Michael Bay’s Postponed TMNT Script Has (Maybe) Leaked

You may have already forgotten this, but Michael Bay was producing a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot for Nickelodeon (retitled to just “Ninja Turtles”), but the project got shitcanned – I’m sorry, postponed – earlier this Summer. Said postponement came shortly after alleged details about the screenplay (reportedly hated by the people financing the project) leaked to the web. The “big deal” detail was that the main characters’ origins had been revised to make them aliens.

Well, now it seems like the full screenplay might have been leaked, according to the fan blog “TMNT, NOT TANT,” which seems to have been dedicated wholly to railing against this particular project. The whole thing is online in a pdf which is linked from TANT; but just in case there’s some kinda skullduggery going on here I won’t directly link to it.

There’s been absolutely zero confirmation of this yet, so this could all be an elaborate hoax. But I’ll say this: if this is a forgery, it’s a pretty damn good one – containing every detail that had previously “leaked” (even the non-outrage-inducing stuff) and reading like exactly what you’d expect from a Bay-produced “modernizing” of the franchise… but not in an overblown self-parody way.

Yeah, I read it. Yeah, I’ll fill you in. And since this MAY actually be the real deal, and the thing MAY actually still get made, SPOILER WARNING for everything after the jump.

Okay. Overall? It’s not good. The ritual-slaughter perpetrated on the mythos aside (lets be frank here: TMNT has already been drastically re-fitted and rebooted plenty of times before) it’s just not a very good action script. Locations, characters, arcs and plot turns are generic, action scenes are uninspired and been-there/done-that.

Biggest numero-uno glaring problem from a strictly technical standpoint: The four Turtles just don’t have any character “on the page.” They all read the same – which is to say, they all read like the first live-action movie’s version of Raphael. The character “details” are there (Leonardo is the pragmatic leader, Raphael is the sarcastic hothead, Donatello is the techie, Michaelangelo is the big kid, etc.) but they don’t “read” any differently. Admittedly, it’s the sort of thing good voice casting would go a long way toward fixing.

Either way, the Turtles aren’t the main characters. Our lead is Casey Jones – here, a small-town teenage hockey goon whose girlfriend (April O’Neil) has left him to pursue a TV journalism career (at… CBS?) in The Big City. It’s Casey who, by happenstance, discovers the Ninja Turtles, rescues them from a military experimentation facility, gives them their color-coded masks (they all look the same and he needs to tell them apart, haw haw) and offers to help them get back to Master Splinter in New York (exactly where April went – what are the odds!!??) Yup – it’s Sam from “Transformers” all over again.

The “alien origin” is in there, but it’s meant as a third-act surprise. The Turtles start out having been raised (by Splinter, as ever) under the impression that their origin was the same as the comics and the cartoon – i.e. ordinary turtles mutated by mysterious ooze. Speaking of which, the occasionally-stated dictum that this was going to be “closer to the Mirage comics?” Complete bunk – it’s the 80s cartoon by way of Bayformers; with Bebop, Rocksteady, Dimension X, The Technodrome and Krang all present and accounted for.

But what about Shredder? Well… this is the stuff that initially made me think this still might be a parody: In this version, the main heavy is COLONEL SCHRADER, who runs a covert military squad codenamed “THE FOOT” that is hunting the Turtles and also bosses around Bebop and Rocksteady (who are more-or-less direct lifts from the cartoon, save that they actually use their guns.) Big second-act reveal: Schrader is also a mutant/alien/whatever disguised as a human who produces blade from his body like a mecha-porcupine. (Michaelangelo: “Schrader? More like SHREDDER!”)

So what does Col. Schrader want? Well, he’s an advance-man working for Krang (still a living brain, riding in a humanoid mecha-suit with four arms) who’s waiting over in Dimension X to invade Earth (by merging the two dimensions) with The Technodrome (the Utroms, Neutrinos etc don’t appear to exist.) What’s been keeping him?

Well… the TMNT are Superman, basically. Humanoid Turtles are apparently an indigenous race to Dimension X (a generic jungle planet, incidentally), and the four we know are (what else?) THE CHOSEN ONES, spirited away to Earth via Splinter as newborns just as Krang was taking over and fated to return and use their predestined Ninja Weaponry (they seriously do not get their familiar weapons until the end of the movie!) to set things right. Also, there’s some B.S. about magic orbs that had been hidden on Earth that were holding Krang back, but we’re informed that he just got done tracking them all down offscreen.

The whole thing ends with the by-now expected “Return of The Jedi” pitched three-way battle: The Turtles fighting Krang on NYC rooftops while Casey and April try to short-circuit the dimensional merging aparatus (Casey single-handedly takes out Schrader, Bebop and Rocksteady. For real)as Splinter and The U.S. Military battle Krang’s invasion force; culminating in a bizzare setup for more sequels: Turns out the Turtles “destiny” isn’t to remain together and fight crime, but rather to split up to the four corners of the Earth and each guard one of those dimension-seperating magic orbs and to train their own individual squads of pre-teenage Ninja Turtles. In a final bit of fanservice, April ditches her go-nowhere “internship” at CBS (surprise! She’s exaggerated her glamorous NY life to Casey and was really just an errand girl – betcha didn’t see that coming!) and instead becomes an “underground webcam blogger” (oooh! How current!) for ChannelSix.com. Heh. Oh, and the “Turtles arriving at their orb-guarding posts” montage seems to set up a movie-verse version of Venus from “The Next Mutation,” FWIW.

So… this reads like it could be the real thing to me, but it could just as easily be bullshit. If it is real, though, it feels like a bullet has been dodged. It doesn’t even really read like a “Transformers”-style disaster, really more of a dull, standard-issue action dud. Despite how many franchise-friendly advances have been made in the fields of CGI and choreography, the script is shockingly light on the “Ninja” part of it’s title: The Foot Soldiers are just generic Black Ops mooks with machine guns (the Turtle’s shells are bulletproof) and most of the action scenes are just chases – until they get their weapons at the end, the extent of the Turtles’ martial-arts prowess is limited to shuriken-throwing and improv-weapons. The big final fight with Krang is clearly meant to be the big payoff – at least, here are the guys as you recognize them – but too little, too late.

I actually really like the prospect of having Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang turn up in live-action, but the execution of them is pretty terrible. Krang, especially, is a boring “evil for the sake of it” heavy; which is a problem because he becomes the main threat in the third act. Schrader is a pretty dull bad guy in his own right, but at least if he was the “end boss” there’d be history with the various characters sort of paying off. One of Krang’s (not-even-a-handful) lines is to trot out a version of the “Your father looked just like that when I…” lines; referring back to a (biological) father the Turtles and the audience never knew and just found out existed.

We’ll probably find out shortly if this is indeed the real thing. Until then… whoa.

23 thoughts on “Michael Bay’s Postponed TMNT Script Has (Maybe) Leaked

  1. Anonymous says:

    Your reading of it as a generic CGI action dud is spot on. As I've always said, it takes a genius to make something completely, truly, irredeemably terrible. Anything short of genius just can't muster the clout, creative freedom, and sheer balls to go full retard on a production. Some such geniuses include Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Ang Lee, Joel Schumacker, Francis Ford Coppola, Gore Vidal, Tim Burton, M. Night Shyamalan, and George Lucas. The poor schmucks roped into writing and directing Ninja Turtles will not be joining those ranks.


  2. Cyrus says:

    Anyone else feel nostalgic for the 2007 CGI movie yet? Sure it had a needlessly complicated plot and lacked the Shredder, but the Turtles' personalities and their issues as a family were all spot-on.


  3. Viredae says:

    I get the vibe that this script is also kinda sorta sexist, not in a big way, just that April's whole story arc is a pretty big offense to her character; yeah she got captured alot, but she was still a pretty proactive character in her own right, something this movie seems to be pissing all over.

    I'm not saying it's intention is to be racist, just that it's horrible in a lot of ways and that this is one of the effects.

    Oh, and I get the feeling that this movie is nowhere near the passing point of the Bechdel test.


  4. Rory says:

    Wow, any excuse to throw in a Military wank-fest sequence for the Bay Sake of it!

    But I'm already picturing the mechanical humanoid robot body of Krang having swinging steel testicles that are *gasp* his week spot! >_<


  5. Eze says:

    After reading this, I don't feel bad that there is a reboot of TMNT coming to Nickelodeon in September that's CGI and has the original Raphael voice actor, Rob Paulsen, voicing Donatello this time.

    In fact, after reading this, I'm actually MORE anxious to see the new reboot on Nickelodeon.

    Comparatively, I'd take the new cartoon, for if anything, it tries to blend 3 mediums (comic, 80's cartoon, and CGI film) together as best as they can.

    Final note: I'm glad, VERY glad, they got rid of this script. But, don't be surprised if trace elements of it end up in the finished product…


  6. Blue Highwind says:

    My only regret is that it is all so terribly true.

    Seriously, if this is a parody, its so spot-on to how awful movies like Transformers are, that it hardly counts as parody anymore. Michael Bay would love this script. You know why? Because he doesn't give a shit.


  7. KevinCV says:

    I hate to say it, but I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Bay wasn't just trolling us at this point. He knows how much it burns us that he made a fuckton of money smearing his shit all over the “Transformers” franchise, and he feels like he can continue to get away with it on the “Ninja Turtles” franchise as well. I think it's time to stop encouraging him.

    Also, I'm in agreement with Cyrus. I enjoyed the 2007 movie despite the lack of Shredder. It was a solid movie that I felt had just the right balance of grittiness and silliness. I also applaud the creative team's decision to go with regular voice actors for the Turtles, and established actors for April O'Neil, Casey Jones and some others.


  8. Rarer Monsters says:

    The 2007 movie had a really good idea, which was to attempt to mimic the circumstances of the franchise with the film (the turtles “retirement” mimicking their time out of the limelight) in order to have a nostalgia nod and make it seem more like the series is back with a vengeance. It can definitely work (The Muppets of all things handled it perfectly), but the problem is that a lot of the necessary context was missing and fans were just confused as to what was supposed to be happening.

    It could have definitely been fixed, but even without it was an decent movie. Not great, but decent.

    Also, I'm noticing that the “missing Shredder” thing is becoming more the default, where the “Origin” movie includes a lesser or invented villain and then the fight against the iconic villain is set up for the sequel (see Nolan-Batman, Sherlock Holmes, New SpiderMan, X-Men First Class, Rise of Cobra to an extent), with the exception being the Avengers movies (which generally worked better… so take that for what it's worth.)


  9. Sanunes says:

    @Rarer Monsters

    I think the reason why the iconic nemesis is being reserved for the second movie is that they will have the entire movie devoted to the conflict, instead of spending half the movie on the origin of the hero and then the other half on the iconic villain.


  10. Anonymous says:

    I tend to agree with the first poster, the “save the big villain for the sequel” is just hard core aping the Batman Begins->Dark Knight formula. And I think Nolan and Warners only did it that way because they didn't want to use villains previously featured in the Burton Schumacker movies on their first installment to avoid repetition and direct comparison on the first one.

    This script totally feels like “Do to the turtles what Bay did to Transformers.” Which means it's hard to tell if it's real or not. Either this is a really shrewd parody of Bay's operating style or he really is that crass.

    Oy. What I would have given to see Krang and the Technodrome in a live action turtles movie. I remember being in elementary school as each of the three originals came, everyone guessed an hoped that THIS time, in the NEXT sequel, we were finally going to get it. Those hopes were culminated and dashed in number 3, but still. But not like this. Dear God, not like this.


  11. Anonymous says:

    ” It doesn't even really read like a “Transformers”-style disaster, really more of a dull, standard-issue action dud.”

    It doesn't? I haven't read the script yet, but from they way you describe it, it sounds exactly like the Transformers movies with some things changed around, which makes it worse because TMNT isn't about an alien planet ravaged by war.

    Reading this raised a few questions. Are Bebop and Rocksteady actually mutants? Where does Splinter come into play? Is he a mutant? How did he get the turtles? Schrader sounds like a German name, would they even cast an Asian to play him? I guess it doesn't matter because he's not even a human anymore. The Foot is a military team, so how does it transition to the military fighting Krang's forces at the end?

    I would also like to see the 80's cartoon stuff get more respect, and when you said it was heavy on it, I breifly though, “Cool, maybe it won't be too bad”. But the more I read, the more I'm glad this isn't getting made.


  12. Lord Slithor says:

    You know, while I still regard the TMNT cartoon of the '80s as a complete bastardization of the original Mirage comics, even that was closer in some respects to what this script is. This… is just so far removed from anything familiar with TMNT that they might as well just call it something else.

    I have a pretty strong feeling that this script is genuine. It just feels like something Bay would do. Glad it's not being made…at least, not in its current form. Hopefully they'll get someone that will turn in a more faithful retelling – and maybe also boot Bay as producer.


  13. Anonymous says:

    You know guys really, all this attack on Michael Bay, I don't know why its not like TMNT was a good cartoon to begin with. I thought it pretty much was silly and it got stupider as it went along. The movies too, they got really stupid by the third one and the fourth one. Yes, Bay may mess with shit in this movie. But really do I care TMNT wasn't a brillant thing to begin with. People need to stopping being so fan hurt over things, I remember the backlash against Abrams' Star Trek. That was unreasonable as well, any director can screw up an adaptation and for that matter in fan's eyes you can't always get everything right as its not the only thing the filmmakers are considering when making these projects they also want normal non-fans to go to.


  14. Anonymous says:

    This may sound strange, but the idea that the Turtles are actually creatures from Dimension X seems to be the only well thought out idea in all of that. Baring in mind that in the 80's and backwards, things like toxic waste, nuclear fallout, atomic explosion, and radiation poisoning didn't kill you, but rather gave you superpowers. That idea doesn't swing now a-days (though simply replaced with “generically altered” being the new sciency plot device). But the advantage of having the turtles be native to Dimension X is that the movie doesn't have to bumble with including the Ooze as part of the plot. Just like how the Watchmen movie benefited from not having the giant cyclops squid because it would make the movie twice as long and less realistic to explain it.

    Everything else sounds horrible though. Especially the main character being Casey Jones reimagined as a high schooler (I bet you he's awkward too) and Bay's signature fan boy-ism of the US military.


  15. Anonymous says:

    The reason why the fourth movie turn out the way it did is because it follows the plot line from the first three movies. So its not a remake its continue of the story. Which is why their in retirement and theres no shreddar.


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