Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Review – Teenage Turtles Indeed

Seth Rogen’s recent track record with comic book adaptations speaks for itself. The Boys (2019-) is one of the best comic book media out there right now, and  while I didn’t love Invincible (2021-), it has more good things going for it than bad. However, both of those feature decidedly adult content, whereas Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem makes one thing abundantly clear; this is a movie for teenagers.

Now I’m not talking “it’s for the teenager inside you” or some crap like that, and I can’t guarantee that this will be entirely for you if you were a teen in the 90s that grew up with the turtles. But if you’re a teenager right now, in the year 2023, it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t about to become you’re new favourite movie, because it was made specifically for you.

This starts with how the characters talk. More than once, the word rizz is used in conversation, which tells you all you need to know about the vocabulary of the four turtles. Furthermore, they endlessly reference current popular media, whether it’s the K-pop group BTS, the anime Attack on Titan (2013-2023), or behind the scenes facts about Avengers: Endgame (2019). They talk about the stuff current teens talk about. This all makes perfect sense when you consider that the voice actors for Leonardo  (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), and Donatello (Micah Abbey) are all teenage boys themselves, and that director Jeff Rowe and co-director Kyler Spears let them all improvise together in the booth.

I can already hear the two concerns you might have in that regard. One, this sounds like it could be pretty cringy for anyone not part of that demographic, and two, this won’t age well. To the first point, yes sometimes. There were definitely moments where I was cringing, but in the way you cringe at a group of real teens, not how you usually cringe at teenagers written by adult writers. I’ll take the first over the latter any day. The second point, however, I disagree with wholeheartedly.




I think there’s this misconception that rooting your movie in the current moment in time means it won’t age well. I heard similar complaints about Glass Onion (2022) last year. While there may be cases of that being true, I believe giving a movie specificity in that way can actually increase its chances to withstand the test of time by turning it into a time capsule for future viewers. Many classics of the past are movies unmistakeably from a certain era, and while some of them we rewatch despite that, many of them we rewatch because of that. And even if it ends up being an unbearable watch for future generations, at least it will fully resonate with this one.

So with this young cast, and the emphasis on their age, the movie naturally tells a coming of age story mixed with the classic superhero origin. The turtles have to come into their own both as heroes and as people. This iteration of April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) also follows that pattern, as she’s a young student with dreams of becoming a reporter, who gets bullied due to an unfortunate incident the whole school remembers. As with any good coming of age movies, this also extends to Splinter (Jackie Chan), who has to learn how to be a good father to these four troublemakers.


The cast here is pretty stacked, especially once you get to the villainous mutants. Leading the pack is Superfly (Ice Cube), and his followers are made up of Bebop (Seth Rogen), Rocksteady (John Cena), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), Ray Fillet (Post Malone), and Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress). Some of them are standouts in their own right, like Paul Rudd’s Mondo Gecko, others are basically glorified cameos like Hannibal Buress’ Genghis Frog. Nevertheless, altogether, they make an interesting unit that creates some chaos in the movie. But naturally, Ice Cube’s Superfly is the real star of the pack, creating a fun villain to root against.

I don’t know how I got this far without mentioning the animation style. I’ve seen plenty of comparisons to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s (2018) animation, and while I understand where that comes from, I don’t think it’s entirely fair, as it’s quite reductive of what the animators of TMNT: Mutant Mayhem have achieved here. Where Spider-Verse (2018) emulates comic books, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem is much closer to rough scribbles. I can’t believe they made an animated movie for the family this dirty and grimey and just straight up unappealing looking. It renders the city and the people in it as ugly beasts, while ironically making the turtles themselves, the disformed mutant creatures, look almost cute. I hope it’s clear that I mean all of this as a positive, the art direction serves so much purpose here. Like any truly great animated movie, it wouldn’t work half as well if it didn’t look the way it did.

The outstanding presentation extends to the music. The synth-infused electronic/industrial score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is as good a score as any they’ve done and I would even go so far as to say it’s one of my new favourites from them, which, if you’re familiar with their work, is not exactly a low bar to clear. And when the score has to take a backseat and the soundtrack comes into play, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem serves you up with one banger after the other, having curated a soundtrack made up of some more old school hip-hop classics. There’s one scene in particular, featuring No Diggity, that’s probably the highlight of the movie for me.

As I mentioned in the beginning, if you’re between the ages of 13-16 there’s really no reason you shouldn’t be watching this movie, but if you fall outside of that demographic and are simply a fan of the turtles, coming of age stories, superheroes, or good animated movies, you will have a fun time with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

Nairon Santos de Morais
Nairon, 21, from Berlin, is a film student by day, and a writer for FlickLuster by night. Movies and video games are his two big passions in life. As long as they are being kept separate, please no more awful video game adaptations.

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