Ninjas. Turtles. Ninjas who are turtles. I ask you: how could it possibly go wrong?
Wait – what’s this? Readers, I ask you to bear with me as I frantically transcribe the bizarre events now happening in my very own apartment. As soon as I put the final question mark after “wrong” at the end of the last paragraph, heavy clouds crowded the skies, blocking the sun as they rumbled ominously. Lightning flashed! My freshly scrubbed linoleum kitchen floor crumbled like a stale cookie into a yawning, sulphurous pit, from which tongues of fire licked at my shoes. As I tremble in horror and confusion, I see a shape emerge from the billowing smoke. It’s…Michael Bay?
Michael Bay: Hey! Did I hear someone invoke the Unspeakable Movie Curse?
Me: But – Michael Bay? Are you seriously Michael Bay?
MB: Yeah, I’m Michael Bay! I’m here to talk about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Which, by the way, I recently improved. Like, they’re much better now than they were when you were a kid. Seriously, I’m lost for words. My genius overwhelms me.
Me: Well, uh, as long as you’re here, Mr. Bay, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
MB: Hell, son! That’s what I’m here for!
Me: Uh…OK. Well, first of all-
MB: Oh wait, wait, wait, stop. Just stop, right there. You’re about to ask about the new, improved, awesome origin story. Right?
Me: Actually, I’m a-
MB: OK! So, remember how before I came along, the turtles lived in a sewer and, like ate pizza?
[At this point, I turn on a tape recorder.]
Me: Yes. Yes, please talk about that.
MB: OK, OK, OK. So, TMNT (which is short for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because, like, who has time to say all that, am I right? YOLO!) TMNT started out as a comic published by a company called Mirage. Who the fuck knew?!
Me: It’s fascinating.
MB: In the comic, there’s this ninja master who had a rat. He has drama with his ninja friends and ends up coming to AMERICAAA! [MB sang this last part in shrieking five-part disharmony, accompanied by a furnace-like heat blast from the rift in my kitchen floor.] He dies and his rat gets into the sewers. Meanwhile, there’s these four escaped turtles who get drenched with this alien goo, and they go into the sewers too! Then this rat guy finds them and teaches them kung-fu!
Me: OK. Kung fu. OK. So then what happened?
MB: They beat shit up. I don’t know, I don’t read because there’s this holy Tibetan script that can, like, banish me to the underworld forever. Totally sucks.
Me: Oh. All right, no problem. So will the movie use the origin story from the comics?
MB: No, no way. That story sucks! Ninjas? Drama? Is this a girl movie? Forget that fugly piece of contrived garbage. Prepare yourself for the Bay Way.
Me: You made some changes?
MB: Picture this: the streets of New York are overrun with crime. The police are helpless. A scientist—who is actually the Turtles sworn enemy, The Shredder—decides to create the greatest warriors in history. So he takes the turtles to a lab and that’s where they get exposed to that green gooey stuff! Then they turn into mutant turtles. They’re also huge, so they scare a woman.
Me: Is that important to the story?
MB: Super important! I love huge things. Big, muscly, awesome, huge…[He trails off, muttering and staring into the middle distance. Is he having a creative moment? It’s hard to know through the smoke. It’s also hard to bring myself to interrupt him, considering that he’s already demolished my kitchen floor. Eventually, he snaps back to the present.] Sorry, inspiration struck. Big, big turtles. Everything has to be huge.
Me: What about April O’Neil? We know she’ll be played by Megan Fox. In the trailer, she faints when confronted with the turtles. Some fans might argue that April is made of tougher stuff than that. Does her reaction indicate any changes in her origin?
MB: Oh, the girl. Yeah, there’s always got to be a girl to get in trouble and stuff. I guess she was, like, a reporter, or something? That part’s good. She can follow them around and write about them and stuff. But no, in my improved story, April’s dad definitely created the turtles.
Me: What brought you to that change?
MB: It’s a secret.
MB: Wait, that’s it? ‘OK?’ You don’t want to know?
Me: I’m terrified of you. You destroy everything I cherish from my childhood and you just wrecked my apartment.
MB: Chill, bro. We’re cool. I don’t “destroy” childhood, I IMPROVE childhood. Explosions! Car wrecks! Megan Fox! Tell me your childhood would not have been better with Megan Fox.
Me: I can’t. My childhood would never have not been better with Megan Fox.
Me: But doesn’t it strike you that you’re trying to adult-ize nostalgia, repackage it, and take advantage of the memories? I mean, this “new” origin story is basically the same thing with one detail filed down for skeptical adult critics.
MB: Wait, which detail?
Me: The sewer, the lab, the transformation. Any grown-up critic would call all kinds of bullshit on the original, coincidental origin, so you make it more plausible for grown-ups. But it’s supposed to be coincidence. Think about it: the comic and show originally appealed to 15-year-olds, kids the same age as the turtles themselves, who usually feel like their life is controlled by adults, by the weather, by teachers, by bad guys, ultimately by death and danger. The turtles have to be conceived by apparent coincidence, as though they were “meant to be” by powers that are on the side of the young people who identify with the oppressed majority. The turtles are good magic to combat all the bad magic.
MB: Very Joseph Campbell, or whatever. But you’re missing the point: this isn’t for teens anymore. It’s not even for adult fans. It’s not for nostalgia or any of that BS.
Me: Who’s it for?
MB: It’s for MONEY! [At this point, the temperature in my kitchen rises dramatically. Flames shoot forth from the chasm once again. The visage of Michael Bay darkens. He sprouts horns. I cower behind a table as he continues to speak.] Because I deserve nice things too, dammit! I’m a nice guy! Why do freaking kids get all the best stuff? Why are the kids always right? Don’t I deserve something fun and innocent and full of unnecessary destruction?
Me: Sure, sure man! Anything you say!
MB: My turtles are like Monsanto went into a lab and engineered them based on Batman and Jar Jar Binks. They’re awesome and they’re better and people like you are going to go see them whether you like it or not because you can’t stay away. Right?
MB: Good! Now I’m going to trash your place like a Decepticon with a hormone problem and then – wait a minute. What the hell? [Michael Bay has become distracted by one of the wall hangings my girlfriend got in India. It features some pretty script that probably says something deep in Tibetan. Suddenly, a mighty vortex rises from the fiery chasm in the middle of my kitchen floor and sucks him into the depths. He howls and curses as he is once again enveloped in flames.] You traitor! See my reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in theaters on August 8, twenty-fourteeeeeeeeeeen!