Mutant Mayhem Cast(voice): Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Seth Rogen
Director: Jeff Rowe
Runtime: 100 min.
Mutant Mayhem is the latest TMNT origin story, albeit an animated one that combines comic-book animation with stop-motion in the best traditions of the current ‘Spiderverse’ style. The original film from the 90s, limited by the technology and technique of those times will continue to dredge out nostalgia but this newest one is likely to create a new groundswell of affection. Even though this issue doesn’t take these characters too seriously, it makes their personal struggles with humans weighty enough to be heartfelt. This is an origin reboot that is vastly different from “classic” Turtles cinematic experiences of the past.
Mutant Mayhem straddles the line between self-awareness and seriousness with a great deal of flexibility, earnestness, and charm. It`s a movie that explores what it feels for the MNTs to be teenagers afraid of what the rest of the world thinks of them. It`s a film that celebrates humanity and its embrace of divergences. The film follows the Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
The Turtles – Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) are the youngest we’ve seen them yet. They have the teenager vibe and exude a youthful energy but their individual personalities are not yet completely distinguishable from each other. Their historical tendencies and interpersonal dynamics do appear to be on the way to being fleshed out as we go along though.
A brief prologue explains how Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael came into being and how they ended up as the surrogate children of rat Splinter. Ice Cube`s Superfly is a befitting villain, Jackie Chan as the Rat Kung-fu guru/mentor Splinter is well cast, Ayo Edebiri`s April O`Neil as a modern Gen Z person fits in well, while Seth Rogen`s Bebop and John Cena`s Rocksteady don`t get as much screen time but they are likely to be mainstreamed in the oncoming sequels.
There’s not much to make sense of in the dialogues. The dead-pan mumble style does little to enliven the action. There are a fair amount of funny moments with some great lines and callbacks to the past but this is not a very consistent thread. The narrative takes the long-winded route to get into action mode and that’s a big drawback. But when the action happens, it’s the animation style backed by a hip-hop soundtrack that makes the action set pieces appear visually inventive. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s music choices reminiscent of the 80s synthetic/sci-fi vibe are quite memorable. Above all, it’s the animation that steals the show. The hand-drawn, cell-shaded, scribbled look reminds one of childhood attempts at drawing. It is a visually interesting and energy-generating technique that keeps the interest going even when much of it is a little hard to swallow!