Alasdair Stuart writes for Bleeding Cool
Comic Book Movie uncovered these images and, of course, we're linking to them because that's just polite. And I'm always polite. It's nice to be polite.
So it turns out there was very nearly a fourth live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. To my shame (?) I never saw any of the original three but I have friends who are awfully fond of all of them. Yes, even the Vanilla Ice/Kevin Nash unpleasantness in the second one.
Anyway, Kevin Eastman put his concept sketches for the movie up in May at Heritage Auctions and there's some fascinating insights into the near-movie to be gleaned from them.
Firstly though, there's this quote, attributed to the auctioneers:
The fourth live-action TMNT film was pitched and originally scripted as a grittier, less kid-friendly adventure, and to that end Kevin Eastman designed a more brutish, hardcore fifth Turtle, named for the legendary King of Comics (Jack Kirby).
Because, clearly, brutish and hardcore are the first things you think of when you think of Jack Kirby? Although I do applaud the sentiment of having Kirby standing next to Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo as a Master of his art.
Still, brave heart and all that, let's go have a look at the most interesting images.
So that's Kirby up there. Note the spikes on his shell and the long claws on his feet. This really does seem to have been a genuine attempt to de-kiddify the Turtles and whilst there's a lot to recommend that, why on Earth would they go down the Poochy route to do it?
Here are some more Kirby designs,
Next to him is the Spyder, who's spiky to a positively Liefieldian level. The pose is interesting, artful, theatrical and very super-villainy. However, what's really interesting about the Spyder is that something very bad clearly happens to him.
This next image across, the 'Nano-Spyder' appears to be the same man just encased in slightly clunky battle armor, or perhaps a life support suit, with a Japanese flag painted or tattooed across his face. I wonder if Kirby stabs him a lot with that impressive looking sword he's carrying.
Moving down the cast list reveals some really interesting wardrobe choices for the male characters, with Talbot, Lawson and Casey clearly all shopping from the same store as Denis Leary in Demolition Man.
Look at Casey – sorry Kasey – (XTREME!)'s electric fists rig and Lawson's pseudo knuckledusters which seem to do the exact same thing. Also, look at Lawson and Talbot's wardrobe. The pseudo-military design, the over-sized gun, the shades. In fact, look at Kasey (XTREME!). Doesn't he look younger than Casey Jones? And a little dystopian?
Are he, Lawson and Talbot from a dystopian future? Is that when the movie was going to be set?
This looks to be borne out by Bugman's cybernetic arms and the very '90s cyberpunk outfit the Foot soldier's wearing. But was this going to be set in a dark future or feature an invasion from another dimension?
That would explain Kasey (XTREME!) and the pseudo-paramilitary outfits. Hell, they could even have been planning to finally officially off this universe's Shredder and replace him with another.
The dark dimension theory certainly fits a lot of the design choices we're seeing here and, let's face it, it may be the only thing that makes the existence of Evil April remotely sensible. Just her existence though. Not her ridiculous costume. Or why Eastman felt the need to draw on her nipples.
Most interesting of these sketches, though, is the one that appears to be a storyboard.
Someone is standing in Vitruvian Man position, surrounded by energy, with the Turtles hanging on to this figure and each other, and April, who presumably isn't evil anymore, for dear life.
Look at the hands of the figure engulfed in energy. That's the Nano-Spyder. But the Turtles are holding onto him as everything collapses around them. Could the Nano-Spyder have been someone they knew?
Casey maybe? Or Kirby? There's maybe something very Turtle-like about the silhouette of the character in the center of the storm and it would be an interesting double blind for the audience. Introduce Turtle Five, kill him off… but don't. Instant status quo change. That's a pretty decent hook to hang a rebooted franchise on isn't it?
Unfortunately we'll never know, and may not see another Turtles movie if Michael Bay's one never gets off the ground. Still, at least April O'Neill won't have to worry about catching a cold in that ridiculous evil outfit anymore.