• Mon. May 27th, 2024


ByTaylor T Carlson

Jul 31, 2023

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM is directed by Jeff Rowe. The film stars Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Nicolas Cantu, John Cena, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Natasia Demetriou, Ayo Edebiri, Giancarlo Esposito, Post Malone, Brady Noon, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Maya Rudolph.

Having been born as the result of an ooze spill 15 years ago, mutated turtles Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello, are raised by their protective father, the mutated rat Splinter. The Turtles yearn for a life above the surface, but Splinter, having had a bad experience with humans before, forbids them to go to the human world for longer than a few trips to get supplies. Befriending a high school student who doesn’t see them as freaks, the Turtles put their martial arts skills to the test against the villainous Superfly, a fellow mutant who has his sights set on destroying the human race.

It seems like ever since the original comics from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird appeared in the mid-1980s, the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES franchise has been around and never really gone away, having occasional resurgences in popularity. The series has spawned countless comics, cartoons, video games, and feature films that have alternated between live action and animation alike. As a child, it was one of my favorite franchises; I owned plenty of toys, games, and VHS tapes. By my count, MUTANT MAYHEM is the seventh feature theatrical film based on the TMNT franchise (not including direct-to-video films and the like). I was curious but cautious; this would be my first time seeing a NINJA TURTLES movie since I was eight years old! Despite my skepticism and a few minor reservations, MUTANT MAYHEM succeeds with its unique animation style, solid voice cast, production values, and relatable characters.

I always dread revisiting old franchises because revisionist/modern takes on this can be disastrous. And aside from modern technology/settings and a few characters having their backgrounds and ethnicities changed, this was the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES I new and loved brought into the 21st century on the big screen. The characters retain their familiar identities, personality quirks, and weapons of choice. The movie also scores points for giving Master Splinter more of a “fatherly” role (voiced by Jackie Chan no less!), and the clashes between the Turtles’ wanting to save the city to gain popularity and public acceptance and their guardian’s wish for them to remain out of the surface world feels relatable. While there are a handful of changes to accommodate the modern settings, the movie rarely, if ever, feels “woke.”

The movie also scores extra points for giving an added role to the Turtles’ human contact, April O’Neil. This character has appeared in nearly every incarnation of TMNT, but MUTANT MAYHEM scores points for giving us a younger version of the character in her early formative high school years, something of an outcast herself who finds something of a kindred spirit in the mutant turtles. It’s so good to see the film utilize April as more than just “the human.” She’s relatable and one of the most interesting characters the film has to offer, and it’ll be interesting to see her find herself where she’s known for being in the franchise.

There’s also a wide and interesting supporting cast of characters. This includes Giancarlo Esposito as misunderstood mad scientist Baxter Stockman, Ice Cube as Stockman’s creation Superfly, John Cena and Seth Rogen (who also produced) as mutant duo Rocksteady and Bebop, Maya Rudolph as the obligatory corporate villain, and even additional mutants played by Paul Rudd and Rose Byrne. It seems like everyone is perfectly cast here, and it’ll be interesting to see the way that many of these characters are utilized in future films and television series. The main villain you’re expecting to see in a NINJA TURTLES film isn’t part of the movie’s plot, but a mid-credits scene implies we’ll be seeing that character in the sequel.

By far my favorite aspect of MUTANT MAYHEM is the look of this film. I’ve never quite seen a movie that looks like this one, combining elements of ultra-modern 3D animation with a “drawn” look that resembles a comic book having crawled onto the movie screen. It really must be seen to be believed and appreciated; it’s easily one of the most fantastic looking animated films of recent memory.

While it’s an entertaining film that beautifully combines action and humor, the one shortcoming in an otherwise solid film is its overreliance on pop culture references. I do appreciate the movie’s sense of humor; it’s every bit as funny as the classic cartoon series that started in 1987 (and was largely responsible for incorporating more of the humor into the franchise in the first place), but one has to wonder if these jokes and references will stand the test of time in a few years. The screening audience I saw it with, consisting of many kids and parents alike, clearly had a good time, but who knows if anyone will set these references a few years from now? A few attempts at gross-out humor aren’t exactly the best, though these are luckily relatively limited.

Despite minor shortcomings, MUTANT MAYHEM is a lot of fun and a triumphant return for the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. It had been 30 years since the last time I saw a TMNT movie in theaters, but I’m happy to announce this one’s a fantastic throwback filled with action and humor sure to appeal to a wide audiences; I’m sure it’s not the last we’ve seen on these versions of the characters. Very highly recommended!

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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