There are plenty of bad directors out there, so why does Michael Bay get a special kind of hatred? It’s simple. Bay has this unnerving ability to get under a geek’s skin and hit them where they’re most vulnerable. Nostalgic culture and childhood memories are valued by most people to varying degrees, but it’s a really important thing to geeks. It’s part of their identity. There are certain franchises they treasured as kids and are very much still into, and always will be. Bay takes those franchises, measures the precise moment when the generation originally obsessed with them will turn 30, and then creates big stupid movies out of them. The kind of frat-catering, plot-hole-filled, idea-stealing, mindless movies nerds find repulsive. Through doing this, he irritates in a way few others can.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the script for Bay’s rejected Ninja Turtles movie treatment, which leaked onto the Internet last week. Unfortunately the script was only online for a few days before it vanished, and since it was on Google Docs, there was no way to save it prior. (If you’re going to contact me now telling me you know exactly how to download Google Docs PDFs, it’s too late.) What follows are the few snips I managed to save from the first half of the script — I was just heading to the page now to get the other half, but….you know.
He hasn’t changed one bit. The 2014 Ninja Turtle movie would have contained many traits common to Bay films like….
BAY’S MILITARY FETISH
One of Mikey’s most well-known and predictable traits is that he likes to put glamour shots of the Armed Forces into every movie he makes. People figured he’d screw up Shredder somehow, but nobody guessed he would alter his name to “Schrader” and make him a gruff army general. In retrospect that feels so obvious; somehow, he surprised me with that one.
There is, of course, more to Schrader than meets the eye ™ but that “surprise” will come later.
Schrader threw me for a loop. This one, however, everybody guessed: the storyline does not revolve around the Turtles at all, but around the human who discovers them…just like before. And just like last time, it’s an awkward dorky teenager we have to follow around. But it’s Casey Jones, not April O’Neil. And he’s somehow ten times as annoying as Sam Witwicky, begging the question of why the Turtles don’t just thrash him to a pulp after only one of these lines:
Why would he use Casey when April is the more well-known of the two? My best assumption (and I’m probably correct) is that Bay just doesn’t think having a girl as the main character would be quite as appealing. This is a problem that extends beyond Bay. This is the thought of current Hollywood culture in general. He could make April the main human-to-turtle connection she should be, but that would equal too much female screen-time — everybody would think it was a chick flick, and then the movie wouldn’t make as much money.
Or maybe he just hates girls. Nearly every time April has a line in the script, it’s to berate Casey, sometimes for the weakest reasons:
Why else would you shout “get down” other than to warn the other person that something is about to strike and kill them if they remain in that position? Especially if they happen to be on a moving train? How was this an appropriate time to judge Casey?
What if he said “DUCK” instead? Would she have accused him of calling her a yellow-billed waterfowl and banished him to the couch for the next five nights?
GROAN-WORTHY WINKS AT THE AUDIENCE
Boy, are there a lot of those this time. Casey needs a way to tell the Turtles apart, so he tears up a multi-colored blanket and fashions their trademark bandanas.
Bay never had a Turtle figurine growing up, nor did he ever play with an Optimus Prime. That generation is younger than he is. He’s just stabbing at what he figures people who DID have Turtle toys will relate to. It’s a very transparent, very forced method of slapping his hand on my shoulder and saying “Hey hey, I totally get you guys! When you think of Turtles, you think of toys first, right? ‘Cause…it’s a kid thing? And you were kids? Come on, your old Uncle Mike is radical, admit it!”
For this guy, making movies is less about storytelling and more about the rush of feeling young and cool again. Which brings me to…
SHOVING CULTURAL TRENDS INTO THE SCRIPT JUST BECAUSE THEY EXIST
This was the most painful part of the script to me: To get away from “Schrader” and the Foot, the Turtles leap onto a subway car as it passes on its overhead track. They land on the roof with a giant noticeable THUD, but that’s okay, because for some reason the only two passengers on the subway are two hipsters. Or at least they’re supposed to be.
Bay knows as much about hipsters as he knows about Ninja Turtles, but he has to put them in the film because they weren’t a thing in his day and he’s trying to skew young, oh so hard. We need a throwaway hipster joke here or we won’t be cool enough. So what do hipsters do? Uhh, they…play Angry Birds on iPads in public places, and brag about how good they are at it, right? Because they’re HIP?
The “kids toy” line and Casey’s rant about the Discovery Channel have already been pointed out on other sites, but those passages are Herman Melville compared to ignorance on this scale. What I find most annoying is the fact that Bay would have gotten his laugh from theater-goers, if only because the scene goes by so quickly that most people would just see two goofy-looking people, no matter what they were intended to be or how bad an observation they were. And hey, Angry Birds! I’ve played that! Ha ha!
What it all adds up to is…..
It irritates nerds to no end when someone is rewarded for doing something stupid, and Bay’s been showered with cash for wrecking Transformers and then almost wrecking this. The Ninja Turtles are trickier to write for than one might assume. The franchise has never been completely serious, but it’s not supposed to be a total farce either. Finding that exact balance between action and humor takes a skilled hand. The job shouldn’t go to someone who comes up with dialogue like this:
The second half of the script basically dismantles everything set up in the first half of the script. Yes, it’s revealed the Turtles are aliens, but in a much more annoying way than previously thought. First the movie sticks to the original ooze-and-sewer origin, then Dimension X is brought in. So far, so good….then in the third act it’s revealed Dimension X is another planet and the Turtles came from there, PSYCHE! You thought we weren’t gonna do this! Ha ha, the look on your face!
There’s one more irritating Bay-ism to discuss before we go. We never got into Bay’s casting issues, because this movie never went beyond the script stage. Anyone want to take a guess who he’d cast? Leave your theories below. I’ll place my bets on Nicki Minaj as April.