Any TMNT fan is going to have a blast with this movie as it provides references to the past while still carving itself a new identity.
PLOT: Follows the Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
REVIEW: I count myself as a massive fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whether it’s the old cartoon show, the live actions films of the 90’s, or even the original comic book. While I didn’t vibe with the Michael Bay-produced films, I’ve always loved the turtle action in them. So the fact that this one does the right thing and focuses on the titular characters versus April O’Neil, is already a massive win in my book. That’s what I want in a turtle movie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has that in spades. And while there’s certainly a degree of origin story present, it mostly serves to reintroduce the public to this gang of green teens versus treading old ground.
One of the most brilliant decisions that the filmmakers make is casting actual teenagers as the Turtles. This already feels like a massive improvement over the near 30-somethings we’re used to getting. They actually feel like teenagers without being dreadfully annoying. The voice acting as well as the writing for each of the teens feels spot on. These aren’t the fully formed versions that we’ve seen in the past, and so they’re still developing some of those traits that would grow to become staples of the character ie. the leadership of Leo. I was a little trepidatious with the change to April O’Neil from an established reporter to an anxious high schooler, but it mostly works. Her connection with the Turtles is beautifully done.
My favorite arc of the story though is Jackie Chan‘s Master Splinter. Past iterations really settle on having him be a wise old man who occasionally cracks jokes. But here they are able to put him in an interesting place that allows him to grow as a character. They finally acknowledge that Splinter doesn’t always know what’s best for the boys. I particularly liked how much he saw of himself in Superfly (Ice Cube), who is another standout. He brings so much energy to the role and sounds like he’s having a blast doing it. When you look at the supporting cast, it’s not surprising there are so many funny side characters. Paul Rudd, John Cena, and Natasia Demetriou all voice various mutants, which allow for what may have been forgotten moments to really leave an impression.
It’s easy to compare the animation to that of Into the Spiderverse but I think it does a good enough job of differentiating itself from those films. Mutant Mayhem is gorgeous and you could stop nearly every shot and use it as a screensaver. There’s a getaway sequence that is a real highlight. And I feel as though the writers absolutely stuffed the film full of references to all sorts of past Turtles’ outings. So unless you count yourself as a fan, you may not get as much out of these moments. Still, I’d say the film does a good job of providing funny moments throughout.
I will say though: I’m not entirely sure how this plays for kids. Most of the children in the screening I was at, seemed mostly disinterested in the film. Whether that’s the slow pacing or the fact that they just didn’t have an investment in the characters, it was a bit alarming given a lot of the box office is expected from families. But I know as a thirty-something nerd who grew up on Turtles, I found myself laughing and having a grand ole time. I can’t wait to see where they go with this and what other characters they bring in. While Shredder is certainly a given, I’m hoping Bebop and Rocksteady are able to take on a more villainous role. All I know is I’m ready for more Turtles!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM will be IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE AUGUST 2ND, 2023.