The latest reiteration of the iconic 80s comic is arguably one of the best adaptations of the beloved Turtles
Last Updated: 10.50 AM, Sep 01, 2023
Story: The teenage mutant ninja turtles, Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon) and Donatello (Micah Abbey), are forced to live under sewers under the care of their adoptive father Splinter (Jackie Chan), a humanoid rat. They are told from a young age that humans will not accept them for who or what they are, and that they must remain hidden from the outside world. However, the turtles, who are trained ninjas, believe that if they present themselves as heroes of humanity, they will find acceptance in society. They decide to embark on a mission to stop the crime spree of a mysterious villain known as the Superfly (Ice Cube), in the hope that their new friend April (Ayo Edebiri) will be able to report heroic escapades to the general population. But their plans are easier said than done.
Review: There are a few iconic franchises that have retold the origin stories of their protagonists through multiple reiterations over the years. While some of them, such as Batman for instance, have managed to keep the audience invested with each new origin story, others have struggled to replicate the same. The latest adaptation Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, risked being another rehashed film around a familiar story. However, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem offers a fresh spin on the story, with contemporary animation and artwork, well-written humour, and themes that resonate with the current socio-political fabric of society.
The core theme of the story pivots around the idea of one’s place in society, and the idea of social acceptance. It also explores themes of discrimination and how media plays a crucial role in shaping perceptions among the masses. Unlike some of the previous adaptations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each of the four siblings has very distinctive personality traits. Leonardo is the cautious leader, Donatello is the geek, Raphael is brash and ready for action, and Michelangelo is the free-spirited one of the group. Despite the film’s relatively short runtime of an hour and 39 minutes, each of their character arcs is fleshed out, and it speaks volumes of the quality of writing and its ability to compel the audience to empathise with the teenage heroes and their plight in a matter of minutes.
The introduction of April in the mix opens the door for the Turtles to leave the confines of their secret home to explore the outside world. And it also offers a glimpse of how perceptions can change depending on the situation. If April came across the Turtles on the street, she probably would’ve been terrified – a fact that she confided with her new friends. Whereas through Superfuly and his band of mutants, the narrative opens a discourse on nature vs. nurture. And like most great cinematic villains, the audience is compelled to sympathise with him and gain an understanding of his motivations. The writers have also drawn comparisons between how Splinter raised the Turtles to how Superfly raised his siblings – to examine the arguments of nature and nurture.
The set pieces and plot devices do lean on familiar tropes but the stunning animation and doodle-style artwork adds a unique flavour to the narrative. It has taken inspiration from the animation style of the critically acclaimed Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse to tell an engrossing coming-of-age story. Apart from Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey, and Shamon Brown Jr. as the Turtles, the film boasts an incredible voice cast. Jackie Chan, John Cena, Seth Rogen, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ice Cube, Ayo Edebiri, Giancarlo Esposito, and Paul Rudd among others, play pivotal roles in the film. In addition to some stellar performances by the film’s voice cast, director Jeff Rowe also deserves immense praise for crafting this animated film to near perfection. Lead writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg prove yet again that they are amongst the very best when it comes to comedy.
Verdict: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a surprisingly fresh take on a familiar story. The animated film boasts stunning animation and artwork, well-written humour, and themes that resonate with the current socio-political fabric of society.