Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem might be another reboot but the film is pure TMNT joy for any fan of the franchise.
My apologies for being way too late to watching the new film. I could not attend the press screening because of the studio holding it on Shabbos. After the film opened, my schedule was a bit hectic. Anyway, it is now available to buy and rent on digital and streaming on Paramount+. A physical home release is probably not too far away. Please be advised that there is a mid-credit scene.
I grew up on the Turtles so I get both curious and concerned every time I hear about a new reboot. There’s a lot of nostalgia over here for the live-action trilogy of movies and the original cartoon series. I’m trying to remember if I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells concert tour in person at the Louisville Gardens in February 1991 but I’ve definitely watched it on VHS. Whoever owns rights to the concert tour needs to make it available through digital retailers! It’s hard keeping up with all the different animated series and movies but there were plenty of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers toys in my bedroom in the 1990s. For what it’s worth, I did not see either 2014 or 2016 live-action film.
I had no concern going into this film because I trusted the team behind it. Jeff Rowe being the co-director of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is more than enough to support this film. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Point Grey Pictures team is behind the movie. When I see permanent teenager Seth Rogen is producing a film, it immediately piques my interest. The film is my second favorite animated feature of the year. It would have been #1 if not for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. I just love what the film team is doing with the animation. When you watch so many films from Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, it’s always nice to see animators changing it up. That’s what makes films like this and Spider-Verse feel like a breath of fresh air.
The Point Grey team knows how to make a movie about teenagers. Okay, so most of them are usually raunchy movies about teenagers. This one is very different from their usual filmography but again, they know how to make these films. Jeff Rowe would might not have directed the film if not for The Mitchells vs. The Machines producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. According to the press notes, Lord and Miller praised Rowe’s work. Point Grey met with him and the rest is history. Behind the camera, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring the film is an added plus. I don’t think I could have ever imagined them doing a Turtles movie in my lifetime.
They do things in this film that were not really done in the live-action trilogy. Outside of Corey Feldman, none of the cast were teenagers. All four actors voicing the Turtles are teens in this film. Another thing they do is really lean into the coming-of-age genre. Again, it’s so different from any of the previous Turtles films. I also love how they incorporate the whole Best Chris into the film although Chris Hemsworth is strangely missing. As an FYI, Chris Evans portrayed Casey Jones in the 2007 movie. Anyway, I love that they give Kevin Eastman a Stan Lee-esque cameo. Eastman and Peter Laird published the initial comic in 1984. Nearly 40 years later, it’s a billion dollar franchise.
What makes this film feel so different is that it’s not just your run-of-the-mill comic book movie. It’s a film that features the leading characters wanting to fit in. They want to be accepted, whether it’s by classmates or humanity in general. After the inciting event–Techno Cosmic Research Institute (TCRI) executive Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph) sends a strike team to hunt Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito)–leads animals to mutate, the film cuts to 15 years later. The Turtles are teenagers at this point and refer to Splinter (Jackie Chan) as Dad rather than Master Splinter. Anyway, the film’s themes are able to make it so easy to resonate with. This is something I know all too well about because of being transgender. All we want is to be accepted for who we are–mutants are no different.
Splinter’s experience with humans leads him to hide Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.,) in the sewers. You couldn’t blame him if you tried. But anyway, he teaches them how to be ninjas. I didn’t think of it a few years ago but holy cow, you can really see the Daredevil influence on the franchise. Years later, they rescue April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) and help her investigate the mysterious Superfly (Ice Cube). Superfly (Ice Cube) and the Mighty Mutanimals have become a crime syndicate with a plan to destroy humanity because of not being accepted. Much like the X-Men, it becomes a battle of good vs. bad with many of Superfly’s gang deciding to side with the Turtles in battle.
The mid-credit scene teases Shredder’s arrival. I’m now curious to see if they incorporate Shredder into the animated series or if they save him for the sequel film. Time will tell before it hits Paramount+ for at least two seasons.
There’s no doubt that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the best movie in the entire TMNT franchise–it doesn’t hurt that it was made by fans FOR fans.
DIRECTOR: Jeff Rowe
CO-DIRECTOR: Kyler Spears
SCREENWRITERS: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg & Jeff Rowe and Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit
CAST: Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Natasia Demetriou, Giancarlo Esposito, with Jackie Chan and Ice Cube, introducing Paul Rudd, Austin Post, Hannibal Buress