Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike movies like TMNT: Mutant Mayhem wouldn’t exist.

Most kids growing up in the 80s know the theme just by humming a few notes. If I were to say, “Donatello does machine” you will automatically know what the next line in the song is. Yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a part of many people’s lives and as the cartoons and movies came out we were there for them. This new iteration is leaps and bounds ahead of the last live-action movie that came out in 2016. From the animation style to the voice casting, this version of TMNT will increase the love from the OG fans and create new fans for those new to the franchise.

Before we get into the story I do want to mention the animation of the movie. The art is done in a way that looks like a sketch that was colored in and the extra lines were not erased. There are moments when it looks like stop-motion animation and other moments when it looks like 2-D drawings. All of this is to say that this movie looks amazing and everything pops off the screen. This is a beautiful-looking movie. Now back to the story.

The movie starts off with Dr. Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito) working on his mutant ooze when Cynthia Utrom’s team breaks in and tries to steal all of his data. Things go a little wrong and ooze is dropped in the sewer and we all know what happens next…or do we? The movie jumps 15 years ahead where we meet the turtles on their latest adventure…to get groceries. This is a great introduction to the team because we are familiar with what we have seen in other cartoons and movies. That version of the turtles is nonexistent here in a way. What the writers did was touch up the history of the turtles in a way that is more friendly for new viewers and it works.

In this opening scene of the introduction of the turtles, we see that they are just like most teens in the world today. They have favorite groups they listen to. They all have some type of mobile device on them and they want to belong in the world they live in. They see other teens their age having fun and realize that they can not have that. This new approach to the turtles is fantastic and pulls you into their story right away. The reason they are hiding from the world is that their father, Splinter, not Master Splinter, had a terrible experience in the world and decided to shelter his boys from it.


Now that the boys are older they want to go out on their own and because of this they get into mischief and this is where the story starts to take off. There have been a series of high-tech robberies that are all attributed to a villain called SuperFly. The boys meet April O’Neil who is the only person that actually understands their feeling of belonging and joins forces with them to stop SuperFly. Whereas April in the cartoons was a seasoned journalist, this version of April is starting her career and uses her skills to help the turtles find out how to stop Superfly.

Let’s get back to Splinter for a second. In the original cartoons, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi or Hamato’s pet rat. When he transformed he used his knowledge of the martial arts to teach the turtles to fight and defend themselves. In this version of the story, Splinter is just a regular New York City rat who finds the baby turtles and is transformed by the ooze. He does not know martial arts but teaches the turtles in a montage that brilliantly uses Paul Engemann’s “Push It to the Limit”. The montage is not only a homage to martial arts montages but also to the voice of Splinter himself, Jackie Chan. We get to see another great homage to Jackie Chan later on in the movie.

Speaking of action, there is another great montage of the Turtles fighting the gangs that are involved in the thefts. The scenes seamlessly blend between locations as the turtles fight the groups and the soundtrack blares through the speakers. This has to be one of the best-animated sequences that I have seen this year!

When the turtles finally meet Superfly, voiced magnificently by Ice Cube, they are surprised that there are other mutants out there like them. They feel conflicted about SuperFly’s plan but they also want to feel accepted. The group that is with SuperFly is a strange barrage of mutants but with an extremely talented voice cast. The two standouts for me were Ray Fillet, voiced by Austin Post AKA Post Malone, and Mondo Gecko, voiced by Paul Rudd, whom I think everyone will love after this movie. There is a bit about his tail that had the entire theater laughing out loud.


The voice cast in this movie is amazing and the soundtrack is off the charts! Just as Transformers: Rise of the Beast tapped into our early 90’s Hip Hop nostalgia, Mutant Mayhem does the same by using tracks from De La Soul, M.O.P., A Tribe Called Quest, and 4 Non Blondes. Yes, “What’s Up?” is used in this movie and that moment is hilarious and thrilling! The movie also gives a nod to Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” and it was funny to hear that song in one scene. I will say that growing up on Tribe and De La, I did get teary eyed hearing their songs in the movie, especially a big movie like this and the tracks that were used.

SuperFly is the big bad in this movie but we can not forget Cynthia Utrom, who is trying to replicate all of the work done by Baxter Stockman. Cynthia’s color scheme may look familiar to fans of the show and might be a storyline for the next movie. Yes, a sequel and television show is already in the works so be prepared for more Turtle Power coming soon. Speaking of coming soon, make sure you stay for the mid-credit scene that teases what’s to come for the turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has something for everyone. From the animation to the humor and the music, this version of TMNT shows that it loves and respects the original material. The writing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg treat this franchise with respect by the homages to the original movies, comics, and cartoons and they also breathe new life in by throwing modern slang and references in the movie. There are references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there is a quick nod to Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap”. Mutant Mayhem is one of the best-animated movies this year and might be on par with a certain Spider-Verse movie.

We were lucky to interview the voice cast before the Sag/AFTRA Strike. I was able to ask the group about who they voiced and who they connected with. Watch the quick interview below.

Final Thoughts: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a fantastic addition and improvement to all the Turtle movies that came out before it. If you are new to the franchise or an OG, you will love what you see on the screen. There are nods to the cartoons and previous movies and a pretty cool homage to the actor that voices, Splinter. Also, if the animation doesn’t get you pumped the soundtrack definitely will!

Kid-Friendly: The theme of finding acceptance is something that many kids can relate to. This aspect of the movie will connect with all kids. There are a few strong words used in the movie, mainly by SuperFly but nothing that is too bad. There are some terms that parents might ask their kids what they mean. I would recommend this for ages 6 and up.

Violence: There is animated violence in the movie. Since the turtles know kung-fu, the montage of them fighting different mob bosses and their crew might be too violent for some.

n Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, after years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O’Neil helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.

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