As a son of the late 80s, my childhood was marked by a lot of cartoons (and that my parents had me well dosed TV). From that I swallowed a few many episodes of the animated series of the Ninja Turtles in La 2and although I was never one of the biggest fans of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, I vibrated like thousands of boys and girls with their adventures against Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady and other enemies.
Although the Turtles have never gone away – they are still, in fact, an intellectual property with many arms – I meet them again in ‘Ninja Turtles: Mayhem Mutants’, their new animated film directed by Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears. A film that had already been drawing attention for its particular visual style, but that hides something better: the ability to awaken my inner childand also probably to capture the new generations.
Rowe signs the script along with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who reduce their characteristic adult humor to give an origin story full of successes. Starting with the Ninja Turtles themselves, who proudly display their youth as four teenagers who yearn, like Quasimodo from the top of Notre Dame, to live “out there” with humans.
But their father, Master Splinter (voiced by Jackie Chan), has taught them all their lives that humans are the most terrible creatures in the world because they hate anything that’s different. ‘Chaos Mutant’ sends a message of tolerance but doesn’t wallow in it, basically because the movie is going at full speed all the time.
Everything is frenetic in this ‘Mutant Chaos’, from the fights and chases to the soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the dialogues. The script takes advantage of the irrepressible energy of the four teenagers to allow itself to be very crazy and raucous.to load it with humor very well defended by its voice actors (Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu and Brady Noon do a fabulous job) and to fill it with references to pop culture, some really clever.
These Turtles are creatures of their time, with their cell phones always at hand, with expressions that are already escaping me and with obsessions like ‘Attack on Titan’. Each one of the four protagonists has a marked personality: Leonardo is the leader, Raphael the muscle, Donatello the brains and Michelangelo the free spirit. An update on the tropes they’ve always had, with a little more candid. They are children with a great desire to explore, they had not even considered their role as vigilantes, and that approach is the freshest. It is also a great starting point for those who are new to their adventures.
The Turtles are joined by a revamped April O’Neil (voiced by Ayo Edebiri), also rejuvenated into an intrepid aspiring reporter with a panic for the cameras. She has her moments, but she doesn’t get to shine as bright as the Turtles. The film also has a good supporting cast. on the side of the mutants, small characters but with weight in the plot and with a cast of voices, including Rose Byrne, Natasia Demetriou, Paul Rudd, John Cena or Post Malone, who have had a great time.
Perhaps the weakest part of the film is its villains, either because his presence is only a preview of what could be to come if there are more deliveries (a series and a sequel would already be underway), or because his motivations are still unoriginal. If the comparisons with ‘Spider-Man: A New Universe’ are inevitable (although they have little to do with it), it lacks the ambition that they poured into the Marauder to make the enemies of the Turtles something memorable.
You have to get off the edge
Entering the technical section, the film opts for a visual style that seeks to remind illustrations with wax paintings, made with rough strokes, “going outside” the lines and awakening a very thug air that gives a lot of personality and totally matches the youthful spirit of the film. Fantastic job from the ‘Mutant Mayhem’ team, for example, with the use of light, especially in a movie that is very dark most of the time.
That aesthetic is also very reminiscent of the Nickelodeon label., who always opted for an animation that moved away from perfection or from the objectively “pretty” of Disney to give us series like ‘Rugrats’, ‘Hey Arnold’, ‘Ren and Stimpy’ or ‘The Thornberrys’, drawings that could become to be considered even grotesque but managed to convey a more mischievous and deranged image. What is intended to be ‘Ninja Turtles: Mutant Chaos’, come on.
Jeff Rowe, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg successfully bring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles up to date with what is most likely their coolest movie. ‘Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ has been concerned with speaking the language of today’s boys and girlsbecause it is time for “Cowabunga” to be heard again at recess, but at the same time it recovers those carefree, fun and frenetic adventures that also make us not so young again for just over an hour and a half.
‘Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ premieres in theaters August 25.
The best: The charisma of its four protagonists. The visual style so Nickelodeon. The frenetic pace.
Worst: Villains don’t have chicha. April O’Neil goes pretty under the radar.