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Mutant Mailcall: Will We Ever See Another Dark TMNT Movie?

by Justin W
It's been a while since we had anything close to a dark TMNT movie, so will we ever actually see anything like that again? Let's discuss.

Every now and then I get fan mail with questions about our beloved heroes in a half shell. Some of these questions are so interesting that I figured it would make for a good series of articles. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our first question from JD:

“Since our beloved TMNT universe is SOOOOO vast with characters and different takes on our boys in green, could another studio come along (once they get the rights) and make a darker tmnt film? Or even Tales of TMNT? Or even a spinoff?”

Excellent question, JD!

Although many fans would tell you that the 1990 TMNT movie was probably the darkest version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that we’ll ever see adapted to film, I have reason to believe that this might not be the case. As you rightly noted, there have been a plethora of different interpretations of the turtles, and that should be proof enough that anything is possible. Even going back to the original Mirage comics, it strikes me that creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird both used the property initially as a means to explore several different crazy ideas they had rattling around in their brains.

The first splash page for  Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Source: Mirage Studios.

The first splash page for Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Source: Mirage Studios.

Whether it was taking previously unsuccessful characters like Fugitoid and bringing them back to life with the help of four mutant turtles, or taking Mikey back to feudal Japan for a crazy little adventure fighting against Samurai, there were several examples of the turtles going beyond their own stories and exploring entirely new worlds and ideas. In other words, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been a property ripe with potential for a variety of different interpretations, so it’s absolutely possible that we could see a dark TMNT movie either in theaters or on television at some point in the future.

Just a year or two ago, we were approached about our thoughts on the potential for a darker Ninja Turtles television series that would have been aimed at adults. The idea was to show the turtles as adults, a concept that has since been given life by a short film. We have seen similar ideas for a dark TMNT movie come and go, and I suspect they have been rejected mostly because the studios involved have been uninterested in taking that approach with the franchise. That being said, there are new platforms for visual entertainment today that allow for the kind of freedom that would probably be necessary in order to create a dark TMNT movie or even television series.

The platforms I am speaking about are VOD services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. All of these companies have been investing quite a bit of money into developing films and television series that their subscribers will enjoy. The main goal of these services is to acquire and retain subscribers, whereas the goal of a major studio is muddied by advertisers, merchandising, and viewership. If Netflix produces a show or movie that a lot of people enjoy, it doesn’t matter if the viewership is 100,000 or 1 million – as long as those viewers remain subscribers, the show could be considered a success.

I mention all of this because I think it could be the perfect environment for a darker, more serious interpretation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s always a chance that Paramount and Platinum Dunes will try to aim their films at a different market, but I highly doubt that will be happening anytime soon. If you’re wondering where our best hope for a dark TMNT movie lies, you need look no further than services like Netflix. I’m not sure what it would take to convince Viacom to work with Netflix or Amazon to make this happen, but it’s entirely possible.

The latest TMNT movie series isn't very dark, and some fans aren't happy with that. Image Source: Paramount Pictures

The latest TMNT movie series isn’t very dark, and some fans aren’t happy with that. Image Source: Paramount Pictures

In a world where Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have all been given their own series, I have to believe it is possible that we could see a dark Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series as well. Sadly, it will probably be a while before anything like this actually comes to fruition. All we can do now is to hope, send positive vibes, and let all of the major players know that we are interested in a darker interpretation of the TMNT!

What do you think? Will we ever see another dark TMNT movie or television series? Could a service like Netflix or Amazon Studios work with Paramount and Viacom to make this a reality? Would you be interested in seeing a darker Ninja Turtles property on the market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on facebook/twitter.

Oh, and don’t hesitate to send us fan mail with questions of your own. Who knows? Your question could be the next one featured on Mutant Mailcall!

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skinslip July 5, 2016 - 8:06 pm

Given the backlash on Amell’s performance in Out of the Shadows, who would you cast as Casey Jones if you were to recast the role for the next film?

NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN July 6, 2016 - 10:12 am

I was fine with Amell. But I’m sure there is someone better

Elisa July 6, 2016 - 10:35 am

I don’t think Amell was necessarily the problem. I think he did a good job with what he was given, but this character is a completely different take on Casey. It would be great to see his character develop away from law enforcement and into the vigilante we know.

NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN July 6, 2016 - 10:11 am

Trice raton are the main thing I want from the next movie. Idris Elba as Mozar PLEASE! And more krang. And maybe more shredder and casey. Also paramount I would love an epic April’s death. Then we could finally enjoy the movie without her messing it up all the time

Elisa July 6, 2016 - 10:36 am

With a lower budget, which is likely, I doubt we’ll get to see the Triceratons or Krang. 🙁

NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN July 7, 2016 - 8:19 pm

well I’m sure we’ll get Krang but yeah maybe not triceratons

Elisa July 6, 2016 - 10:43 am

There such great source material in the Mirage comics, I would love to see a darker more adult tmnt. In Mirage, the turtles cussed, drank, killed (even though they tried not to), etc. They also explored some pretty heavy topics, like in City at War. I would still like the turtles to look like themselves, not more animal-like like in Veterans of the Night (although it is really cool and well done). If it was well done – good writing, good action, etc – I think it would grab people’s attention.

Andrew Leary July 6, 2016 - 1:21 pm

An idea would be to make an adults only film but also make a kids cut so not to lose all the audience. The Netflix idea could work but the cgi to produce the turtles would be expensive.

Julian-Chris Reyes July 7, 2016 - 9:19 am

I think that if a dark Netflix series were made, I would prefer the turtles having full body suits like the original TMNT movie. I believe the advancement in tech would make it a cheaper alternative to CG turtles. Also, they could hire Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to make the suits again, but maybe just call it “Ninja Turtles” and lose the “Teenage Mutant” part. That way there’s no need to try to make them more teenager-like. Also, when you have actual people in the suits, you can do more serious choreography like in Daredevil and other Marvel properties.

I would most be concerned with the story they wanna tell. Would it be a Shredder re-hash with street level action. Or will it be a time-traveling show (although how can that be serious?). Or maybe a ninja space odyssey of sorts? Or do you just jump straight to the “Same As It Ever Was” future?

Rob Veatch July 8, 2016 - 4:06 am

While I’d love to see a return to the practical suits, I doubt it would happen for a tv series for the simple reason that you’d be really hard pressed to find actors willing to commit to wearing those things for several months a year. The movie actors all had horror stories of panic attacks and physical exhaustion, and I don’t think any of them stayed on for all 3 original movies. An ongoing tv series might be too much to ask, but I’d love to be proven wrong!

NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN July 7, 2016 - 8:31 pm

I definitely want a darker tmnt. But that was something many people hated about the 2014 movie. And really it got laughed at by some for trying to be a dark movie about turtles. and if they did make a dark tmnt it would need to be different from that trailer up there. See a reason us fans loved this years movie was because it was a call back to there more goofy and lighthearted past. While still being action-packed and intense. it would need to be handled carefully.

Rob Veatch July 8, 2016 - 3:49 am

I don’t think we’ll get another Turtles movie as dark as the original, at least not for a long time. The first movie was an independent production and Kevin and Peter were pretty much the only creative heads to answer to. Now that TMNT is a huge corporate-owned franchise, any big budget movie will have to stay pretty kid-friendly, because the bottom line is that TMNT makes most of its money from kid-oriented products.

Ironically, I think the 2014 movie was going for the darker, grittier thing but didn’t pull it off that well, for a variety of reasons. Also, there’s definitely a limit to how dark or serious you can play the Turtles without it being laughable in the wrong way. It’s such an inherently goofy concept that any new interpretation needs to be aware of that goofiness. While I’d love to see a Netflix series, a TMNT show with the tone and violence of Daredevil would be taking things way too far. I personally think the violence in Daredevil is often gratuitous just because it can be, and that kind of thing would be even more out of place in a TMNT show.

Most of my favorite Turtles stuff does skew a little darker: the first movie, the current IDW comics, and the original Mirage comics. While I’m doubtful of a “dark” movie anytime soon, I think a darker tv series could happen after the current Nick show, or even concurrent with it on a different platform like Netflix. But again, I think it would have to be closer to the 2k3 Turtles show than to the Netflix Daredevil, and probably animated too.

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