Everyone’s favourite heroes in a half-shell are back in a new trailer for the brand-new animated film titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT): Mutant Mayhem. Directed by Jeff Rowe from a story by Brendan O’Brien and boasting an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Jackie Chan, John Cena, Ice Cube, Post Malone, and Rose Byrne, there’s no disputing Turtlemania will be in full force upon the film’s release on August 4, 2023. Yet, this latest venture into the land of green also proves something that most fans are not ready to accept: TMNT needs to stay animated.
When 1990’s live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film dropped, no one gave it a hope in hell of being triumphant. Well, New Line Cinema laughed all the way to the bank, as the movie made over $200 million from a $13.5 million budget, making it the highest-grossing independent feature at the time.
The reviews were middling, but it was an era when no one cared about those types of things and watched what interested them – not what they were told to see. A huge part of the appeal was the Jim Henson-designed Ninja Turtles costumes. Not only did the suits capture the essence of the 1987 animated series, but they also translated well to merch like toys and figurines.
The 1990 film kickstarted a trilogy, but none of the sequels reached the same level of commercial success and popularity among the fans as the original. Also, the films were very much a product of their time. In the ’90s, CGI wasn’t as predominant as it is now, so filmmakers would need to employ the use of practical effects such as puppets and suits. While most fans may hold a fondness for these TMNT movies to this day and love the aesthetic, the reality is it’s the nostalgia taking over here. The films look highly dated and no studio in Hollywood would greenlight something similar today.
Michael Bay’s Turtles controversy
TMNT evolved, and the time came for the franchise to become CGI creations on the big screen, thanks to Michael Bay’s production company. Expectedly, the internet complained. Not just complained; they bitched and whined about everything. It wasn’t just the nostrils that was the problem, it was the design of everything including the bandanas. Looking past the controversial design of the Ninja Turtles, the films actually captured the spirit of the comics and animated series probably better than the original 1990 film ever did.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was pure, unadulterated fun as the Turtles fought alongside Casey Jones and April O’Neil to battle Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. It was a live-action episode of the animated series come to life. Yet, the fans didn’t show up for it, all but ending the chance of another sequel. It also showed that a hybrid CGI live-action film might not be the best choice for the franchise.
Now, here’s the thing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is wild. From the comics to the video games, this is a smorgasbord of sci-fi, action, comedy, and fantasy. The Turtles can go from kicking the snot out of the Foot Clan to slugging it out with extraterrestrial dinosaurs and sharing a pizza with mutated frogs. As a result, these elements and characters are extremely difficult to bring to life in a live-action film. Ultimately, it’s going to become CGI-fest anyway, since there’s no way a person-in-a-suit is going to fly as Rocksteady or Krang.
Now, the budget for a CGI-heavy film like this would balloon into the hundreds of millions. Plus, as Bay’s TMNT movies taught us, there’s no guarantee the people would show up for it, which would discourage any studio from writing a blank cheque here. So, why not leave these adventures in the animated realm and allow the creators to play in an open-world sandbox that won’t be defined by a CGI budget? That way, they can tell a better story and fans can watch a better movie.
TMNT: Mutant Mayhem looks like the best kind of fun
From the voice cast to the stylised animation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem seems like it is taking all the right lessons from the 1987 cartoon and applying a modern sensibility to it. Most importantly, it looks like a whole lot of fun, which is what anyone wants from this franchise.
Let’s be honest here: TMNT is not super-serious mythology. It is essentially a pastiche of Daredevil and Frank Miller’s work in the 1980s and started off as a joke between creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as they tried to make each other laugh. It doesn’t need to lead to an Endgame or dramatically change the landscape of comic book movies like The Dark Knight. All it needs to be is a good time and a laugh – and the animated medium is the right format to achieve this.
The film stars Micah Abbey as Donatello, Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo, Hannibal Buress as Genghis Frog, Rose Byrne as Leatherhead, Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, John Cena as Rocksteady, Jackie Chan as Splinter, Ice Cube as Superfly, Natasia Demetriou as Wingnut, Ayo Edebiri as April O’Neil, Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman, Post Malone as Ray Fillet, Brady Noon as Raphael, Seth Rogen as Bebop, Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko, and Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom.
Tell us, what are your thoughts on the TMNT: Mutant Mayhem trailer?