Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem: A Visually Unique but Rather Cliche Reintroduction to the Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem preview screening provided by Paramount Pictures
“Mutant Mayhem delivers some thrills and an equal amount of spills”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a shell) for any part of the last 40 years, you will have no doubt come across the rag-tag group known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With countless animated shows, numerous films, books, figures and video games, the teen turtles occupy their own little corner of pop culture and fandom that, while isn’t as prominent as it once was, is still seemingly deserving of a big-screen adaptation every 6 or so years. We’ve had TMNT (2007), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) and Jeff Rowe’s latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023). With that many titles in as many years (along with the various other projects across different formats, like the recent ‘Shredders Revenge’ game), you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that maybe another origin story about sewer dwellers coming to the surface would start to get a little repetitive.
That’s because this film is exactly that, another TMNT film that treads where all of its past titles have, much like taking a theme park ride and seeing the same thing over and over again. But even with its treading-of-old-ground, predictable plot, and general cringe with read-world references, there are some notable differences that might sell you on this title more than past ones.
For starters, Rowe co-wrote The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021), arguably 2021’s best animation, and while Mutant Mayhem isn’t that film, Rowe has no doubt taken a lot of inspiration from it in terms of its very hand-drawn, sketch-book animation style. And that translates really well for a TMNT film namely because it plays into the very scrappy, reckless approach to life that the turtles take (with being teenagers and all). Speaking of the turtles, another plus is that they’re actually voiced by teenagers this time around which actually speaks to the title but also shows in the banter between them.
Like all past TMNT films, Mutant Mayhem opens by tracing how the turtles, consisting of Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Donatello (Micah Abbey), Raphael (Brady Noon) and Michelangelo (Sharon Brown Jr.) came to be. After an abrupt opening showing special forces infiltrating the basement of a mad-scientist playing god (a small part from Giancarlo Esposito), a vial of a green glowing substance falls down the drain and into the sewer where four turtles and a rat, eventually becoming Splinter (Jackie Chan), are exposed to its transformative power.
This opening sequence sets up the sort of craze and pace that will ensue. It’s clearly in the vein of the Spiderverse films and Mitchells, while still staying within its own lane of interest. And Rowe does manage to keep his film from feeling like its trying to be the next Spiderverse or a discounted carbon copy of it (not that it could be), mainly through the fact that this IP lends itself to speed and intensity. However, Mutant Mayhem never really hits the highs that it could have, mainly because it struggles to balance plot and pace, with the former being incredibly thin.
It might be that the overabundance of screenwriters –––Rowe, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit––– has created this problem, with depth in characterisation and story, sidelined in favour of ‘nothing’ dialogue that doesn’t add any value to the plot. Sure you could argue that this is a light-hearted kids film, but that shouldn’t mean that those basics are overlooked.
Even amidst these glaring problems, there are things to look forward to like Ice-Cube voicing the thuglife SuperFly, and of course Jackie Chan’s Splinter is a scene-stealer. There are also a host of other unique characters, and it’s clear the art designers of this film had a blast. I just wish the colourful, unique look of Mutant Mayhem was supported with more oomph in story and plot.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem opens nationally from the 7th of September 2023.
More by Film 101
Past Lives preview screening provided by StudioCanal “Past Lives will move you like no other film this year” Past Lives (2023), the debut […]
Gran Turismo preview screening provider by Sony Pictures “Gran Turismo doesn’t tread too far from similar underdog racing movies, but it has enough […]
Asteroid City: Wes Anderson’s Packed Ensemble Piece is his Most Self-Reflexive, Mildly-Confusing Film Yet
Asteroid City preview screening provided by Universal Pictures “Asteroid City feels like Wes Anderson’s most inward looking film, one that is at once sentimental […]