This past weekend, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“was released on the world and though the Turtle franchise is still popular with kids and adults alike, Paramount’s latest reboot of the franchise is not exactly getting the love from the online community. Though the film has the support of Turtles original co-creator, Kevin Eastman, and is produced by the “Transformers” reboot master, Michael Bay, it hasn’t stopped many from drinking the Haterade. Bloggers and Turtle fans have been taking to social media to voice their disdain for the film. Criticisms include Megan Fox being too sexy to be cast as the hard news reporter April O’Neil and that the CGI depictions of the Turtles don’t have enough “Turtle Power.”
This is the first reboot of the big blockbuster franchise since the 1990’s. It stars Megan Fox as April O’Neil and Will Arnett as her cameraman Vernon Fenwisck with Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello) and Pete Ploszek (Leonardo) voicing the Turtles. The film tells the original story of teenage Turtles that become mutated warriors and face off against an evil mastermind who wants to destroy New York.
We caught up with the film’s director, Jonathan Liebesman and star Megan Fox to learn more about the film and to give them a chance to answer their critics and squash the haters.
Though many were opposed to the idea of super sexy Megan Fox playing the role of child friendly April O’Neil, she admits that she campaigned for it. “First of all, I don’t mind [being portrayed as a sexy siren]. It’s been a part of being an actress in Hollywood since the beginning. I don’t feel ashamed or [that] I can’t be taken seriously while also wearing a tank top, but I was attracted to this because I was a fan as a kid and really wanted to do this.”
After meeting with the filmmakers, she sent everyone emails saying “if you don’t cast me, I understand. I just want you to know that I am going to be in the audience regardless.” Director Jonathan Liebesman joked, “I remember that email.” He didn’t feel Megan’s obvious sexiness was worth making a point of or even hiding it. However, he emphasizes, “when I met Megan and got to know her, what comes across is someone who is much smarter than people give her credit for and who knows that there is literally more to her than meets the eye and that was something that I really wanted to put into April O’Neil.” Jonathan’s goal was serving fans who love Ninja Turtles and he wasn’t interested in sexualizing April O’Neil, because he feels she is sexy as is.
Megan discloses that she was apprehensive about stepping into such an iconic franchise. “…I had an older sister that was really into the movies and so I got into it because of her. I watched the cartoon also. I really just campaigned to get this [role] because I was a fan. I was afraid at the same time because you don’t want to ruin something that you loved and be part of its downfall, but I just feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity.”
To the online groups who say they won’t see this reboot of the Turtle franchise, Megan had this to say, “Well, let me tell you something about those people. How much money did ‘Transformers 4’ make? Exactly. Those people can complain, but they all go to the theaters. They all see [Michael Bay’s] movies and they are going to love it, and if they don’t love it, they can go fuck off and that is the end.”
Likewise, Jonathan confesses that growing up in South Africa, he too was a fan and now was worried about breathing life into the Turtle franchise. With Michael Bay involved, it allowed production to have money for scope and special effects. Wanting to keep the story in the forefront, Liebesman gives credit to the writers because they didn’t allow the technology to get in the way of the big draw of the film– the characters’ charm. He also sought to keep the Turtles less than serious. Jonathan admits “I remember when I met Kevin Eastman [TMNT creator] and he told me that he created them as a parody on super heroes and the fact that they are so absurd makes you interested, but the fact that they are so relatable keeps you interested.”
Jonathan found uber-successful director-turned-producer Michael Bay a great sounding board for this project. “Bay is super helpful because he reacts to things very instinctively and we could show him something and he could say that is too creepy or that is too light and that is not enough and I think he was always the gage.” Bay had goals he wanted to achieve with the Turtles. Jonathan explained, “what was important to Mike was that the Turtles were all distinct, which is unlike the cartoon or the previous movies, [where] they just have bandanas. With his experience with Transformers, he wanted moms to be able to tell the different characters and we made it our mission to give each [qualities] that would [show] in a physical way their personalities. So Bay kept us on that narrow path.”
Jonathan admits the most important thing for him was to have a film that didn’t take itself too seriously or lose the charm of what the Turtles are. He says he thinks there is a need for that now. “I think there is a definite place for serious super hero movies, but do think that when you have something like ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ it is a parody and it takes the [chutzpah] out of super hero movies and it is just supposed to be fun. I am so happy that everyone sort of pulled the movie into the fun zone.”