TMNT – Mutant Mayhem Review
During the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in 2023, this essay was composed. The TMNT – Mutant Mayhem being discussed here would not have been possible without the work of the writers and actors on strike.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem more than lives up to the title’s promise of mayhem. Mutant Mayhem reintroduces the adored turtle brothers Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello to today’s youngsters as the first theatrical TMNT adaptation since the two live-action Michael Bay-produced films of the 2010s and the second animated adaptation after 2007’s TMNT. This adaptation of the turtles was always going to stand out from the franchise due to the combined comedic talents of its creators. It was directed by Jeff Rowe, who also served as co-director of the Oscar-nominated The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. All three also contributed to the writing of the script along with Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit (Detective Pikachu, Koala Man). But this story has a lot more heart than you may think, making it a new animated classic that appeals to both seasoned and casual audiences.
The movie wastes no time in bringing audiences up to speed with the four brothers, who are already in their mid-teens, after a brief introduction to the disgraced genius scientist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito) and his clandestine mutant experiments and “ooze” that unintentionally led to the creation of the turtles. Although not to combat crime or commit offenses, Master Splinter (Jackie Chan) has already taught his adopted sons the old Ninjutsu techniques. The brothers have instead been granted their recognizable swords, nunchucks, sai, and bo staffs solely for self-defense. Splinter has attempted to acquaint his turtle sons with humanity in the past, but they were attacked and labeled as monsters. All four of the guys would go to great lengths to be regarded as typical adolescent boys outside of the sewers. This puts them in a unique situation when encountering the villainous Superfly (Ice Cube) and his group of strange mutant allies.
The same ooze that gave birth to the turtles also gave life to Superfly and his mutant crew, who have both been classified as “monsters” by society. The young ninja turtles must decide whether to side with those who share their struggles or dig deeper and discover the good that humanity has to offer when Superfly reveals his scheme to exterminate humanity by launching a device that will transform every animal on Earth into mutants. The brothers also make friends with the outcast human teenager April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) on their path to becoming fully-fledged crime fighters. She intends to use her journalism abilities to create a news article that will persuade the rest of New York City to share her opinion that the turtles are not abominations because she is the only one who does.
Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem touches on well-known themes of acceptance and unity, it never chooses the simple path when expressing the script’s emotions. The tale revolves around the relationship between the four boys and their father, with Splinter ordering the turtles to stay underground and away from others out of fear that he may lose the only family he will ever have. He pulls his sons farther away as he becomes more strict. Any viewer can identify with the back-and-forth interactions between an overprotective parent and their kids who are just trying to get away. And rather than choosing a simple resolution to this dispute, Mutant Mayhem extensively explores the subject to demonstrate how both Splinter and the turtles must accept responsibility for their mistakes and move on side by side.
Without the legendary Jackie Chan and the outstanding quartet of young voice actors who bring the turtles to life, Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, Brady Noon as Raphael, Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo, and Micah Abbey as Donatello, none of this would be possible. Mutant Mayhem depicts the TMNT comic book characters as actual children, in contrast to prior TMNT movie adaptations. The males here dream as much about finishing the next box of pizza as they do about entering high school as typical teenagers and wanting to date, join the improv club, meet other anime fans, etc. The four youthful voice performers delightfully embody each of the turtles with their distinctive characteristics, giving them a Gen Z twist that seems authentic to the source material. The movie is at its best when they animatedly banter with one another as brothers might.
As revealed by director Jeff Rowe, the four major teenage voice performers also deserve a lot of praise for having improvised a significant portion of their conversation. Four Generation Z turtles couldn’t have been spontaneously captured by a bunch of adult authors, therefore the performers themselves provide a significant portion of the humor in the movie through collaborative improvisation in the sound booth.
This is crystal clear since it never feels forced to hear Leo, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey utilize modern slang like “frizz” or make pop culture allusions to things like the MCU or Adele. You would think that the writing would be amusing and emotional enough on its own, but it’s the actors who give the turtles their true personalities. Jackie Chan, meanwhile, plays Splinter with an endearing mix of stoicism and grumpiness. However, Splinter is appropriately allowed his action-packed opportunity to steal the show when things go tough.
The supporting voice cast is as hilarious, and Ice Cube, who plays Superfly, is enjoying every word he says. The movie’s villain, who is essentially Ice Cube with a humorous god complex, gets to deliver some of the funniest jokes. The script equally highlights the other mutants, including Bebop (Seth Rogen), Rocksteady (John Cena), Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), Ray Fillet (Post Malone), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress), Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), and Scumbug. People are set to fall in love with Paul Rudd’s laid-back skater-bro attitude as Mondo Gecko, making him a new fan favorite. Even in her limited screen time, Maya Rudolph, who plays the supporting evil scientist antagonist Cynthia Utrom, is having a great time.
Incorporating the distinctive visuals of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Mikros Animation has learned the right lessons from Sony’s Spider-Verse franchise’s commercial success. As a result of the fact that Mutant Mayhem combines 2D and 3D animation, many people will immediately draw comparisons between it and the Spider-Verse movies. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish experienced the same problem the previous year. By shattering even more conventions and regulations for contemporary animation, Mutant Mayhem unquestionably continues in the same vein. Its visual aesthetic, however, differs significantly from Spider-Verse’s.
The art style of Mutant Mayhem is influenced by children’s drawings and notebook sketches, which frequently have intentionally crooked or unattractive shapes. The film has elements of comic books and abstract art as well, giving it a feel similar to something you could have seen on MTV in the 1990s sandwiched between episodes of Flux, The Maxx, and Beavis and Butthead.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ outstanding original score supports the movie’s eye-popping action and hilarious visuals. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is their second animated project after Pixar’s Soul, for which they also shared the Oscar for Best Original Score. They are well-known for their extensive list of collaborations with David Fincher and HBO’s Watchmen. The duo shows they are the ideal choice for TMNT – Mutant Mayhem, providing a griminess to the soundtrack with their distinctive analog synths that fit nicely with the underground heroism of the turtles. With upbeat drum beats and tunes, the duo simultaneously evokes the youthful vitality of the four turtle brothers. When Gucci Mane, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest are included, along with a few other lovely needle drops, it’s difficult to watch Mutant Mayhem without occasionally bopping your head.
A visual success, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem raises the bar for the animation business in unique ways. There is a passionate heart and spirit that can bind audiences of all ages beneath all of its flare and flair. Although Gen Z may be the intended audience for these turtles, that doesn’t make it any less approachable for everyone else, and that’s where the film’s genius resides. This is evidence that the field of modern animation is rapidly developing in front of our very eyes, with an increasing number of prominent studios taking the lead. Paramount is aware that it has something special on its hands because a Mutant Mayhem sequel and a streaming series using the same voice cast are already in the early stages of development. You may want to reconsider your choice of an animated movie for the year if you thought Across the Spider-Verse was your favorite.