We Read Michael Bay's Ninja Turtle Script So You Don't Have To
Earlier this year, The MindHut reported on Michael Bay's planned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film reboot, which would turn the four turtle heroes from mutants into aliens and basically destroy all of our childhoods. A few weeks ago, the supposed script for that projected leaked online, and though it's been removed from its original host site by cease-and-desist orders from Paramount, there are still copies out there if you know where to look. The MindHut tracked down the script in an effort to deduce whether or not it's really as awful as early reports had led us to believe. In our estimation, the answer is, "Not quite… but it's still really, really bad." Let's run down a quick synopsis of the plot before we sing its (faint) praises and (many) shortcomings.
As the film opens, an army colonel named Schrader stashes some secret government material by the name of Project Aries underneath a furniture factory where Casey Jones, a hockey-playing 18-year-old, works. Casey gets suspicious and finds, to no surprise, four captive bulky, six-foot turtles proficient in martial arts. He takes pity and frees them, and they make a daring escape. The Turtles then introduce themselves to Casey and explain their backstory, the one TMNT fans know and love.
The Turtles, Casey, and Casey's ex-girlfriend April then try to reunite with the Turtles' mentor, Splinter. Schrader and his operatives in the Foot ambush our heroes, while his mutated lieutenants, Rocksteady and Bebop, strike at Splinter in the Turtles' lair. The Turtles arrive just in time to save their master, and the heroes make a tactical retreat.
At this point, Splinter reveals that he knows more about what's going on than we suspect. Schrader and his men, he says, are actually aliens from a world called Dimension X. Their master, Krang, wants to merge Dimension X with Earth, allowing the evil overlord to conquer both worlds with his massive armies and superior technology.
In their attempt to stop Krang, the Turtles end up crossing over into Dimension X. There they find an entire race of Turtle warriors just like them, and they're told that—yep—they're the "chosen ones" destined to defeat Krang. At this point we're told that the story of them being turned into human-like creatures by mutagen was just a lie that was easy for them to believe (that sounds easy to believe, doesn't it?); they're actually aliens like Krang and Schrader.
The Turtles return to Earth armed with this knowledge, and none too soon, because Dimension X is about to merge with Earth permanently. The first sign of this is Krang's massive Technodrome, a rolling Death Star-style weapon that will dominate all—except not really, because the army just calls a bunch of jets to blow it up. Meanwhile, the Turtles try to end Krang's threat from inside the Technodrome.
After this battle, Splinter drops a final bombshell: the Turtles are to return to Dimension X and train new armies for battles to come. Meanwhile, through the course of fighting for their lives together, April and Casey begin rekindling their romance. The end… FOR NOW.
As you can see, the film starts out fine, and then gets insane. Making Shredder an army colonel named Schrader runs pretty far afield of his original concept, but making him an alien invader from Dimension X shatters it. The most damage is done to the Turtles; by throwing out their entire origin and making this about the destiny of four alien warriors defeating an evil warlord, you end up with some strange mix of Star Wars and Transformers that seems wildly out of place.
Actually, Transformers is a pretty apt analogy here. There are a lot of similarities to those movies, like putting the relationship of two teenagers front-and-center and ending the film with unnecessary military intervention. Using Casey as a POV character isn't the worst idea, especially because he was originally a pretty interesting guy, but it says a lot about the movie that the script won't let the Turtles stand on their own—it has to explain away everything weird and fun about their backstory and give us a human lens through which to understand it.
Not everything here is awful. The Turtles' dialog is actually pretty representative of the characters as we know them. There are certainly some long-time TMNT fans who would be happy to see Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop, and the Technodrome worked into a movie. And… well, that's about it. This script fails spectacularly on a concept level; a few good bits of dialog aren't enough to save it from disaster. Hopefully Bay is right that we'll never see this movie filmed, because it likely would have ended up awful. May whatever script Bay gets next do a better job.