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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Review

Everyone’s favourite heroes in a half-shell are finally making their Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go way back into cinemas! Spearheaded by life-long turtles fans: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the duo promised since the original announcement an unprecedented & uniquely fresh take on the Turtles: for the first time ever they would actually be played by…teenagers.

This proves to genuinely be one of the strongest traits of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which follows the Turtle brothers as, after years of being sheltered from the human world, set out to earn the hearts & love of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Along the way, they meet a new friend in April O’Neil who helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.

The TMNT origin story is as tried and as it is true, so directors Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears breeze us through the organic exposition presented by Master Splinter himself, injecting as much natural Jackie Chan charm as mutantly possible. Because of this, it doesn’t take too long to immerse us into the brotherly quartet: voiced by Nicolas Cantu, Shamon Brown Jr., Michae Abbey and Brady Noon who do a marvellous job at bringing their versions of Leo, Raph, Donnie and Mickey to life with a distinct and lively energy, filled with as much joyous innocence as it is with gravitas the maturity imbued into them by their father & master.

The film does wonders at making their personalities fleshed out and their camaraderie genuine and ingrained into the film’s themes of acceptance and heroism, and so also allows for the comedy to organically ooze off the screen thanks to their interactions and unique dialect that feels so authentic to actual teenage-speak. Their biggest flaw comes from their unshakeable desire of yearning for human acceptance, highlighting their youthful naivety which plays a great foil to Superfly (Ice Cube) and his gang of mutants, all created by Baxter Stockman, who in turn created the ooze that mutated Splinter and the turtles.

The creators’ love for the IP shines through and stops this new interpretation from becoming a cynical attempt at reinventing who the turtles are, instead, they highlight the strengths of the characters by earnestly capturing the experience of otherness through the innocent eyes of a child. The characters’ innocence is what reflects the tragedy of their circumstances in an age of social media where interactions never stop and yet there’s a distance between everything and everyone, it’s a wonderful & uplifting narrative that encourages conversation and manages to tell a timely story with timeless heroes.

Furthermore, the action is electric to watch, thanks to the inventive animation style, reminiscent of The Mitchells vs The Machines but with an unmistakable design style all of its own. The fluidity of the action is sharp & smooth, textures of skin and materials feel tactile and there’s a wonderful Claymation-like aspect to the way the characters move through the 2D-drawn backgrounds. The vibrant colours, aesthetic composition and jaw-dropping lighting work make for one of the most uniquely gorgeous animation films of the generation, and an experience I could watch 10 times over and never tire of.

Beyond visuals, the Atticus Ross/Trent Reznor score takes clear inspirations from garage, hip-hop and is specifically fuelled by the 90s New York music scene and is an essential component of making the Big Apple itself a character in the film, building to one of the film’s most emotional moments.

It’s easy to accuse the film of following a familiar structure, and how it seems all the Turtles story eventually fall into this thematic, but it’s familiarity does not undermine how the story captures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of the Turtles, their chill attitude and wacky antics. It’s a movie that makes us fall in love with these characters so much, even when the plot isn’t progressing, it’s just as much fun to watch the big bombastic set-pieces as it is to simply hang out with them on a night out.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a refreshingly fun & authentic coming-of-age tale earnestly capturing the Turtles experience! Rowe and Spears brilliantly balance a 90s inspired style with slick aesthetics & an intimate narrative for a beautifully grounded, earnest in character outing which is easily the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, ever.