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Why Does Hollywood Hate My Childhood?

words by Nick James
Follow me @LLCoolJames_FML
03.20.2012

I wish I was a part of the inner circle. You know, the people in show business who control what is what, and who becomes part of the “who’s who.”  I wish I could be privy to those important round table discussions with seat cushions filled with the asses of Hollywood’s best and brightest writers, directors, producers, and film executives. The people who control the milking of my childhood for all it’s worth with silver screen renditions of cartoons and comics from the 1980s and ’90s. I wish I was present at the moment when someone says, “Hey, I have an idea people. Lets make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aliens from outer space instead of mutants.” I wonder how many seconds pass as a suggestion like this reverberates around the room in the minds of everyone present. I wonder if the clock on the wall ticks any slower as the idea of unnecessarily altering such a vital piece of the central mythology of TMNT settles in amongst those that obviously feel no obligation to stick to the source material. Does an idea like that receive immediate adulation? Is a suggestion like that met with a standing ovation and raucous applause? Does anyone in that room even think to say, “This is possibly the worst idea ever!”? After studying the trends in Hollywood over the course of the last decade, I’ve found this answer to be a resounding no.

Hollywood has absolutely no problem with waltzing all over my childhood, and it has proven it time and time again.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles become relatives of ET. Transformers transform into jets instead of gigantic effin’ canons. Vampires turn into humanoid wedding rings when engulfed by sunlight and marry human girls.

At what point does the end product stray so far away from the source material that it would be better served by just creating a new intellectual property altogether? Instead of rewriting every rule of vampire fiction, why not just create a new entity that does not have a problem sunbathing? I mean, hell, instead of totally destroying the mutant ninja turtles mythology, why not just create a story about some totally unrelated alien turtles? Oh, I have a guess: is it because if you didn’t slap on the title of an already solidified brand, fewer people would give a shit and you might actually have to create something….creative?

So how often do these writers who are ordered to rewrite origins to enhance a story actually end up enhancing the story? Would this generation of children have a harder time believing the stories that I grew up believing? The Transformers movie franchise made more money than most people could spend in a lifetime, and yet the plots for the films were critically received as bantha fodder — disposable dialogue meant to pass the time until something else is exploding on screen. Any child of the ’80s knows that the “Transformers” cartoons had one of the most complex written stories of any cartoon ever made.  And what “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” lacked in complexity, it made up for in solid, cohesive origin stories that actually made sense.

The most frustrating part of Hollywood’s incessant need to alter histories is that these stories are already written. Take the story, cut out the unnecessary parts, make a movie. I can’t understand for the life of me why this concept is so extraordinarily difficult to grasp.

Megatron: Then and Now

As ticket sales for these reboots continue to soar, the thought crosses my mind that perhaps my concerns are lost amongst the crowds of people buying $6.00 small bags of movie theater popcorn. Perhaps the stories that were written for my generation should be remembered as just that — for my generation.

The only thing I can say with any certainty is that in the event that I ever have offspring, I’m going to introduce them to “the real McCoy.”  Thats right, I’m breaking out the VCR and dusting off the VHS tapes and hopefully finding some type of antiquated store that will sell a television that has the connections to play them. And we will sit and pop some popcorn and watch vampires that aren’t diamonds, teenage ninja turtles that are still mutants, and Decepticon leaders that transform into gigantic effin’ cannons.

F MY L.

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  • Kevin

    Reading this article, I think that Michael Bay is the only one who has an issue with your childhood. But seriously lighten up. The Transformers movie would have sucked no matter what. You think it sucks cause Megatron didn’t turn into a cannon???? And frankly, I don’t see what Twilight has to do with any of this.

  • http://www.verbicidemagazine.com NickJames

    The Transformers movie would have sucked no matter what….. Hmm, that’s your opinion and I’ll allow you to stick to that. I reference a simple example of Megatron not transforming into the cannon that he had been turning into for the last decade to illustrate the changes that Hollywood makes just for the sake of change. In terms of Twilight, I understand that this was a series of books first but the fact remains that a vampire is a vampire because of simple rules that have been set forth by whoever came up with the concept of what a vampire is. I would not make a movie about Smurfs and then say, hey Smurfs are not allowed to go outside into daylight because I feel like changing the origin of what a Smurf actually is. I would just make a vampire movie. If all Hollywood can offer us at this point is to rewrite the rules on everything that has existed before, I guess the destruction of my childhood has just begun.

  • Kevin

    Seriously man. You are not talking about Shakespeare; you are not talking about Hitchcock; hell you are not even talking about Lord of the Rings. You are talking about Transformers and TMNT! Lighten up. It’s not the bible. Who cares if they change things. The bigger picture is they hired Michael Bay who pretty much pukes up a piece of celluloid shit everywhere he goes. But guess what? It’s a movie about cars that transform into robots, so its kind of perfect for a shitmeister like Bay. Would you really want a super serious Transformers movie? Do you know how ridiculous that would be? The whole Twilight thing really refers to the fact that reinventing the vampire is nothing new. Even Dracula which set the rules was based on folklore with different rules. Twilight is pretty stupid. But what is the point of genres if you can’t mess with them?

    • http://www.verbicidemagazine.com NickJames

      Why so serious you ask? So let me try to understand your point. A man dressed up as a giant bat can have a serious movie? An alien child that can fly and has super human strength can have a serious movie? A half human half vampire child hybrid can grow up and hunt vampires and have a serious movie? Arnold Schwarzenegger can have a serious movie about having a battle to the death with an alien from another planet? But cars that transform into robots, thats where you draw the line? I understand that you don’t have a relationship with the source material but that does not mean that I don’t. I would react the same way about anything that I have a certain level of respect for. Cars who transform into robots or not…. People are clearly entitled to mess around with any genre they would like to. I personally would just prefer that if you’re going to stray so far from the source material that made something special in the first place, why not just go the extra distance and create something new yourself? I mean if it’s so easy to rewrite other peoples hard work, why not just create something yourself? And we can agree, Michael Bay is the devil in human form.

      • Kevin

        I agree with that man. Making a movie of the Smurfs or Garfield is just simply garbage. Come up with a real new idea. But the problem is people will go to see anything that they recognize so it works for Hollywood. It’s not really Hollywood’s fault that people don’t hunt out new stuff; they just capitalize on it.

  • Brett Morel

    I’d have to agree with Nick on this one. There are certain rules you need to abide by if you’re going to reboot a franchise into a mew movie. While I never really had any real beef with the Transformers movies, maybe it’s because I wasn’t as well versed in the universe as I am with, say, the Ninja Turtles, or Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. And while I’m against dumbing things down for the sake of child appeal, I AM an favor of changing things for the sake of the medium, not for the sake of change. The fact that Megatron turns into a jet in the movie instead of canon, for example. How would that have looked in the movie? Maybe a little far-fetched, despite the sci-fi settings. There’s still a level of believability in these movies that should be adhered to.

    As for Michael Bay, I’ll be honest, I’ll back him up behind more of his movies than not. It’s so easy and cliche to badmouth the guy because he’s good with directing action. Maybe not so much with dialogue? Is that the issue people have with him? Keep in mind he doesn’t write these screenplays. Like I said, I had no beef with Transformers, no beef with Armageddon, no beef with Pearl Harbor, and I’ll be damned if I sit here and let someone badmouth The Rock. However, being the director, he has the most amount of pull and SHOULD be familiarized with the source material. And for something like Ninja Turtles, all the source material he needs so far is the damn title. Teenage. MUTANT. Ninja. Turtles. And he’s already changing that. With such a drastic change, yes, he should just create a new franchise. If you look at the original Turtles comics, they were dark and they were violent. The turtles them selves were anatomically accurate; weird looking things with beaks. The early cartoons were actually the most accurate to the original source material story-line wise.

    • Kevin

      Actually Bay isn’t directing this movie. Just producing it, which he does alot of these days. Personally, I think its insane the backlash about this. Movies aren’t about following the rules. Was the Joker in Dark Knight the same Joker from the comics? No! Not at all, but it was great. So no one complained. Obviously, this movie will be pretty silly, but it won’t be because of one detail…it will be because the script, directing and CGI are all crap. I mean where were all these insane turtles fans when TMNT came out in 2007 and barely made any money. Relax fanboys. There will be a new Batman this year by Nolan, an Avengers script penned by Whedon, and an expansion of the Aliens franchise by Ridley Scott. This is what makes movies good, the creative people behind it; not the little details.

  • Brett Morel

    Actually, it IS the little details when it’s a movie based on an already existing franchise. It’s the creative who make the little details count. Saying it’s not the details is a total insult to the creators. Telling us fanboys to relax just because there other “fanboy” movies coming out this year doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be annoyed with this new Turtle movie. The Joker from The Dark Knight may not have been the same Joker from the comics, but he was evil and menacing and anarchic and the story was good and accurate. As for your reasons as to why you think this movie will be silly, because if the script, the directing, and the CGI? Well, how could you possibly know any of this? Who IS directing then? And are you just biased against CGI? Those are all empty arguments. At least until we have a glimpse of the movie. A valid argument would be, it would be silly because they’re fucking aliens now. But considering your comments, you don’t care about accuracy. And apparently your argument for people not making a fuss about the 2007 movie was because it didn’t make money? We didn’t make a fuss because it was a decent story and a good flick that wasn’t horribly inaccurate.

  • Kevin

    The turtles are not a franchise to get up in arms about. Are you a fan of the original turtle comics? Did you even know they existed???? They were pretty bad ass and NOTHING like the TV cartoon which was dumbed down and made for KIDS! So this whole spaz attack is pathetic really. Were you blogging and moaning about it back then? No you didn’t give a shit, because you were a kid watching a kid show. Those were your turtles, most people (maybe even you) didn’t even know they came from comics. Frankly changing a dark and violent gritty comic into a wise ass kids cartoon is straying much farther away from the story material than making them aliens.

    Did you see the 2007 movie? It was accurate, but really really dull. This is like publicity for Bay. That’s why you change little details. People blog about it like crazy and the next thing you know everyone has heard about it. Where frankly most people aren’t as excited about another TMNT as you are. If they were they would have gone out in droves to the last one, that is the point I am making about the last one not making money.

    Do you like Tim Burton’s Batman movie? The Joker in that is nothing like the Joker in the Dark Knight, but you know what there is room for both of them in the Batman story, because Batman is constantly being reinvented. This is what happens to iconic characters. In both the movies and the comics. When someone new takes over the creative team things change. Yes, aliens are lame. The turtles were mutants I get it. It seems like a really pointless silly change, but maybe there is a good reason for it in the story. And even if there wasn’t, I don’t care. I’m a grown fucking man and believe it or not that is more to the universe of movies than turtles with attitude.

  • Brett Morel

    Okay. You’re officially not paying attention. I believe I referenced the original comics in my first post. And to say the Turtles are not something to get up in arms about is a completely subjective and elitist statement, which leads me to believe that you have no business ranting about it in the first place. I ALSO mentioned (for the second time now) that the cartoons were very accurately compared to the comics. So, your comment about the cartoons being more strayed from the comic than some alien origin story is unsubstantiated and unfounded. Because the cartoons didn’t change any origin story, they just made it lighter in tone. And THAT is the difference and THAT is why you’re wrong.

    And again, as I mentioned before, yes. I saw the 2007 movie. So, now you want to call it dull? Your opinion of it, artistically, is irrelevant. That’s not the subject at hand. The point is is that it’s accurate. Or at least it’s a new chapter, not a reboot, which makes it completely canonical. And if you’re such a grown fucking man you wouldn’t be pissing and moaning about the initial article in the first place. If that’s your endgame, than I’d have to agree. Yes, I am also a grown fucking man but there are still things people give a shit about, regardless of how trivial you think they are. I’m “blogging and moaning” about it now in response to you, who, in fact, has no feasible argument to begin with. Make up your mind, because I can’t tell whose side you’re on: the moneymakers or the storytellers.

    • Kevin

      And the fact that you can’t figure out the problem with Michael Bay movies says everything about your taste!

  • Kevin

    I’m of the perspective that in the storyteller’s world anything can be done. Write the story how you want it. Change anything you want. AS LONG AS ITS GOOD. It doesn’t matter if they are aliens, turtles or whatever. Just make a good movie. Fanboys are too focused on content. Art is about taking something established and doing something new with it. Tarintino does it all the time. Hell Shakespeare took all of his stories from other sources, but he made them his own because he is a great writer. Michael Bay is not a good director, so yes it will be pretty poor; but not because they are aliens, because it is a Michael Bay produced movie.

    And I think tone is way more important than an origin story. Tone totally changes the audience you are targeting. But that is my opinion, I admit. To take the tone of the original turtles comics and turn it into a cartoon for kids, changes the people who will like it and enjoy it much much much more than changing whether they are mutants or aliens.

    If the turtles movie turns out to be great, will you say it was bad because he made them aliens? Will you advise parents not to take their kids to it. It’s a BAD movie: turtles should be mutants, not aliens! You realize that it will be a kids movie, right? You realize that makes sense right? They don’t target movies about talking ninja turtles towards thirty year olds. Hmm…why? I just don’t understand.

    Maybe we should hire Gus Van Sant to do a shot for shot remake of the first turtle film? Is that what you want?

    Frankly, all I want is for you guys to lighten up a little. It’s a TMNT movie for Christ-sake! Surely this cant be your favorite franchise of all time? Please…tell me it isn’t..

  • Brett Morel

    The fact that I defend Michael Bay says nothing about my taste. I have a more diverse taste in movies than you could even comprehend. But that’s neither here nor there. And since you say he’s a “bad director,” well then it MUST be true. Think beyond Transformers and he’s got some really good action flicks under his belt.

    I don’t have to be a “fanboy” to want an accurate remake, but making them aliens is so off the beaten path that it’s no longer the same franchise. You seem to keep posting these long-winded rants, only to close with “It’s only a Turtles movie.” Yet you keep making the same contradictory arguments over and over again. And why would I want Gus Van Sant to do a remake? I don’t see the correlation between that and Psycho. Yeah, it was a pointless remake. What’s your point?

    And if this movie turns out to be great, than great. I never said I anticipated it to be bad. I’m just saying it’s going to piss a lot of people off. Luckily, I’m not a snob and I’ll see almost anything at least once. That includes this new Spiderman remake. Yes, it’s a totally pointless remake and it’s WAY too soon. But I’ll see it and, admittedly, will probably like it.

    No matter how you look at it, no matter how many asinine examples you can think of, regardless of what you think of Michael Bay, tone is NOT as important as accuracy. I’d rather it be directed towards the younger crowd than have it be some completely fabricated origin story. Take Star Wars for example. There’s The Clone Wars series, which is directed towards the kids. Then you’ve got the original trilogy, which was more or less for an older crowd. Then you’ve got games and books and graphic novels which are all over the place. And there’s one thing uniting all these different mediums and that’s consistency. It’s like if in 30 years they remade Star Wars and changed Darth Vader into a good guy, that’s how absurd this new Turtles space story would be.

    • Kevin

      I give up…I watch movies for far different reasons than you man.