“I feel a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.” These were the words spoken by Obi Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film after the destruction of the peaceful planet of Alderaan. The quote, from Space Gandalf, immediately came into my head after watching the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie trailer. Only the voices I imagined weren’t the fictional voices on a planet a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. These voices were collective voice of a real generation past. When children of the baby boomers, the youngest of Generation X, lost themselves in an 8-bit haze. A pixelized landscape of anthropomorphic animals and giant plant monsters. We learned everything we needed to know about life in this animated schoolyard. “Cowabunga” was our battlecry against an adult tyrannical regime bent on shipping us off to college to remain competitive in a world going computerized, and defeat those Russians once and for all in academia.
Our psychology was divided into 4 easy-to-grasp personalities. You were a serious leader, a partying jokester, an angry loner, or a quiet technological genius computer geek. And there was room for all of us at the Pizza Hut dinner table. But, like all great eras throughout history, the craze fizzled out. Tossed into the clearance bin at your local toy store, which has probably since become a dollar store. We traded in our D-pads and comic books for textbooks we never really read. Life went on. Those Saturday mornings spent in front of animated television on pizza hangovers became Saturday mornigs spent in front of the news, and for many, REAL hangovers.
Fast forward 20-or-so years. The turtles, under new management, have climbed out of the dusty old toy boxes in the attics of our minds. Like amphibious, animatronic Rip Van Winkles, they find themselves awake in a new world of cutting-edge motion capture CGI and blinding lense flares. Introducing themselves to a new generation coming down from their collective Sponge Bob high.
And then there’s the new trailer. William Fichtner’s voice over describing a city under seige. Buildings collapse under the weight of Michael Bay’s ego. Machine guns blaze. Then suddenly, we are confronted with the realization that this no longer belongs to us. As the studio’s NICKELODEON MOVIES ID screen fades to black, “Produced by Michael Bay” appears in large, green letters. It’s not too often that the producer takes, well, ALL of the credit, but I can see how he’d feel justified- the movie looked, felt, smelled, and sounded like Transformers, complete with Megan Fox’s looking up in wide-eyed wonder at the big-budget spectacle in which she somehow always finds herself.
William Fichtner’s Eric Sachs (Oroku Saki?) character reveals to Fox’s April that he worked with her father to “create” heroes- as quick shots of a semi-familiar green fluid flowing through laboratory tubes are shown. This is revisionist history that makes Inglorious Basterds look like a real-time documentary. But then, like a cleansing rain, the trailer showed me something amazing. We see the new turtles in all of their CGI glory- with human lips and chins! Their monstrous bodies dwarfing any human they share the screen with.
I smiled as I realized my generation hasn’t passed the torch. Quite the contrary. We threw it in a lake just before the hand-off and flipped off the new generation as we walked away, laughing. Michael Bay just created his own world with an old idea. OUR turtles still exist. They exist in a world of black and white ink and those same 8-bit pixels. They are still alive as tangible rubber suits that gave them a feeling of realness that no computer imagery could ever offer. And they’ll always be there for us to visit. Frozen in time in a place of our choosing. I no longer fear this new movie, because these aren’t my Ninja Turtles, anyway. So I say, let’s try to enjoy this movie, when it finally comes out in August, for what it is: just a different take on something that can never be topped. And we can all smile, knowing that we were there first.