Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
This latest reboot is impressive on a technical level, but emphasizing the turtles as teenagers did not feel right.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Release Date: August 2, 2023
Runtime: 01:39
The film follows the Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.

The Ninja Turtles have to fight back against an army of mutants in . Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Donatello (), Michelangelo (), and Raphael () have spent the last fifteen years living in the sewers with their father and master Splinter (). After helping out aspiring reporter April O'Neil (Ayo Edebiri), the turtles decide to help April crackdown on a series of crimes committed by the mutant Super Fly (). Together with his mutant army that includes Rocksteady (), Bebop (), and Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), Super Fly plans to activate a device that will mutate all animals and destroy humanity.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Synopsis

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a new animated adventure co-written and directed by Jeff Rowe (The Mitchells vs the Machines), with co-director Kyler Spears, and co-written and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The first theatrical TMNT film since 2016's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, this new adventure is most notable for utilizing a “moving comic book” art style similar to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and casting real teenagers at the Ninja Turtles.

In the set-up for the story, Baxter Stockman () has stolen the mutagen developed by Techno Cosmic Research Institute (TCRI) run by Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph). Despite being stopped by TCRI agents, Stockman already created Super Fly and other mutants, while his remaining mutagen is dumped into the sewers and is instrumental in creating the Ninja Turtles and Splinter. Splinter instructs the turtles to remain hidden from humanity. However, they soon befriend April O'Neil and help her track down Super Fly and his gang.

My Thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the latest attempt to reboot the TMNT brand for the big screen, following the original live-action trilogy from the 1990s, the one-off 2007 animated film TMNT, and the two Michael Bay-produced films from 2014 and 2016 respectively. Despite Jeff Rowe being at the helm as director, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is creatively controlled by “permanent teenager” Seth Rogen.

Taking only loose inspiration from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's comic book series and the more well-known 1987-1996 animated series, Rogen recreates the Ninja Turtles in a much more urban and hip-hop-influenced environment. The creative decision was made to cast real teenagers as the Ninja Turtles, which works somewhat, except for the fact that it sounds like Donetello has yet to hit puberty.

The Ninja Turtles' archnemesis The Shredder and the Foot Clan are passed over in favour of a gang of mutants led by Super Fly, made up of pretty much every mutant character to ever appear in the TMNT franchise. This includes familiar favourites such as Bebop and Rocksteady and deep cuts such as Leatherhead (), Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), Ray Fillet (Post Malone), and Genghis Frog (). Surprisingly, Super Fly and the other mutants don't appear until quite late in the film, with many not getting much more than the occasional one-liner.

While I was impressed by the art style of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, I have to admit that I wasn't too keen on the film emphasizing the fact that the Ninja Turtles are teenagers. Despite the name, the original black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from the 1980s were quite dark and violent, though that take was soon overtaken by the party-loving turtles of the animated series and toy line.

There were rumours two decades ago that John Woo would be involved in a CGI TMNT film that would take the property back to its darker comic roots. However, those plans never came to pass and with the rights to the brand being sold to Nickelodeon in 2009, it is probably unlikely that we'll ever see a more comic-accurate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, with the closest being the original 1990 live-action film, which recreated some of the moments from the first issue of the comic.

I'm seriously starting to sound like an old man yelling “Get off my Lawn” right now, so I'll just conclude by saying that while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is impressive on a technical level, its characterization of the brand is just not for me.

Trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.