Quite a few people would state that their childhood has been wrecked by the live-action movies that have been made in recent years, but the truth is that if such a thing can wreck your childhood then it might be time to seek out a good psychiatrist and work past a few deeper issues. All joking aside, for the moment, the fact is that there were a few issues when it came to the new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that emerged back in 2014, and unfortunately, one of them had everything to do with the main villain. Those of us that grew up watching TMNT among many other cartoons know too well that Oroku Saki, aka the Shredder, was a bad character, but he had a reason for being that way, since his rivalry with Hamato Yoshi, who either kept Splinter, the turtles’ mentor, as a pet, or became Splinter depending on the story, was a strong motivator for his turn to the dark side. From the graphic novels to the movies, Shredder was a fairly complex character that had a chance at times to be someone better or at least avoid becoming the devilish warrior in the intimidating armor.
In the cartoons, Shredder was deadly, but he was also kind of a bumbler at times since he made so many different attempts to destroy the Turtles and always fell short somehow. Even when he teamed up with other villains, Krang especially, Shredder was often made to walk the line between being a deadly villain and someone that was plagued with a run of bad luck when it came to achieving his goals. But the 2014 movie made this character feel like an afterthought, someone that was there to be a credible threat but was still capable of being tossed to the side when it was needed. As of now, Seth Rogen’s animated reboot is set to bring Oroku Saki into the picture in a different way, meaning that he’ll be a bad guy with more complexities to his character to flesh him out a little more.
That could go either way, but it’s fair to state that it would be a little better for the character, and the story since Shredder is indeed a more complex character that had a life beyond the Turtles and Splinter. The 2014 movie set up a character that barely scratched the surface of the lore that supported his character and instead turned him into a full-on villain that was all flash and very little substance. Even the sequel to this movie treated him as a throwaway character as Krang became the main villain, but the lack of respect toward the character of Shredder was a big mistake that a lot of fans latched onto. His appearance in the 2014 movie was enough to split the fanbase since some folks thought he looked awesome, while others believed it was a ridiculous sight that went so far over the top that it was easy to think that someone simply said ‘more knives’ and allowed the artist to just go nuts. In one way this suit of armor looked impressive, but when thinking that it could be as mobile as it was, the effect was kind of ‘meh’.
The thing about the Shredder is that for the entirety of the TMNT story, he’s been a villain, he’s been given a backstory, and despite his villainous presence, there have been reasons given as to why he is the bad guy he became. The 2014 movie disregarded this in a big way and didn’t manage to establish a solid backstory for the character, which was a big mistake. The focus on the Turtles and Splinter wasn’t a bad thing, but it did cut hard into the opportunity for the Shredder to be fleshed out. Plus, the armor is still a sticking point since the bulk and the over-the-top technology that went into really didn’t fit into the same idea that had given rise to the character in the years before. Granted, things need to change when it comes to an idea, but this type of change felt like the fever dream of an excitable teenager that just wanted ‘more’ and didn’t consider what it would do to the overall story.
Here’s the point, Shredder is a skilled and extremely deadly combatant, without the mechanized suit and sometimes without his armor. The lore behind this character is that at one point he was friends with Hamato Yoshi. Things happened, they had a parting of ways, and the fallout created the story that we know today. But thus far, the new movies haven’t managed to showcase this effectively since the Shredder has been tucked up and kept as a useful tool, not a fully fleshed out villain. If Rogen is going to find success with his version of TMNT, his treatment of Shredder will need to be far better than what Bay accomplished.