Directed by Jeff Rowe, screenplay by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver, and based on characters by Peter Laird and Keven Eastman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a computer-animated film that is a fresh reboot of the franchise.
After living their whole lives hiding from humans, Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), and Donatello (Micah Abbey) crave to connect and be accepted into the world above the sewers but are constantly warned by their father Splinter (Jackie Chan), that it is dangerous. After a chance meeting with April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri), they start secretly hunting down a mysterious villain named Superfly (Ice Cube) to save the city from his crime spree.
As a long-time fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was looking forward to what this new instalment had to offer, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I love the visual design of the movie! It has so much depth the way it juxtaposes the dark gritty urban landscapes of New York with vibrant pops of lighting and glowing colours. Despite being computer animated, it has a hand drawn feel with brush and pencil stroke shading and outlines, giving texture to objects and the characters.
A signature of good animation design is to have your characters all look unique and identifiable from their silhouettes alone. This reboot has carefully considered that, you’ll notice that Leonardo and Raphael are taller, while Michaelangelo and Donatello are shorter. There are even slight differences in their head shapes and body shapes, making their silhouettes all look different. With Raphael having a different bandana style and Donatello having glasses, it actually makes it easier to tell the four brothers apart now.
Although, I am still getting used to the new voices. So, telling them apart when a character was off screen sometimes threw me off as I’m still very accustomed to the voices from the old 80s cartoon and 90s live action movies that I watched on repeat as a child. It is interesting to note that the four Turtles and April are played by young voice actors, with some of them having very little prior experience. The Turtle characters themselves are presented as young and inexperienced too. If we get a continuation of movies or a TV series from this version, I would like to see how these actors grow into their roles and carve out their own versions of these beloved characters.
I mostly felt the casting choices were good aside from Donatello sounding a little too much like a small child. But I did like how his nerdy side was expressed through a love of anime, since the movie didn’t really have any opportunities to see him using his usual prowess for technology.
I do miss Michaelangelo’s surfer dude accent from the old versions but we did get a hint of it as he goofed around with Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), and of course there was a signature “Cowabunga!” in one of the battle scenes.
Leonardo comes off as awkward and a tattletale in this version who hasn’t quite fully grown into the role of respected serious leader, but we do get a hint of it later in the film and I think it does a good job of portraying his growth.
The other Turtles joked about Raphael having pent up rage when he confessed how much he loves fighting, but the dialogue didn’t really give too much weight to the matter, as I think this version of the franchise is too light-hearted to dwell on it and soon after he’s back to cracking jokes.
The four of the Turtles together provided a great sense of what it is like to hang out with your siblings. Sometimes it’s chaotic, sometimes it’s cringey, and that’s exactly what family life is like. There are many other characters voiced by very well-known screen actors, such as Jackie Chan as Splinter, mostly just referred to as “Dad” in this film. Visually, Splinter is softer and rounder, which I think makes him less intimidating and definitely more of a cute daggy dad.
There are some well-done scenes with Splinter trying to be a good parent but coming across incredibly awkward while trying to relate to his kids. While he is still the one that taught the Turtles martial arts, this version does not seem to connect him to Japan in any way. It was also great to see Splinter enter the action later in the film when the boys need some help and a joke about “milking” coming to fruition which is quite hilarious.
The action scenes are fantastic. I loved the way they were cut along with the choice in music and the additional comedic remarks from our heroes. From dingy warehouses to car chases and aerial battles through the streets of New York, there were so many exciting moments with creative solutions to taking down their foes.
The soundtrack has a mix of newer and older songs, mostly with a hip-hop style. There are also a few other clever music references, such as the boys talking about sneaking off to watch an Adele concert, trying to haphazardly sing a BTS song, and of course ‘Ninja Rap’ by Vanilla Ice playing on a car radio. I especially enjoyed the latter, as it was a throwback to the 1991 Turtles film ‘Secret of the Ooze’, a little easter egg for the old-school fans!
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is super enjoyable for both adults and kids. With likable characters, it’s funny, action-packed, filled with pop-culture references, and the animation is creative, giving the franchise a fresh new start. Whether you’re a long-time fan or seeing the Turtles for the first time, it’s definitely worth checking out for a radical time!