No Cowabunga: Why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Teaser Falls Flat

The teaser trailer for the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film (slated to hit theaters this August) is out. Before I start anything, let’s quickly define the teaser trailer. The name is the hint: it’s a tease, a quick look that is designed (if done correctly) to instill both curiosity and excitement. The best teasers do not show much, but audiences love talking about them. Remember the Cloverfield teaser from a couple of years ago? That did not even give a title but instantly turned the movie into a viral hit. That was a teaser done right, now look at the teaser for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

If you liked that, more power to you. Films are an area of life where it is possible to have different but equally valid opinions (that’s what makes art great in general). My perspective: did not like it. In fact, that teaser did anything but generate excitement for me. At the end of it, my thought was: “I don’t need to see any more of this.”

So what happened? I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I have seen every prior film and played with all the toys as a kid, I should have been jumping for joy. Here is why, for me, I do not think the teaser worked well.

1. The Look

Really quickly, let’s look at the intro to the first theatrical film, from 1990.

I am not a fan of that movie either. It has pacing and character issues that make it a wonderful cure for insomnia. That said, the one thing that film really got correct was the look. Dark, gritty, with the turtles emerging from the shadows: awesome. Given today’s obsession with “darker means better”, I was very surprised at how bright parts of this film looked.

That might have more to do with uninspired, Inception-based snow mountain sequence that highlights the film. Michael Bay read my mind. When I was watching the climax to Christopher Nolan’s dream epic, all I could think was: “this is cool but if only the ninja turtles were fighting guys on the mountain, instead of Tom Hardy.” Prayers answered.

Need more turtles. Scratch that, needs more ninja turtles. NO, it needs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Need more turtles. Scratch that, needs more ninja turtles. NO, it needs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Point is: I want to see the Turtles fighting in New York. More appropriately, I want to see the Turtles fighting under New York. There is no shortage of super-hero movies right now and I have my pick of at least a dozen films that feature, or climax with, a battle in New York. The Ninja Turtles have to bring in something new. There was one more thing that bothered me: that spire that falls in the trailer.

Ready for me to go super nerd? Watch the end of this:

That falling spire image was featured heavily in all of the Amazing Spider-Man marketing. These effects look too similar (except the Lizard from the now 2 year old Spider-Man movie looks more believable than the Turtles).

2. The Actors

Wow, Megan Fox is pretty physically attractive, huh? Maybe it is an inspired choice to give the Turtles more life? Put them next to that vacant stare that is so often on Ms. Fox’s face and yes, they at least be the more emotionally charged beings. Seriously, with talent like Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, and virtually any other long actress trying to get a break, it tells too much that they have brought back the star from the first two Transformers movies.

To be fair, at least they gave her the yellow jacket.
To be fair, at least they gave her the yellow jacket.

Then we have William Fichtner as the Shredder. He is the one talking through the teaser. His lines are incredibly generic and that does him no favors. There are a lot of superhero movies out there: it really needs to do SOMETHING to stand out (put his lines in any other hero movie preview… they pretty much work just as well). Fichtner is also an actor without presence, and that is something the Shredder really needs. He is essentially playing a more cartoon-y (if possible) Darth Vader. Fichtner has a long career in movies and I have noticed something: when he is in good films, he has a small role. When he has a major role… it is Drive Angry.

I just can’t take him seriously since I saw this.

3. The Turtles

From far away look pretty cool. Not going to like, I was pretty excited to see Leonardo (my favorite) leap onto that roof. DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN THOUGH… Michelangelo’s face looks bizarre (and frightening). CG effects can make or break a movie. They brought Caesar to life in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and helped give that film an emotional core. They… well frankly they look like hell in this teaser. Big blobs of fake things running through a too-real looking New York, fighting the leftover Immortals from 300.

They also really do not look like teenagers at all… just sayin’.

Creepy. That is all.
Creepy. That is all.


Teasers do not necessarily reflect the quality of the final product, so there is still hope for this film (remember how alike marketing made 300 and Beowulf appear?).  It is just a shame that a teaser, made to promote the movie, has instead turned me off of it. Perhaps future trailers will do more to infuse excitement. I do not believe there has really been a “great” Ninja Turtles movie yet. Right now, I will settle for decent.

For the record, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did not have a great trailer either:

But at least it looked unique.

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