The ’80s and ’90s are filled with cartoon and game franchises that have spanned decades, now to be enjoyed by the next generation. Many of these have been given reboots and remakes over the past 30-40 years, with many of that over the past year, too. This time, our favourite green heroes are back in a new film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Reflecting on each episode from the original animated series, they had a simple save-the-day premise tied in with a moral or two. This was similar across plenty of kids’ shows during those decades. However, the same couldn’t always be said about the many live-action movies we’ve had to endure over the years.
The latest 2023 ‘reboot’ of the TMNT franchise was written by a trio of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jeff Rowe, who also directed the animated feature. The plot itself isn’t all that deep, and many of the running gags can sometimes be repeated one too many times. However, plenty is scattered throughout the film, making it quite the adventure with a laugh-a-minute approach.
Cynthia Utrom from the TCRI corporation commands her goons to track and capture their lead scientist, Baxter Stockman. Stockman was creating an army of mutants from his Mutagen to do the bidding of TCRI when his conscience wouldn’t allow him to follow through. He steals some of his work, including a mutant fly, later known as Superfly.
As a result of the struggle in his hideout, Stockman saves Superfly and his in-progress mutants before the TCRI team’s incompetence blows up the lab. As a result, one of the Mutagen viles finds its way into the sewers, where the unlikely turtles are knee-deep in the ooze.
A few years later, now in their teens, the team of Turtles are trying to find a way into the human world where they desire nothing more than join the society, go to high school and have friends. In a random act of kindness in pursuing April O’Neil’s Vespa’s thieves, they become allies in an attempt to win the hearts of her peers. They join forces to foil the plans of Superfly and his crew, who have terrorised New York City.
As they are working their way through the gangs of NYC to get to Superfly, the team record and document their skills in taking down some of the city’s crime bosses as part of their plot. Things progress pretty straightforward for the team until they meet up with fellow mutants, which changes the entire cause dynamic.
It’s easy to detect that Seth Rogen and co had their hands on the script. Depending on your type of humour, this may be good or bad for the most part. Personally, I enjoy his films, although there is plenty of material out there to cringe away from. Be that as it may, you’ll need to judge this on merit on the day, with a critical point to factor in that this is a kids’ movie.
As a result of this, there are running gags throughout Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. There are two or three running gags that come back a few times. For the most part, it adds quite a bit of humour to the scene at the time until it becomes too much by the end. There are plenty of laughs to be had without throwing in these gags, which make it all the more fun and break the tension at any given moment. I was in stitches throughout, as there were many unexpected moments, with a bit of shock factor thrown in to round it off. It works, so you can’t be too unhappy about some running gags that missed the mark.
Tying many of these laughs together is the throwbacks to previous Turtles and pop-culture films. There are plenty of Easter Eggs to be had throughout the film, and you can have a field day picking through each of them. There are probably even a few videos on YouTube already in this vein, as is often the case with many mainstream films and shows of late.
Factored into the sense of nostalgia is the music from the ’80s and ’90s, also in the mix. Each of these hit the mark perfectly, none more so than the two versions of “What’s Going On” by 4 Non Blondes, the second of which has claimed fame in the He-Man voiceover. There are perhaps two songs that don’t fit as well as the others did but can easily be forgiven.
Whether you’re a fan of the TMNT brand or an enthusiast who is all about safeguarding the franchise, you’ll easily spot that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem does not follow much of the lore. This is almost an entirely new reboot of the franchise, with only a few elements remaining true to the original storyline.
In many respects, starting a new lineage for the franchise is not bad, as we shouldn’t always expect things to remain fresh when we stick to the same script with every reboot attempt, only to complain when it’s stale outcome. You can’t always please everyone, and you’re definitely not going to be pleasing the purists with this latest film.
The new quartet of teenagers have a new look and feel about them. They sound very different by being seemingly younger at 15 years old (although, at times sound even younger). Furthermore, while they keep their conventional choice of weaponry, they don’t have the same mannerisms and traits as the other entries in the franchise.
Leonardo is still the group’s DeFacto leader, but we don’t get the same from the rest of the team. Donatello’s smartness is only hinted at with the addition of the stereotypical spectacles, but he doesn’t find himself doing much tinkering with gadgets to the benefit of the team. Raphael remains the aggressor, but Michaelangelo’s comic relief and happy-go-lucky approach also doesn’t shine through. It’s a bit of a mixed bad in this respect, but being just 15, there’s still room for each of them to develop into the characteristics we know and love about the group.
At the same time, while I can appreciate most of the new additions and changes to the lore, some elements don’t make sense. Once I stepped out of the film and came down from the initial high when leaving the theatre, I was left with plenty of questions that you will no doubt have. Hopefully, these don’t ruin your experience during the first watch.
At the end of the day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an enjoyable, laugh-a-minute approach to the franchise we all loved to see back on the big screen and back to win the hearts of a whole new generation of viewers. While it may not be sticking to the source material and can easily be picked apart scene-by-scene if you are hyper-critical, there’s a lot to enjoy for young and old, and that’s what it’s all about.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an enjoyable reboot of the TMNT franchise for young and seasoned viewers alike. Despite new lore at its base and certain aspects that may not work, the film is carried by great animation and action throughout.