Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird for an underground comic parodying Marvel superheroes and Asian martial arts/monster movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mutated into a kid-friendly, parent-bewildering multi-media franchise. The TMNTs have been around for nearly 40 years, in movies since 1990, and have been rebooted as often as Spider-Man. So, the odds were that eventually they’d appear in a really good film.
Primarily directed and written by Jeff Rowe (The Mitchells vs the Machines) with assist Seth Rogen and others, Mutant Mayhem finds an interesting animated aesthetic for its neon-coloured noir. Not as dizzying as the Spider-Verse films, it’s still gorgeous, detailed and effective, looking like paintings in motion (or even claymation). In an inspired choice, the mutant heroes are sleek and expressive while all humans are lumpy, out of perspective and goofy. Without making a fuss of it, this is a film from the turtles’ point of view.
The plot is essentially a spin on the first X-Men movie, with opposed mentors – Jackie Chan as a wise old rat and Ice Cube as a mutant fly who eventually mutates again into something we’ve never seen before – and heroes who fight for a world that hates and fears them. The script harks back often to the turtles’ origins in comics geek stoner patter, but there’s a genuine heart angle as opposed to simple snark. It’s actually moving when the turtles spy on an open-air screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Out and dream about the coolness of a human world they’re barred from.
Rowe also delivers great kaiju, kung fu, street-fight, road chase and sewer-surfing action with infectious glee. There’s been a sense in previous turtle projects that the makers didn’t quite get what the fuss was about, but this one was made with love. So, four sais up.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is out in cinemas now