Is this one of the best TMNT adaptations to date?



5. The Tone

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem skillfully captures the essence of what has made these characters beloved and enduring for decades.

Despite numerous adaptations of TMNT in various forms, Mutant Mayhem stands out for wholeheartedly embracing its namesake. The titular Turtles are authentic teenagers brought to life by talented voice actors who bring depth to their roles. They are true mutants, driving both external and internal conflicts that shape the film’s narrative. And, of course, they are genuine ninjas, showcasing thrilling action setpieces inspired by classic martial arts cinema.

The screenplay, credited to Jeff Rowe, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, and Brendan O’Brien, skillfully balances these three vital aspects of the Turtles’ identity. It results in a film that is both hilariously funny and deeply rooted in genuine characterizations of the team.



4. The Turtles

Speaking of the titular Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’s choice to cast actual teenagers as its Turtles is a creative decision that pays off in spades.

Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, Brady Noon as Raphael, Micah Abbey as Donatello, and Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo burst onto the screen with relentless energy and charisma from the moment they are introduced. Their infectious chemistry with one another is a testament to their exceptional performances. Credit must be given to the vibrant and dynamic scripting, but the authenticity of these lead actors is what truly drives the success of Mutant Mayhem.

Each actor shines brilliantly, and the film ensures that ample space is carved out for every Turtle to showcase their talents. Unlike some lesser TMNT adaptations, where Leonardo and Raphael dominate the spotlight, while Donatello and Michelangelo take secondary roles, Mutant Mayhem treats all four Turtles with equal care and respect. This approach results in an ensemble piece that beautifully delves into the stories of each Turtle, both individually and collectively.


3. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s Score

Confession time: This writer spent most of his first viewing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem being frequently blown away by the musical score.

With its airy synths and electronic percussive elements, the music brought an unexpected nuance and emotionality to several essential story beats that deeply resonated. It provided a delightful contrast to the awesome hip-hop-heavy needle drops, leaving me eager to discover the credited composer. When it was revealed to be none other than Nine Inch Nails members and Academy Award-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, I was surprised, yet it made perfect sense. While I hadn’t anticipated them scoring a TMNT project, their work proved to be transcendent, elevating the impact and effectiveness of the film’s best sequences in truly remarkable ways.



2. Jackie Chan as Splinter

If your heart doesn’t skip a beat from hearing the phrase ‘Jackie Chan as Splinter,’ then I’m not sure you’re living life right.

Jackie Chan is one of the greatest gifts cinema has ever received, as the actor/writer/director/stunt performer has relentlessly risked life-and-limb time-and-time-again to entertain audiences around the world. Here, as the patriarch of the titular team, Jackie Chan delivers an astounding vocal performance that gives him free rein to showcase his comedic and dramatic chops in a way that an American film has not done in quite some time.

He is fantastic, and an early flashback sequence narrated by and starring Splinter becomes a highlight of the entire film, as Jackie Chan entirely takes the reins of Mutant Mayhem and delivers some truly special work.



1. The Visuals

The animation here is breathlessly innovative, unbelievably visceral, and exciting for a viewer.

While comparisons to the Spider-Verse films feel inevitable, I would argue that much like The Mitchells vs. the Machines and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish did before it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem takes inspiration from the boundary-breaking work done on those films and delivers an animated work that stands on its own merits.

There is a crudeness to Mutant Mayhem’s designs and animation style that is obscenely rare for a widely-distributed animated feature, especially one anchored in intellectual property as mass-produced as this. But it’s all so deeply motivated by the story itself: down to the very brush strokes and line-work of the animation, this feels hand-crafted by teenagers. Pair that with director Jeff Rowe (who was a co-writer and co-director on the aforementioned Mitchells) and a team of ridiculously talented animators, and you get something whose foundation is in classical cinematic craft (right down to the animation actively working to make you feel the artifice of an invisible lens of a camera), but that is absolutely fearless in pushing the boundaries of that form (the way Mutant Mayhem plays with diegetic light sources in the frame is wondrous).




Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem isn’t without its faults, but it gets so much of the core essentials right and moves with such resonance and momentum that it’s hard not to go along for the ride. By crafting a tight 100-minute runtime that focuses wholeheartedly on the Turtles, Ayo Edebiri’s phenomenal performance as April, and building out the world of this story, Mutant Mayhem does have to make some sacrifices when it comes to the antagonistic side of things. Those characters, despite their delightful A-list-aided performances, often feel a bit shortchanged as a result.

But even amidst the high-stakes, large-scale third act, Jeff Rowe and the team continuously carve out space to deliver big, emotional character beats with incredibly cathartic results. Mutant Mayhem balances big emotions, big jokes, big stakes, and big mayhem with surprising grace, delivering a relentlessly entertaining cinematic encapsulation of what makes the Turtles so enduring.

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