Multitudes and multitudes of different websites and publications have spent the last few years talking about the repurposing and constant rebooting of familiar franchises and characters. You have your higher profile ones such as Batman and Spider-Man constantly getting new variations and reinventions. Whilst some get lauded more than others, it can be easy to forget that when The Amazing Spider-Man was released, a huge criticism was that we were going to have a new version of the character again.
So this has been the latest attempt at rebooting/recreating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s the seventh film in the franchise, and follows Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as the Nickelodeon show. So Turtles may be up there with some of the more constantly rebooted high-profile characters. So how does the latest attempt to reboot compare alongside the other attempts?
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It can be easy to forget that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are actually teenagers. Something that producers Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver took on board as soon as they took on the task of adapting the characters. To the point that they found their USP: casting teenagers to play the turtles.
Based on his experiences recording the remake of The Lion King, Rogan made sure that a good chunk of the cast recorded together at the same time. So all the actors playing the turtles (Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr, Nicholas Cantu, and Brady Noon) were always in the same room. Plus the majority of other actors were there if they were interacting with the turtles. There was also a bit of room for improvising, and this pays off. The turtles act like family. They talk over each other. They bicker. They argue. They feel real.
It’s this dynamic that helps elevate Mutant Mayhem into its own unique space in the Turtles’ franchise. The ‘Teenage’ aspect is the key part. From the sequence where they’re filming themselves doing tricks with ninja weapons to try to be accepted, they are quite possibly the most relatable they’ve ever been. The key theme of the film is acceptance, with the Turtles wishing to be accepted amongst humans.
The film never forgets this emotional theme throughout, with Jackie Chan’s Splinter acting as a strict custodian father to the boys, having his own experiences with humans dictate his views on thinking that the human world is an unsafe place or them. Which sparks the mutant focus of the story: it may be easy to dip into old villains that the Turtles faced like The Shredder, the Utroms (although one of the secondary antagonists has that as a surname) or even Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito). And whilst Stockman appears, it’s not him as the film’s villain, it is Ice Cube‘s Superfly: a mutant who wants to rid the world of humans.
The look and design of the film, with its slightest reduced Spider-Verse frame rate looks absolutely amazing. The focus on the mutants and the awkward asymmetry of them and the mutant characters they eventually come across all feel distinct and recognisable even if the Turtles didn’t wear their colours (a key component of good Turtle design). It means familiar characters are given fresh looks (Rocksteady looks amazing) and gives a great sense of world building.
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Without going too much into spoiler territory it is very difficult to elaborate on some of the directions the plot goes in. But what it does suggest is something that means the franchise is doing something different from its other iterations. Which means that the already discussed TV series and sequel can lead to some interesting developments for this current version of the Turtles.
Well worth a watch at the cinema, especially for those looking for a family film that is funny, has heart, and just looks absolutely amazing.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is out now in cinemas.