Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) Movie Review – A bold new visual style

A bold new visual style

From humble beginnings at a comic book studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, to their arrival on the big screen over thirty years ago, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a piece of pop culture that will always draw crowds. This week they have crawled back out of the sewers again with a brand new animated look and a fresh take on the IP.

Their new rebooted adventure, Mutant Mayhem, pits Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello against the large and in charge Superfly (voiced by Ice Cube) in a battle for New York that, if lost by them, could dismiss a much more accepting future for us all.

And that is just where we are going to start things off: the acceptance of each other and our differences. That is the overarching theme of TMNT: Mutant Mayhem. The four boys yearn to be part of the world outside the sewer. In one of the opening scenes, they are out running errands around New York City for their father, Splinter (Jackie Chan).

It is Leonardo who takes notice of the beauty of the world around them. This is all encapsulated as they pass by an outdoor movie night by the Brooklyn Bridge that is showing Ferris Buller’s Day Off.  We then switch to Leonardo’s point of view as he crawls back under a sewer drain into darkness.

This overarching theme of acceptance is brought full circle in the film’s climax. Yeah, it may be cliche to have a theme like that in a animated feature film, but it creeps up on you and is executed well at the end of the final battle.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uses its plot as a coming-of-age tale, so to speak. As Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael seek to be recognized as heroes in New York City, they encounter a young aspiring teenage journalist, April O’Neil (voiced by breakout star of FX’s The Bear, Ayo Edebiri). They team up to take on a mysterious crime organization led by a fly who was mutated the same way the turtles were called Superfly. Briefly, the boys are allies to Superfly, but soon get in over their heads.

Mutant Mayhem is a reboot to the TMNT franchise; we know these characters but need a fresh take on them. The language and slang the turtles use line up perfectly with how teens talk today. Phrases like “mad sus” (short for “mad suspect”) are used a few times. This is something that the franchise has done well over its many on-screen adaptations. The boys are teenagers, so they need to talk like contemporary teenagers to fit the bill.

With an updated origin story being told, the Ninja Turtles also get a fresh look too. And it’s clear that this film takes inspiration from Sony’s Spiderverse movies. A blend of 2D and 3D animation feels like pastel paintings mixed with stop-motion. You want to live in this movie because the animation is so beautiful. But the visual style is meant to look more like sketches from an old children’s book.

Its style definitely draws from the experimental animation of the 1990’s as well. It’s abstract, but not necessarily off-putting. It’s definitely something that makes you more engaged with the characters than what we saw in the previous iterations in the last decade. 

What TMNT: Mutant Mayhem does well above all else is open up the floodgates for a new fan base to come in and enjoy it with old-school fans of the original comics. There’s nostalgia to it, but nostalgia can be a dangerous thing for iconic characters like these. It’s good to see them in a new light and move forward with them rather than remember the live-action films from the nineties (not that there’s anything wrong with those).

There’s identifiable lingo for the young crowd and character traits that make die-hard fans feel that this property is in good hands. The film gets a lot done in 97 minutes without feeling underwhelming or even crammed together. Let’s hope this isn’t the last time the turtles are shown to us in this bold new visual world for them to kick some butt in.


Read More: Mutant Mayhem Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 8.5/10

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