Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem | Teen Ink

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

August 19, 2023
By KEth BRONZE, Fremont, California
KEth BRONZE, Fremont, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (or Mutant Mayhem, as I’ll be referring to it) faces the uphill battle of reimagining a legacied cast of characters in an entirely new context. This is, of course, no new challenge for a franchise whose roots can be traced all the way back to the 80s, but all the same, making a good iteration of the TMNT requires a bit of finesse.

That’s why I’m excited to report that Mutant Mayhem definitely sticks the landing, and has made these turtles into characters I want to see more of, even as someone with no nostalgia for the franchise.

The movie follows the titular turtles, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michaelangelo, as they seek acceptance from the citizens of NYC, and eventually come to grips with their mutant identity and what it means to them. Right out the gate, the “teenage” in these mutant ninja turtles is what grabs most people watching this movie. These kids are cringy, snarky, and dorky in a way that makes their chemistry as a team delightful to watch. While many dispute this drastic shift in their writing, I think this change in direction is exactly what’s needed to bring TMNT back to its intended adolescent audience, and also gives the series a lot more heart. Instead of the gritty action heroes that the turtles are frequently marketed as, these turtles are relatable goofs that audiences can really connect with. The way they bicker, yet rely on each other in a very realistic way, makes how they overcome their struggles together all the more heartwarming, strengthening those difficult moments.

This emotional tide, constantly rising and falling, also lends to the movie’s strong pacing. Clocking in under 100 minutes, it gets to the point quickly and squeezes a lot of mileage out of every moment. However, the movie’s blazing speed frequently leaves much of its emotional potential in the dust, leading to my first gripe.

While I stand by the claim that this iteration has a lot of heart, in some scenes, not enough of it is allowed to show. For instance, the turtles’ shared backstory, which was so brief and glossed over that I couldn’t get that invested in the conflicts it set up, dampening the impact when those conflicts were referenced during the climax. Comparing it to something like Kung Fu Panda 2, where Po’s backstory and internal conflict are masterfully set up for an incredible payoff, the emotional moments of Mutant Mayhem lack room to breathe. It sacrifices potential heart for the sake of being a fast-paced action flick, which I hope doesn’t happen for a potential sequel.

Another point of contention for this movie is the comedy. While good comedic timing, appropriate use of slang, and lighthearted parody make the movie quite a joyous ride, once again, it is too willing to sacrifice the sanctity of emotional scenes for more of these moments. For example, high schooler April O’Neil, a supporting character in this movie, struggles with stage fright that keeps her from pursuing her dreams as a reporter. This is shown in a flashback where she regurgitates a truly gratuitous amount of vomit while trying to give the morning announcements, and the way it’s portrayed makes it hard to tell how seriously the audience should take it. Again, this means that April overcoming her anxiety in the climax is kind of a dud moment, and could’ve been made much better if her conflict had just been played straight.

On a final note, the animation of this movie is phenomenal. While the comparisons to Spiderverse have been drawn a million times by now, the flowing, stylistic animation really is something to behold. Better yet, it distinguishes itself from its peers, opting for a rougher, sketchbook aesthetic that characterizes the NYC streets these characters inhabit.

Overall, while Mutant Mayhem could benefit from playing more to its emotional stakes, for a first outing, it is undoubtedly a charming and effective introduction to this new reimagining. I can’t wait to see where they go with it.

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