The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a huge part of pop culture since they first entered our sewer systems in 1987, with the immensely popular cartoon series that ran for nine years. However, many don't realize that the turtles actually started life in Mirage Comics three years prior, courtesy of comic book writers Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Over the decades, the comics underwent different publishers, with IDW Publishing currently enjoying the longest stretch with the half-shell heroes. In that time, there have also been several animated series: the 2003 reboot, the 2012 CGI series, and Rise of the TMNT.
If you aren't a fan of TMNT - which we'd find very hard to believe - in a nutshell or a half-shell, four baby turtles come into contact with a mutagen in the sewers, and are adopted by rat Splinter, who has also been mutated. As the turtles, like Splinter, grow to become sentient and anthropomorphic, they are taught by their father the ways of the ninja, so that they can defend the city above from Shredder and his army of Foot Soldiers. And with the help of news report April O'Neil, and of course a lot of pizza, that's exactly what they end up doing.
If you are a fan, you'll know that there have been plenty of movies too. Just three years after the cartoon series aired, the first one hit theaters. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went on to become the highest-grossing independent film ever until it was surpassed by The Blair Witch Project in 1999. The movie pioneered state-of-the-art puppeteering, which to this day remain the preferred ‘versions' of the turtles. While a grittier departure from the cartoon, and far more in touch with its grungy comic book origins, the film's two sequels were sadly dictated by controversy regarding violence in children's television and film.
As a result, all things ninja became heroes (hence that name alteration), and as the film series went on, it lost any form of credibility it started with. 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and 1993's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III kept the turtles on the map, but looking back, they're dripping with cheese (pun intended, of course). But even after the third entry, three years would pass before the cartoon ended. While all the merchandise (a huge pop culture phenomenon in its own right) continued to populate toy shelves the world over, it seemed that the turtles' heyday – at least in cinema - was over.
In 2007, however, we got the fourth film in the original TMNT movie series. While entirely CGI, the film is said to be canonical with the first three live-action entries. But despite actually being a strong effort with some excellent animation and voice performances, TMNT was met with a lukewarm reception, and another seven years would pass before we would ever see the turtles on the big screen again. This came in the form of Michael Bay's controversial and wishy-washy 2014 reboot, which also got a sequel in 2016, a film far better than its predecessor.
But will there be another TMNT movie? Well, we contacted reporter April O'Neil for comment but she's unavailable, so grab a slice of pizza and join us as we enter the sewer systems in search of everyone's favorite lean, green, fighting machines…
Will there be a third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie?
In 2014, director Michael Bay stoked the flames of controversy when the trailer for his new TMNT reboot promised the most radical alterations to the turtles, which resulted in many fans comparing them to the character Shrek. When the film finally hit theaters, while far from a masterpiece (very far), it was hardly the rat-infested mess people expected it to be. And the turtles didn't look that bad - it was more that they took a bit of getting used to. And if anything, the motion-capture CGI was pretty impressive, even if Bay was basically recreating his beloved Autobots using large shells and green leathery skin.
He also missed the mark with the turtles themselves, opting for obnoxious characters over relatable personality types. As for the film's so-called plot, the less said about that, the better. Its 2016 sequel, TMNT: Out of the Shadows, however, was a vast improvement, retconning elements of its predecessor, while also serving as a live-action adaptation of the beloved ‘80s cartoon, bringing in the likes of Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady for their live-action debut. But, owing thanks to the first film, the sequel flopped (at least by today's standards) and here we are, five years later, with no signs of a third entry on the horizon.
A threequel was on the table, though, which was obvious from Out of the Shadows alone, seeing as it left the manhole cover wide open for the return of Krang and Baxter Stockman. The four turtles actors, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson, who play Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael, respectively, along with Megan Fox (April O'Neil), had also signed on to three movies, but based on the sequel's box office performance, the third entry was confirmed as canceled later that year. But don't worry - there is light at the end of this otherwise dark sewer tunnel...
Is there going to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot?
Following Michael Bay's two movies, there has been a lot of confusion around what exactly is happening with the next TMNT movie. And even if we had no news for you whatsoever, you can bet your bottom pizza topping that, as sure as you were born, there will always be new TMNT movies. The IP has been incredibly lucrative since its mainstream inception in 1987, and though there was a bit of a hiatus during the '90s, Nickelodeon hasn't stopped cashing in on this property since the early 2000s. But while there has been some back-and-forth news about what's actually happening, there is finally something solid.
Back in 2018, Paramount Pictures was all set to reboot the movie series, however, by the following year, co-creator Kevin Eastman confirmed that the project was still in development. Yet another year later, in June 2020, it was confirmed that the reboot would be CGI, much like the 2007 film TMNT. But this time, and much to the surprise of fans, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had signed on as producers. The film has been described as "next-level reinvention of the property", and is set for release on August 11, 2023.
In an interview with Collider, Rogen promised that his new movie would capture what it's like to be a teenager, saying, "As a lifelong fan of Ninja Turtles, weirdly the 'Teenage' part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was always the part that stuck out to me the most. And as someone who loves teenage movies, and who's made a lot of teenage movies, and who literally got their start in their entire profession by writing a teenage movie, the idea of kind of honing in on that element was really exciting to us. I mean, not disregarding the rest, but really using that as kind of a jumping-off point for the film."
New Live-Action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie
Seth Rogen's animated movie isn't the only reboot in the works, as it has also been confirmed that SNL writer Colin Jost will be writing a live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with his brother Casey Jost. At this stage, it's difficult to tell whether this will be the third entry in the Michael Bay series or not, although it's very unlikely, given the fact that the franchise was brought to a grinding halt due to the sequel's poor box office performances in 2016. So it's reasonable to assume that this will be the first live-action movie in yet another intended series. Either way, Bay is confirmed to be back on board.
Exactly how this movie will pan out remains to be seen, and it's also hard to tell whether the IP will finally get the serious attention it deserves, or whether it's doomed to be more comedy and less brooding. With two projects now underway, it's a good time to be a TMNT fan, but with each of them being put together by big names in the world of comedy - the animated one from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and the live-action movie from an SNL writer - it's slightly worrying. And with Bay back on board, this only adds to our concerns (although many fans do want to see his series continue, albeit with a bit more TLC).
While Rogen's intended focus on the teenage side of things certainly sounds promising, we know very little about the live-action project. Let's just hope Paramount finally decides to take the turtles back to their roots - or at least find a happy medium. After all, the original Mirage comic books were very dark, but even for the average diehard fan, it's easy to forget that the turtles weren't always color-coded, pizza-munching, friendly neighborhood reptiles. The trouble is, with Nickelodeon ultimately in charge of the property, a return to their dark roots is very unlikely.
There might be some time until we see either of the two reboots, so it seems like all is quiet on the TMNT front, but this isn't the case. Not only is IDW Publishing's long-running TMNT comic book series ongoing (be sure to check out miniseries TMNT: The Last Ronin), there's also a retro arcade-style video game coming out. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge will transport you back in time (no, not to feudal Japan), as it promises a side-scrolling beat 'em up, with the opportunity to switch between all four turtles and other characters. It's set for release in 2022 across multiple platforms.
Check out the trailer below:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that works in many ways, whether it's the dark and gritty Mirage comics or the family-friendly, pizza-loving heroes from the cartoons and the recent movies. But deep down, we know that many fans would love to see a darker version brought to the big screen - or even the small screen, for that matter. Something along the lines of the Indonesian action film The Raid would be much welcome. But for now, we're just happy that the awesome foursome is making a comeback.
Be sure to check back in as we bring you more slices of TMNT news.