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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem – Film Review

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- Mutant Mayhem film review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- Mutant Mayhem film review

There have been so many reboots to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles origin story that I have lost count. This time around it’s Seth Rogan’s turn at the wheel, attempting a fresh take on the lore. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a fun filled, fast paced, wacky take on the four green brothers. For better… and for worse.

Hot on the heels of the fantastic Spider-Verse movies, Mutant Mayhem hopes to capture some of the magic those two movies created. The result is the weirdest looking turtles iteration yet. And I love it. 

Looking like a mix between the old claymation style of the 1980s and 1990s with that of some scratchy doodles on a school notebook, Mutant Mayhem sets a tone of its own. The action has a jerky, janky feel to it. But it works. The turtles up until now have never truly felt like they filled the “teenage” part of their moniker.

Each of the four brothers is played by a young actor. At first this is very jarring due to past voice actors being mostly adult sounding. By the end of the film you just get it; this universe works by its own set of rules and suits the teenager aspect nicely. The boys feel the youngest they have ever felt in this iteration, as does April who isn’t a fully fledged adult reporter for Channel 6 News – she’s a wannabe journalist at high school. Other characters in the movie (and there are many) don’t always get the chance to shine; one of the worst examples is Seth Rogan’s own Bebop and John Cena’s Rocksteady, who have a paragraph of dialogue between them for the entire movie.

The voice cast is stellar, featuring the likes of Jackie Chan as Master Splinter, Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko, and Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman. Unfortunately these wonderful actors feel a tad wasted as Seth Rogan and co really lean into the Mutant line up for this movie, squeezing even obscure 90’s mutants in; such as Ray Fillet (played by Post Malone). The problem is that none of them really get the chance to shine outside of Ice Cube’s Superfly character.

Story wise this is an origin tale – yet again – of the turtles. I swear Spider-man got far more flack from the audience for its retelling of Peter Parker’s origin than the turtles have ever received. That aside, being a brand new iteration with no previous ties, and a twist on the usual “villainous mutants”, a fresh start is yet another thing that works in this movie’s favour. The plot is quite thin – Superfly wants to take revenge for his father’s murder and his siblings attempted kidnapping by releasing the ooze into the ozone layer, flooding Earth with mutants. Good news for them, bad news for us.

Naturally the turtles and April get entangled in the whole mess and have to put a stop to things. Being an origin story the turtles aren’t really too great at the whole ‘being a ninja’ gig just yet – but their youth isn’t the only thing that stops them from being the fearsome team we know and love. You see instead of Splinter being either the pet of a trained ninja or a former human warrior turned rat – HE LEARNS KUNG FU FROM YOUTUBE TUTORIALS AND BRUCE LEE MOVIES…

Sorry, for the outburst folks but this element of the film really got my back up. It just made no sense whatsoever and does not suit the whole TMMT vibes. Perhaps with a retcon in a sequel it will turn out that Splinter took to fighting lessons on video so well because he was indeed Hamato Yoshi’s pet, like in other tellings of the tale, and not just a random rat. Then again, perhaps not. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem does try and push the whole ‘everyone is different and just needs to be understood’ narrative, so maybe Splinter being just a normal rat fits the theme of the movie better. I still don’t like it.

The four turtles also have very little character development. Besides their signature weapons and bandana colour assignments, they don’t really grow in this movie. Sure they do slightly better at accidentally succeeding, but that isn’t making progress, it’s getting lucky. Apart from Leo falling for April, the guys don’t develop one bit, and so when combined with the hyperactive levels of pacing and the amount of mutants thrown at us for short bursts, things can feel a bit too much like style over substance at times. 

Back to things I do like though – the soundtrack. From a great car chase sequence using 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up? to a nice little use of Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap during a fight scene – the music in Mutant Mayhem is really superb. Song choices are wonderfully nostalgic while still feeling fresh and cool for today’s audience. Kids still say “cool” right? Either way, the music hits the spot and has been well selected to match the tone of the movie. 

Aside from some clearly forced-in Seth Rogan jokes (milking the turtles didn’t work the first time it was said, never mind the third), they have managed to create a movie that has a teenage vibe throughout. They also managed to tick the box for the Mutant Mayhem title with a wonderfully gross selection of random turtle villains from the past. It’s just a shame that they never quite nailed the Ninja aspect, and the twist on things at the end doesn’t quite fit the TMNT vibe at all. Then again, this film sets out to be its own thing while recognising the past from the outset – and it succeeds at that.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem does a good job of portraying the teenage feelings of not being understood and craving acceptance. This is heavily leaned into in an unexpected way at the conclusion, and whilst I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, it is most certainly different for the franchise. Sneaking out to watch outdoor movies and making their first human friend with April got more screen time than the ninja side of things. Definitely a different take on the tale of the turtles, targeted to a younger audience. At least us “old” fans have The Last Ronin and the resurgence of Turtles beat-em-up games to enjoy.

An after-credits scene sets up a sequel by introducing a major character who was previously absent for the movie. It will be interesting to see how this turtle team copes with the new threat in a follow up. At the moment the plans are for a TV show spin off that follows on from the end of this movie and leads to the next. All in, I really liked Mutant Mayhem for the most part, and I say this as someone who was there when the original cartoon premiered and can now watch this version with my young son. 

A great animation style, a new take on the turtles and a whole new spin on the mythos is what you get in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. It’s a good start for a new version of the turtles, setting the table for further iterations to take the ball and win the game. Definitely better than Rise of the TMNT, but maybe not for those beholden to “one true/traditional turtles origin”. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Unique animation style
  • Fresh spin on the franchise
  • Great soundtrack
Cons:
  • Changes in some characters don’t always land
  • Too many mutants - not enough screen time
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 39mins | 2023
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Alister Kennedy
Alister Kennedy
A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Unique animation style</li> <li>Fresh spin on the franchise</li> <li>Great soundtrack</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Changes in some characters don’t always land</li> <li>Too many mutants - not enough screen time</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 39mins | 2023 </ul>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem - Film Review
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