With the newest installment of the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films out in theaters and creating a clear divide amongst both audiences and critics, many are suggesting it may be time to take the series in a new direction. With that in mind, Let’s play a game. If you could have any director at the helm of a new installment of TMNT, who would it be and why? Just to be clear, we have nothing against the work of Jonathan Liebesman (Director of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 2014) or Dave Green (Director of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – 2016) but here’s our list of dream choices to direct a future Ninja Turtles film.
Imagine a Turtles film with all of the heart and grit of our beloved 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but with the scale, colour and spectacle of the Bay-produced Ninja Turtles movies. Kathryn Bigelow does ‘big’ just as well as anyone, but the intent in her compositions sets her apart as a director who can deliver a large-scale piece without sacrificing emotional resonance. Kathryn Bigelow is a master of balancing several stories, all with unique emotional motivators, while delivering the heart-pumping jaw dropping grandeur now synonymous with the great American blockbuster. While she works within the Hollywood system, she is uncompromising in her vision. Bigelow’s turtles could bring us back to the emotional centre point of the story: four teenage boys trying to find their place in the world. Plus all of us at MRML have wanted to see Kathryn Bigelow helm a comic book flick for quite some time now.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was in large part an homage to Frank Miller and other trailblazing comic book writers and artists that were redefining the comic book status quo in the 1980s. It only later became as kid-friendly as it was when many of us first experienced Turtlemania with the 1987 cartoon and began spending every bit of our allowances on every TMNT product under the sun. Robert Rodriguez championed Frank Miller’s vision of Sin City all the way to the big-time box office bank and held the reins of the Spy Kids franchise through four films. If you’re looking for the fun of the 1987 cartoon with the intensity of the original Mirage comics, Rodriguez may be the man for the job. Not to mention the Mariachi films have cemented him as a director who can humanize the desperation and irrationality of vengeance. Let’s also remember that he’s a musician and would understand how important hip-hop and punk rock is to the essence of the turtles.
JACKIE CHAN AND/OR STANLEY TONG
One of the things that makes 1990s turtles film so unique is the distinctive Hong Kong cinema feel. This is the most prevalent in the films actions sequences and more specifically in how the comedy is blended with the amazing stunt work. Of course, it’s a Golden Harvest production so it would only make sense that even with the project being helmed by Irish-born director Steve Barron and utilizing the amazing work of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop that the film would still retain some of that unique Hong Kong flare.
Now when I think of Golden Harvest movies, and the action-comedy genre one name emerges above all others, and that’s Jackie Chan. From his stunt work, starting with Enter The Dragon, through his extensive acting career, this man has forgotten more about action than most will ever know. Of the 100+ productions that he has been a part of, Chan has directed 15 films including the first two entries in the Police Story franchise. Police Story 3: Supercop as well as Rumble in the Bronx and many other action-comedy classics starring Chan had Stanley Tong in the Director’s chair. Tong’s timing is precise and he understands the importance of rhythm in film. He is able to get every bit of mileage out of the master shot so when a cut or a pan happens it means something. With both of these men you feel every punch and every kick as you strap in for a thrill-ride with two of the best working in action-comedy.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO
If there is one director on this list that could bring you a truly individual turtles movie, it’s Guillermo Del Toro. One of the most interesting minds working in mainstream cinema, an avid comic fan (see the bleak house tour below!) and just an all around super-cool dude, Guillermo Del Toro would be an amazing choice to helm a turtles franchise. His interesting take on technology and his distinct colouring choices could create a world for the turtles like we’ve never seen before. Del Toro’s films also highlight equal complexity in both female and male characters which could prove to be a new and unexpected look at the April O’Neil character. Also, subterranean locations are prominent throughout Del Toro’s work. I cannot begin to imagine how amazing those sewers would look!
This is a curveball of sorts, but hear me out. Danny Boyle is a bit of a visual chameleon but his style is undeniable. His color choices are always strong and he shoots the way the story dictates, not the way he feels comfortable. Despite his films residing in many-a different genres, his instinctive storytelling rhythm is truly compelling. Fear, longing, love, regret – these are all elevated in Boyle’s work. Imagine being able to walk out of a Turtles movie for once in your life without hearing some douchey snob behind you commenting that the turtles were underdeveloped as characters (by the way that totally wasn’t me in Row F seat 17). Would Boyle do the movie? Probably not – but we can dream.