TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM Review. The triumph of youth
If you were afraid of a reheated dish, another imitative adaptation of the iconic TMNT, I can reassure you – it’s good, and sometimes sensational. This year we got another interesting, conceptually unconventional animation. The latest Turtles follow in the footsteps of Miles Morales and Puss in Boots not only on a formal level (playing with frames and interesting animation), but also provide a ton of energetic fun. First of all, we have a nice classic story shown from a different perspective. Maybe TMNT is not such a breath of fresh air as the previously mentioned brilliant productions but it is not far behind. It is a triumph of youth and another film that successfully tackles the issues of youth, analyzes their rebellious and adolescent period, colliding with the fears and excessive care of adults. Because that’s what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is mainly about – about the needs of finding one’s place in the world, acceptance and understanding of these needs by parents. At times it is naive, shortcuts and a bit rushed, but overall we get really great fun.
Animation creators have recently been proving that when grabbing recognized brands, you need to get to know and understand their characters very thoroughly. This was the case in Spider-Man: Across the Multiverse or Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, in which we got an extremely fresh approach to Miles Morales or Puss. These productions also provided quality at the level of the entire presented world. It is no different with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which are the strongest at the level of interpretation and love for characters beloved for several generations. The coolest thing about this adaptation is that the Turtles were allowed… to be teenagers. And not just on paper, but their problems were taken seriously. Leo, Raph, Donnie and Mike are prepubescent kids whose crusts are sort of the same problem as pimples, oversize feet, or obesity to other young people. Of course, the scale is different, because the Turtles have a fear of what is above the sewers deeply ingrained by their father, but it balances in an extremely energetic, interesting way with a simultaneous fascination with the human world. It collides very nicely with April’s problems, which I love in this version and interpretation. The chemistry between them is palpable for this very reason – the viewer quickly catches these common points and connects emotional threads. O’Neil, after all, is not a walking ideal à la Megan Fox, but a slightly withdrawn, socially scarred girl with energy. And finally, Splinter’s new face was shown (finally!), who is not only a mentor and sensei, but a full-fledged dad. I would even say TYPICAL dad. One who does not fully understand his children, is afraid for them, and therefore becomes morbidly overprotective. Because of this, the Turtles move away from him – their youthful passion, passions prevail over their father’s fear. Of course, Splinter goes through a very interesting, although somewhat schematic, transformation path, but this one convinced me a little less.
Cracks in the shell
And here we smoothly come to my biggest “but” in Jeff Rowe’s production – he uses plot shortcuts and schematics too much. All events partly go as if on a string, there is no surprise in the story, and some plot solutions are too fast, which makes them naive. The problems start when the main villain is revealed, actually when he starts to act, because his exposition and internal conflict are interesting, but the motivation itself is a hackneyed pattern. That’s why the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can’t be anything more than a good movie.
It’s good that the production surprises on another level – the executive level. I believe that the world of animation needed a revolution by Miles Morales, and even earlier by Klaus, who was the first to restore the splendor of classic animation and remind the world of it to give a new quality. In recent years, the creators have been experimenting, playing with the form, slow-motion and using tricks that finally make the animations not only resemble those released by Disney and Pixar. It is thanks to this that we get the visually stunning Turtles and the atmospheric New York. There is no such WOW and fresh effect here as in the case of the last Spider-Man, but in many moments I was simply enchanted and bought by the ingenuity of the creators. This is proof that culture is able to produce creative, new things all the time, you just need to show it the direction.
Fun with form and style
Mutant Mayhem has impressive voice cast with Jack Chan, John Cena, Ayo Edebiri (Syd from The Bear), Paul Rudd or Seth Rogen at the forefront and they all managed it. A separate few words should be said about the great soundtrack – the music in this film is a kind of narrator and an important world-creating element. It adapts to events and especially the moods of the characters. I have a characteristic melody in my head, which resounds in difficult moments for the characters. A great and extremely simple composition. Another important element is the all-encompassing pop culture – in these TMNTs it overflows with references and flavors, which, however, are not just a blink of an eye, but become a full-fledged starting point for solving problems by the characters. Turtles in hard times draw from movies, comics and music to get out of trouble. This is truly brilliant and bought me completely. That’s why I have a bit of regret for the mentioned simplicity and laziness of the plot, which stings the eyes in many moments when we needed something more. It hurts especially when there are important turning points (resolving the conflict with other mutants) or character transformations.
Turtles after a really good Netflix movie get an even better cinema production. This is not a perfect thing, because it limps at the really important moments of the plot and therefore seems naive. However, it compensates for these imperfections a lot on the visual, interpretive and world-creating level. It’s also a melting pot of great pop culture references. However, most of all, you can see and feel that the creators love their characters, understand them well and that’s how they win. Young Adult theme triumphs again. I had a really good time and I think a lot of viewers are meant to have fun like that too. Kawabunga. We have good times for animation!