Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem ★★★★★



DirectorJeff Rowe, Kyler Spears

CastMaya Rudolph, Giancarlo Esposito, Jackie Chan, Hannibal Buress, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Post Malone, Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, Natasia Demetriou, Paul Rudd, Rose Byrne, Ice Cube

ReleaseJuly 31st 2023 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, once a violent indie comic made by two guys looking for their big break, has been a staple of contemporary pop culture for over 30 years now. The appeal is obvious: a parody of gritty martial arts media, headlined by the lovable anthropomorphic goofs with a natural affinity for classic New York pizza. In the freshly-stylised reimagining of these vigilante turquoises, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, the heroes are back to face the greatest threat of all: high school.

While the dazzling animation style is surely the most flashy addition, this latest iteration doesn’t try to entirely reinvent the wheel: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are still the same ooze-infused turtles you’re most likely well-acquainted with. However, what distinguishes Mutant Mayhem from the countless attempts at rebooting this franchise is the joyful, delightfully chaotic spirit of youth that director Jeff Rowe infuses his film with. The word “teenage” couldn’t be more appropriate here: these heroes are as unlikely as they come, preoccupied with filming their escapades for social media clout as a method of public acceptance. The vigilante guise is merely a façade for insecurity, masking their desire to live amongst the fearsome humans and experience the simple joys of the Big Apple.

Of course, the mission to infiltrate the local high school doesn’t quite go according to plan: when Superfly, a hulky mutated insect with the unmistakable baritone of Ice Cube, starts wreaking havoc across the city, our team of sewer allies decide to step up to the challenge. As the title suggests, Superfly isn’t performing as a solo act – he’s joined by a group of mutated misfits whose origin is remarkably similar to the one of our heroes.

For better or worse, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem represents pop culture at its finest: the intertwined nature of humans and anthropomorphic animals lends itself incredibly well to the quirky humour of TMNT, with each of the characters having the time of their lives referencing anything from Fast & Furious to “the best Hollywood Chris”. It’s the kind of Gen Z TikTok speak that could become grating in a different film, but thanks to the lived-in world of TMNT’s NYC, every joke lands with a round of uproarious laughter. In moments like these, one may recognise the 2000s teen comedy framework that frequent collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg choose to utilise for their first PG-rated outing – a crucial aspect of the film that is further elevated by the childlike sincerity on display.

And therein lies the miraculous achievement of Mutant Mayhem: in an era of multiverses and meta-humourous renditions of popular IPs, this surprisingly modest TMNT flick is an earnest attempt at capturing the cultural zeitgeist by tapping into our fear of loneliness in the digital age. It’s no surprise Donatello gets so excited when he sees the words Attack on Titan scribbled on a high school locker room – he sees art as a form of human connection, something much more meaningful than a mere reference. But one can’t live their life solely through art. Despite Master Splinter’s (Jackie Chan, in one of his funniest roles yet) good-natured attempts at sheltering his kids by showing them classic films from the comfort of their sewer home, the turtles have to share their love for these pop cultural touchstones with the outside world.

Mutant Mayhem’s stunningly humane take on the TMNT formula is the result of expressionism functioning as a true narrative device, evoking those angsty teenage years through formal experimentation. Fittingly, NIN’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lend the synths for the film’s electronic score, which brings some edge to an otherwise light-hearted animated film. It’s the balancing act that makes TMNT: Mutant Mayhem work so well as a piece of contemporary art, inspired in both concept and its flawless execution: this sensational blend of hand-drawn concept art and CG-enhanced lighting – a symbiotic relationship between the human and the machine – almost like teenage memories distorted through the prism of endless imagination.

Just For You