TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Comic-Con Panel Recap: Trying to Find Turtle Power in Hall H

by     Posted 148 days ago

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I want to be excited for Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I loved the Turtles when I was a kid.  I collected the play sets, went to see the 90s live-action movie multiple times, and watched the animated TV show religiously.  While no remake is going to take that away, I would like to be as excited for the Turtles now as I was back then.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anything yet to turn me around, so I hoped today’s Comic-Con panel would do the trick.

Hit the jump for my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comic-Con panel recap.

Panel Highlights

  • teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-final-posterThe panel began with a brief video about the Turtles origin as comics’ creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird explained how they came up with the idea and the surprising, massive success that followed.
  • Eastman then came on stage to the music of the 90s TV series.  He told the moderator that he and Laird never expected to sell one TMNT comic and then the 30 years of success have been a blur.  Eastman also says he was brought on early in the development of the reboot because they wanted him to be part of the process.
  • Then director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller came on stage.  Form said one of the first things they did was call up Eastman and asked him questions for hours about Turtles.  They heard fun anecdotes about what to name the characters like Shredder, who was almost dubbed “Grater” because Eastman almost slipped on a cheesegrater.  Laird suggested “Shredder” would be better.
  • After we were shown some footage, Megan Fox (April O’Neill) and Will Arnett (Vernon Fenwick) took the stage.  When asked how they joined the film, Arnett quipped, “Well, Megan and I interned at Channel 6 for eighteen months.”  Jokes aside, Fox said she watched the show because she was born in 1986, so she was part of the key demographic, and was aware of April and her different iterations.  Arnett says he was a bit too old when the Turtles started to become popular, but he had a younger brother who liked it.  Arnett became more aware of the property because his kids are fans.

Audience Q&A

  • In order to adapt the Foot Clan into something more believable, Liebesman said they were re-imagined as a paramilitary organization, although they’ll still do martial arts.
  • When asked about their favorite Ninja Turtle, Arnett, Fox, Liebesman, and Eastman all said Michelangelo (Eastman said Mikey was “near and dear” because he was the first Turtle he ever drew); Fuller said Leonardo; and Form said it was a tie between Raphael and Leonardo.

Footage

  • teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-noel-fisherThe first footage we saw takes place ten minutes into the movie.  April O’Neill knows there’s a vigilante group fighting against the Foot, and she’s hot on their trail, but she doesn’t know they’re turtles.  When she sees a bunch of people fleeing the subway, she rushes in to see what’s causing the commotion.  Once inside, the Foot Clan, who are taking hostages and setting explosives, immediately captures her.  However, the Turtles are watching the surveillance footage on a panel of TV screens (although one TV has Keyboard Cat playing chopsticks with chopsticks), and decide to spring into action.  The Turtles manage to rescue the hostages while staying incognito because the lights in the tunnel mostly go out except for an occasional flicker where we see the Turtles beating up the Foot Clan.  Afterwards, they go to celebrate on top of a building, but April follows them, snaps a picture, and we get a whole thing where the Turtles try to figure out how to deal with her because they want to keep their identities a secret.
  • But mostly, this character scene is about quickly establishing their personalities: Leonardo is the stern leader, Raphael is the hothead (but not in a fun way; his fellow Turtles make fun of his “Batman voice”), Donatello is the brainy one, and Michelangelo is the goofball who also thinks April is hot.  If there’s any humor that’s working, it’s in capturing the camaraderie between brothers who are constantly bickering and ragging on each other.
  • Near the end of the panel, we got another scene.  This was a big set piece on a snow-covered mountainside where April, Vernon, and the Turtles are on the run from the Foot Clan, and I just couldn’t get into it.  It never feels like the Turtles are really there.  Perhaps in a finished film I’ll buy them as characters and forget they’re CGI, but in these brief scenes, I was always aware that they’re nothing but pixels.  It’s made worse by action scenes where they don’t seem to have any weight.  All of the Turtles look like bodybuilders, but they’re remarkably agile when the scene calls for it.

After the presentation, I wasn’t swayed about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one-way or the other.  My biggest takeaway is that when the Turtles are charming (and they can be; I laughed at some of their lines), they have to do it against their grotesque appearance.  It’s like someone decided to take each word as literally as possible when asked, “What would a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle look like in our world?”  There might be a fun story in Liebesman’s film, and fans were jazzed when a sizzle reel showed Splinter fighting Shredder.  I hope to share these fans’ joy when I see this movie because I still remember how much I liked the Turtles when I was a kid.  But then when I see Raphael say “Cowabunga” in the grittiest voice possible, I can’t help but shake my head.

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  • mattinacan

    Not surprising, this has the foul stench of Bay.

    • Damn

      I hear that. I keep trying to get excited for my childhood’s favorite tv show, but every time i see the turtles, Splinter or Shredder . . . all i see are green, organic transformers.

    • Damn

      I hear that. I keep trying to get excited for my childhood’s favorite tv show, but every time i see the turtles, Splinter or Shredder . . . all i see are green, organic transformers.

    • ItsNotaSchooner

      Actually it totally feels like the turtles. I think they may have nailed it!

  • appolox

    I feel like the turtles were designed to look all gritty like that is because the movie was originally meant to be really dark, but they decided to add the trademark humour afterwords.

  • Manuel Orozco

    This is gonna be an epic ending to summer 2014

  • Mezmero

    I can’t take it anymore the movie will be out in a week or two and this is still going on? You don’t have to see it but it looks way better than exspected. This has every element of the first live action and the TMNT cgi movie that are the best out all the films,you can’t tell me that you don’t see them as anything less. I will see this because I’m a fan not a Bay hater who says he is a fan.

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  • https://soundcloud.com/soup_herman soup, herman?

    Opening paragraph should read:

    “While no remake is going to take that away, I would like to be as excited for the Turtles now as I was back then. Unfortunately…I’m a grown ass man and should not have lofty expectations for a remake to try and replicate something as ethereal as my childhood.”

    If I were an adult in the 80′s or 90′s, I probably would have felt a lot of the movies and TV shows that I loved as a kid were silly. If the new TMNT manages to engage a new generation of viewers and reignite the franchise with a youthful fanbase, then it’s served its purpose. I don’t think it matters if I (at 31 years old) don’t care for it.

    • Miru

      And lastly

      “Oh well, at least the Nick show is the only decent thing left on the network now that Korra’s gone wholly digital”

  • Oliver Queen

    Less than a month before the release they still bring the film to cc? They are not confident. And realistically, you don’t need to change a ninja clan into a terrorist group in a movie with giant talking turtles, if Batman Begins can have a ninja organization then so can TMNT. I really hope the finished product is good.

    • Abed

      The League of Shadows was a ninja terrorist group, which sounds like TMNT is copying. Although I hope they do it in a way they are making fun of it, like the Foot Clan in the original comics was making fun of the Hand Clan in Marvel comics.

    • Abed

      The League of Shadows was a ninja terrorist group, which sounds like TMNT is copying. Although I hope they do it in a way they are making fun of it, like the Foot Clan in the original comics was making fun of the Hand Clan in Marvel comics.

  • Oliver Queen

    Less than a month before the release they still bring the film to cc? They are not confident. And realistically, you don’t need to change a ninja clan into a terrorist group in a movie with giant talking turtles, if Batman Begins can have a ninja organization then so can TMNT. I really hope the finished product is good.

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  • Kaine Morrison

    Thankfully me and my friends will all be seeing this for free!

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  • ItsNotaSchooner

    Matt,
    As a huge fan of the original cartoons, comics, and live action movies, I’ve been very interested and concerned about this movie since they announced it. I definitely didn’t like the new look of the turtles once images started to leak, but once I started seeing the trailers, and especially hearing their classic banter and brotherly interactions, I knew they had nailed it. And I’m sorry, but I highly disagree with you as far as the CGI representations of the Turtles. They look fantastic, they look big and massive, yet have the dexterity of a swift ninja. I think you’re just a person that get’s too caught up in CGI. I think back when there was some really bad CGI in movies and TV it definitely put people off because it looked cheap, but today’s modern CGI is pretty stunning. I know I’m looking at computer generated images, but they’re done so well that instead of forgetting it’s not real, I’m impressed like looking at a painting. With this movie, I think you’re going to need to buy a big bag of popcorn and let that smile wash over your face. The Turtles are back, and they look and badass and funny as ever!!

  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    Matt,
    Have you ever watched real life martial artists Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins or Marko Zaror? They’re all built but they’re all amazingly agile. Zaror in particular can move faster than you’d think someone of his size moves. That said as a fan of most iterations of the Turtles I can’t wait to see this. It looks like the TMNT flick if the franchise was created today. It infuses all the heart, humor, action, and family values of the past into one crazy flick. I see bits of the original film, the comic, and every cartoon in the clips I’ve seen. I can’t wait. The Turtles are truly back and getting their due!!

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