Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is hailed as the best TMNT movie to date. I agree.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Synopsis
The wild experiments of rogue scientist Baxter Stockman end with his mutagen leaking into the sewers of New York, an accident that creates Splinter, the Ninja Turtles, and various other mutants. 15 years later, Splinter has trained his adoptive sons and himself in Ninjitsu, and despairs over the young Turtles’ fascination with all things human. Meanwhile, the Turtles concoct a heroic plan to announce their existence to the human world after meeting aspiring student reporter April O’Neil.
The Ninja Turtles franchise has an uneven history as far as cinematic adaptations are concerned. While none of the movies are unbearably awful, nope, not even the Michael Bay ones, none seem to capture the heart, the zesty spirit that made the animated series so enjoyable.
This is not the fault of the producers and screenwriters, IMO. As ridiculous as they seem at first sight, each turtle is the synopsis of a distinctive personality. Imbued with definitive human traits that are complex yet utterly relatable too. Without the time of a full series, there is just no way to fully explore these personalities and the interactions between them.
And so the earlier movies all opt to just dive into the action. There is still character play but action takes first place. The end result isn’t disappointing, but well, they are rarely memorable too.
With Mutant Mayhem, the same issue recurs, but this time round, brilliant dialogue mitigates. I still feel that I don’t truly “know” any of this version of the half-shell heroes after watching, but thanks to spirited humour, zany action, and of course, the peppy art direction, it didn’t seem to matter much. Actually, it even felt largely adequate, perhaps because in this latest origin tale, the young turtles still seem to be coming to terms with their respective characters.
The treatment of the tricky subject of “acceptance” attracts too. Now I know this is nothing new for the franchise—I remember all the animated episodes about Mikey becoming a human teen or Ralph’s struggles to be part of the team, etc. But widening the analysis to include Splinter and the other sewer mutants, and even April and Baxter Stockman, afforded the story a new sophistication, an angle that might have been sidelined for too long.
It’s a refreshing new(er) spin. One that firmly places this adaptation above its predecessor.
I like how Shredder has been omitted from this reboot too. I have nothing against the master ninja but leaving him out subtly enriches the premise. The turtles are quietly redefined as more than whacky 80s heroes up against a classic menace.
I look forward to how the story will develop in sequels.
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