You may have already forgotten this, but Michael Bay was producing a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot for Nickelodeon (retitled to just "Ninja Turtles"), but the project got shitcanned - I'm sorry, postponed - earlier this Summer. Said postponement came shortly after alleged details about the screenplay (reportedly hated by the people financing the project) leaked to the web. The "big deal" detail was that the main characters' origins had been revised to make them aliens.
Well, now it seems like the full screenplay might have been leaked, according to the fan blog "TMNT, NOT TANT," which seems to have been dedicated wholly to railing against this particular project. The whole thing is online in a pdf which is linked from TANT; but just in case there's some kinda skullduggery going on here I won't directly link to it.
There's been absolutely zero confirmation of this yet, so this could all be an elaborate hoax. But I'll say this: if this is a forgery, it's a pretty damn good one - containing every detail that had previously "leaked" (even the non-outrage-inducing stuff) and reading like exactly what you'd expect from a Bay-produced "modernizing" of the franchise... but not in an overblown self-parody way.
Yeah, I read it. Yeah, I'll fill you in. And since this MAY actually be the real deal, and the thing MAY actually still get made, SPOILER WARNING for everything after the jump.
Okay. Overall? It's not good. The ritual-slaughter perpetrated on the mythos aside (lets be frank here: TMNT has already been drastically re-fitted and rebooted plenty of times before) it's just not a very good action script. Locations, characters, arcs and plot turns are generic, action scenes are uninspired and been-there/done-that.
Biggest numero-uno glaring problem from a strictly technical standpoint: The four Turtles just don't have any character "on the page." They all read the same - which is to say, they all read like the first live-action movie's version of Raphael. The character "details" are there (Leonardo is the pragmatic leader, Raphael is the sarcastic hothead, Donatello is the techie, Michaelangelo is the big kid, etc.) but they don't "read" any differently. Admittedly, it's the sort of thing good voice casting would go a long way toward fixing.
Either way, the Turtles aren't the main characters. Our lead is Casey Jones - here, a small-town teenage hockey goon whose girlfriend (April O'Neil) has left him to pursue a TV journalism career (at... CBS?) in The Big City. It's Casey who, by happenstance, discovers the Ninja Turtles, rescues them from a military experimentation facility, gives them their color-coded masks (they all look the same and he needs to tell them apart, haw haw) and offers to help them get back to Master Splinter in New York (exactly where April went - what are the odds!!??) Yup - it's Sam from "Transformers" all over again.
The "alien origin" is in there, but it's meant as a third-act surprise. The Turtles start out having been raised (by Splinter, as ever) under the impression that their origin was the same as the comics and the cartoon - i.e. ordinary turtles mutated by mysterious ooze. Speaking of which, the occasionally-stated dictum that this was going to be "closer to the Mirage comics?" Complete bunk - it's the 80s cartoon by way of Bayformers; with Bebop, Rocksteady, Dimension X, The Technodrome and Krang all present and accounted for.
But what about Shredder? Well... this is the stuff that initially made me think this still might be a parody: In this version, the main heavy is COLONEL SCHRADER, who runs a covert military squad codenamed "THE FOOT" that is hunting the Turtles and also bosses around Bebop and Rocksteady (who are more-or-less direct lifts from the cartoon, save that they actually use their guns.) Big second-act reveal: Schrader is also a mutant/alien/whatever disguised as a human who produces blade from his body like a mecha-porcupine. (Michaelangelo: "Schrader? More like SHREDDER!")
So what does Col. Schrader want? Well, he's an advance-man working for Krang (still a living brain, riding in a humanoid mecha-suit with four arms) who's waiting over in Dimension X to invade Earth (by merging the two dimensions) with The Technodrome (the Utroms, Neutrinos etc don't appear to exist.) What's been keeping him?
Well... the TMNT are Superman, basically. Humanoid Turtles are apparently an indigenous race to Dimension X (a generic jungle planet, incidentally), and the four we know are (what else?) THE CHOSEN ONES, spirited away to Earth via Splinter as newborns just as Krang was taking over and fated to return and use their predestined Ninja Weaponry (they seriously do not get their familiar weapons until the end of the movie!) to set things right. Also, there's some B.S. about magic orbs that had been hidden on Earth that were holding Krang back, but we're informed that he just got done tracking them all down offscreen.
The whole thing ends with the by-now expected "Return of The Jedi" pitched three-way battle: The Turtles fighting Krang on NYC rooftops while Casey and April try to short-circuit the dimensional merging aparatus (Casey single-handedly takes out Schrader, Bebop and Rocksteady. For real)as Splinter and The U.S. Military battle Krang's invasion force; culminating in a bizzare setup for more sequels: Turns out the Turtles "destiny" isn't to remain together and fight crime, but rather to split up to the four corners of the Earth and each guard one of those dimension-seperating magic orbs and to train their own individual squads of pre-teenage Ninja Turtles. In a final bit of fanservice, April ditches her go-nowhere "internship" at CBS (surprise! She's exaggerated her glamorous NY life to Casey and was really just an errand girl - betcha didn't see that coming!) and instead becomes an "underground webcam blogger" (oooh! How current!) for ChannelSix.com. Heh. Oh, and the "Turtles arriving at their orb-guarding posts" montage seems to set up a movie-verse version of Venus from "The Next Mutation," FWIW.
So... this reads like it could be the real thing to me, but it could just as easily be bullshit. If it is real, though, it feels like a bullet has been dodged. It doesn't even really read like a "Transformers"-style disaster, really more of a dull, standard-issue action dud. Despite how many franchise-friendly advances have been made in the fields of CGI and choreography, the script is shockingly light on the "Ninja" part of it's title: The Foot Soldiers are just generic Black Ops mooks with machine guns (the Turtle's shells are bulletproof) and most of the action scenes are just chases - until they get their weapons at the end, the extent of the Turtles' martial-arts prowess is limited to shuriken-throwing and improv-weapons. The big final fight with Krang is clearly meant to be the big payoff - at least, here are the guys as you recognize them - but too little, too late.
I actually really like the prospect of having Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang turn up in live-action, but the execution of them is pretty terrible. Krang, especially, is a boring "evil for the sake of it" heavy; which is a problem because he becomes the main threat in the third act. Schrader is a pretty dull bad guy in his own right, but at least if he was the "end boss" there'd be history with the various characters sort of paying off. One of Krang's (not-even-a-handful) lines is to trot out a version of the "Your father looked just like that when I..." lines; referring back to a (biological) father the Turtles and the audience never knew and just found out existed.
We'll probably find out shortly if this is indeed the real thing. Until then... whoa.