damn right that I’ll be there day of release for the first screening. I’m not being naive about this, however. I have my doubts, but I’m glad to see the Turtles back so strongly within the popular conscience, and once again making waves within pop culture. 

If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have my excuse to write so enthusiastically about them here.

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What did you think of the trailer? Are you stoked for the movie, and what are your theories of what we’re seeing here? Shout out below!

Steve "The Other Guy" Russell // @stevetendo

You can listen to Steve Russell each Monday, as he hosts a roundup of the weeks oddest news story over @ The Totally RanDumb Podcast