Movies

3 Reasons Why A Live-Action Adaptation Of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Could Be The Best TMNT Movie Ever (And 2 Reasons Why It Might Be Terrible)

What a time it is to be a Turtles fan! Not too long ago, I proclaimed that Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was the greatest Turtles movie ever. Now we’ve gotten word that we’re getting an R-RATED live-action adaptation to the super dour comic miniseries, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Like, holy cowabunga, dude. I knew we’d probably get SOME sort of adaptation to the popular comic, but I never, in my wildest dreams, thought it would be both live-action AND rated-R. My colleague, Connie Lee, has some conflicted feelings about the news, and I do, too. 

That said, as a lifelong Turtles fan, I think this movie has the potential to be the NEW greatest Ninja Turtles movie of all time. Here are both my hopes and my worries about this upcoming film. 

The ninja turtles at dawn in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Why It Could Be The Best Turtles Movie Ever – It Deals With Serious Topics Like Mortality And Sacrifice 

I think most people already know by now who the titular last ronin is, but I won’t spoil it here. What I will say is that there’s a reason why the turtle in question is “the last,” and it’s because the other turtles die. Yes, the same fun-loving turtles who would often debate what kind of pizza toppings they would get, end up dying in this miniseries, and in pretty horrible ways. 

Now, as a fan who grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, and as somebody who has seen every single movie that the Turtles have ever been in, I must say, reading The Last Ronin comic really hit me hard. It was difficult seeing the characters I grew up with die such awful deaths (one is especially dramatic since it deals with sacrifice), but it was also hard to see how dystopian the future gets. 

At the same time, The Last Ronin FEELS like a grown-up story. Written by TMNT co-creator, Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz, from an old story by Eastman and the other co-creator, Peter Laird, The Last Ronin is for people who grew up loving the Turtles from the very beginning (a point that I’ll get into next). 

In that way, it will finally be the grown-up approach that long-time fans have always wanted to see on the big screen. A lot of us were quite shocked as children by how dark the 1990 Ninja Turtles movie was, and for many, that will always be the greatest TMNT movie of all time. But, a Turtles film that focuses on mortality, and how all the best years of your life are behind you? Well, that has the potential to be a truly meaningful Ninja Turtles movie. That said… 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series cast

(Image credit: Group W Productions)

Why It Might Fail – You Have To Already Have A Reverence For The Turtles To Appreciate The Story’s Direction  

One thing that really struck me when I read The Last Ronin was how this story is only impactful if you already love the Turtles. If you don’t cherish them, then a lot of the major moments might actually land flat for you. And, that’s actually anathema to what has made the Turtles so wildly popular over the decades. 

You see, the Turtles transcend generations (there are kids who grew up with the Turtles and Power Rangers in the ‘90s, and also kids who are growing up with the Turtles and Bluey today). But, the kids growing up with them today, or even with the 2012 series, likely don’t have the same reverence or history with the Turtles that older generations have. 

This can make the upcoming movie extremely limiting. The movie being Rated-R is already a dead giveaway that this film isn’t for younger fans. But, a great reason why they’ve been so popular for all these years is BECAUSE they have multi-generational appeal. It’s in their DNA. An R-rated adaptation of The Last Ronin seems like the opposite of that, though. It kind of reminds me of the show, Andor, which I adore

Because Star Wars is also multi-generational, but I’d say that it’s mostly geared toward children. I think that’s why Andor just doesn’t click with certain Star Wars’ fans, who consider it “boring,” or “too talky.” I worry that a Turtles film geared only toward an older demographic could actually backfire, and end up being for nobody at all. Even so… 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Why It Could Be The Best Turtles Movie Ever – It Shows The Turtles In A Light That They’ve Never Been Seen Before On The Big Screen  

One reason why I loved Mutant Mayhem was because we saw the turtles in a light that we’ve never seen before on the big screen – as actual teenagers! It’s weird how they never actually seemed like teenagers in a movie until then, but it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Maybe The Last Ronin can do the same thing, except rather than seeing them at some nebulous age like in all of the other movies, sans MM, we’ll actually see them as adults. And, not only as adults, but over the hill, past their prime adults. 

As I said earlier, I’m not going to spoil the story, but they aren’t the only characters we see older versions of, as we also see April O’ Neil, Casey Jones, Karai, and Master Splinter as older characters. None of them are in great shape, and the story gives flashbacks to show what happened to them.

An adaptation that shows them on the big screen in a way that they’ve never been shown before can actually be revelatory, and shocking in all the best ways. I just hope they don’t look like the bulky powerhouses from the 2014 and 2016 movies. They’re much more vulnerable in this story, both mentally, and physically, which lends itself to the serious tone. But, that leads me to another concern… 

TMNT turtles

(Image credit: Paramount)

Why It Might Fail – The Story Is Completely Devoid Of All The Trademark Humor The Turtles Are Known For 

As somebody who’s already read the comic miniseries, I’m acclimated to a Ninja Turtles story that’s devoid of any humor. In fact, the original comic series that spawned the turtles in the first place is much more serious than the cartoon that was born from it. But, there was at least SOME levity in those early comics, as well as many of the ones that followed.

However, there is NO levity in The Last Ronin. Like, none at all. A Ninja Turtles movie with zero humor seems a lot less palatable on the screen than it does in comic book form. On the page, I could accept how grim this story was, but they (especially in live-action!), don’t necessarily lend themselves to being taken super seriously. 

These ARE giant talking turtles after all. On the big screen, there always had to be some kind of humor, because we already had to suspend our belief enough just to accept what we were seeing. It won’t help that many people – especially those who haven’t already read the comic – are going to just be sitting there wondering what the hell happened to the fun-loving, joke-cracking turtles that they grew up with. That could be detrimental for this movie, especially if it’s a close adaptation to the comic. However…

The Shredder in the OG TMNT movie

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Why It Could Be The Best Turtles Movie Ever – This Could Be The First Turtles Movie That Makes Grown-Ups Cry 

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t exactly cry when I finished The Last Ronin, but I got extremely misty eyed. That’s because as dark as this story gets, the ending is actually quite beautiful. 

It kind of reminds me of when I got to the final page of The Walking Dead comic book. It made the story, which was all about zombies, feel incredibly human, and that’s how the end of The Last Ronin felt to me. These turtles, who I’ve enjoyed my entire life, arrived at a conclusion that had me holding my hand over my mouth, and almost whimpering. 

If we get any of that in the movie, then everything else – it being live-action, and Rated-R – would definitely be worth it. They have a chance to tell a really grown-up TMNT story, and if it works, it will REALLY work, given the source material. 

What do you think? Are you also excited (and kind of worried) about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

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