Is ‘TMNT: Mutant Mayhem’ Better than ‘Across The Universe?’
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ was the anticipated movie of the Summer for adults and kiddos alike. But, can it live up to the claims that it might be better than Marvel’s ‘Spider-Man: Across The Spiderverse?’ Let’s discuss it.
And of course:
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Seth Rogen, who serves as producer and actor on the project, shared the list of all the actors involved in the project back in March 2023.
- Micah Abbey as Donatello
- Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo
- Hannibal Buress as Genghis Frog
- Rose Byrne as Leatherhead
- Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo
- John Cena as Rocksteady
- Jackie Chan as Splinter
- Ice Cube as Superfly
- Natasia Demetriou as Wingnut
- Ayo Edebiri as April O’Neil
- Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman
- Post Malone as Ray Fillet
- Brady Noon as Raphael
- Seth Rogen as Bebop
- Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko
- Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom
We now know that one of the ways to have a cast this huge is to limit their screen time. The turtles themselves are obviously the most utilized, along with Ayo Edebiri’s remixed version of April O’Neil. Envisioned as a teenager in high school desiring to be a reporter, she comes across the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and teams up with them to help them stop Superfly (Ice Cube) and his team of cronies (John Cena, Post Malone, Seth Rogen, Hannibal Burress, Natasia Demetriou, and more).
Giancarlo Esposito takes a backseat and plays a “good guy,”… well, sort of. His character, Baxter Stockman, was looking to build a family using animals since the world was so cruel to him (a theme that comes up repeatedly in the film for anyone who seems “different”). He’s still doing experiments on animals, but it’s important to note that he doesn’t seem to be doing it from a place of malice, something you’d expect with Esposito’s long line of villains cast. He also only gets one full segment of the movie before completely being written off.
John Cena doesn’t sound like John Cena due to how they manipulated his voice as Rocksteady. You can absolutely tell Bebop is Seth Rogen, but no, he doesn’t do his signature laugh (shocker, right). These two characters have a handful of lines, but otherwise tend to blend into the background without having someone like Shredder to utilize them.
Other characters like Genghis Frog (Hannibal Burress), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), Wignut (Natasia Demetriou), and Ray Fillet (Post Malone) only get a handful of lines as well, but they’re even more subtle than Bebop and Rocksteady. Mondo Gecko, who is played by Paul Rudd, probably has the most lines out of Superfly’s goons, mostly because he hits it off with Michaelangelo right away, and is the first animal to stand up to Superfly.
Superfly (Ice Cube) is a great villain in the story. While the movie isn’t crazy graphic, Superfly’s goal is to flip the script on humans — whom he hates. After his father, Baxter Stockman is killed by humans, and Superfly raises his brothers and sisters that end up being his gang and are also mistreated by humans, he decides that humans can either die or become their pets, a sideshow, or pretty much anything humans have done to animals. His character actually creates a clarifying realization for Splinter, when he realizes that Superfly’s idealogy was birthed from the same thing he experienced: hate from humans.
Splinter himself is a great character. He basically has Agoraphobia and Trauma from the surface world and tries to keep the turtles from getting hurt by quarantining them to the sewers. Since the boys are of teenage age, they show some light rebellion before running into April O’Neil, and Splinter has to come to terms with how he feels about humans when April shows up in the sewers to inform Splinter that the turtles had been captured by Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph). His character arc also serves a great message for controlling parents. Splinter still claims to not like humans toward the climax of the film, but he tells the turtles that even though he doesn’t like the surface world, he wants to help the boys stop Superfly so that the surface world will love the turtles, because it’s something the boys sorely want. This message particularly could be translated to how some parents don’t agree with their children’s choices but still support them anyway, a thing we desperately need in real life, especially for children and teens who attempt to come out to their parents. The film does not push anything LGBTQIA+, but that particular sequence could definitely be applied to how parents sometimes blindly use their fear to stunt the growth of their kids.
Utrom starts off as a questionable leader of the team that dropped Baxter Stockman. She seems like she’s trying to STOP Superfly initially, but it gets turned on its head, and you realize that Utrom only wants to create mutants as an army. When the turtles get captured, she tries essentially taking their blood, but it is altered with a running “joke” that Splinter tells the boys that humans will try to “milk” them if they’ve been captured. This story has a parallel to the blood that is stolen from characters in ‘Daredevil,’ to help revive the Black Sky (see Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ / ‘Defenders’ for more context).
The turtles, who are played by Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown, Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon, have perfect chemistry. It was revealed that the 4 actors were in the room together, which helped to create more of a synergy between them. Each turtle gets a chance to show off their skills in fight scenes, and their personalities stay true to other TMNT properties. Leo is the leader, Raf has anger issues, Mikey loves to party, and Donnie is the tech wiz.
THE CALL BACKS
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As we watched the film, there were quite a few easter eggs. Firstly, as we previously mentioned the parallels with ‘Daredevil,’ it’s important to note that the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, were big Daredevil fans. They paid homage to the superhero by calling their version of the Yakuza soldiers ‘The Foot,’ rather than Daredevil’s ‘The Hand.’ While the Foot do not participate in this story, the act of trying to “milk” the turtles feels a lot like the storyline in Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ and ‘The Defenders’ series where the Yakuza bleed dry prisoners to activate the Black Sky.
Speaking of the creators of TMNT, Kevin Eastman gets a locational shout-out. The High School that April goes to is called “Eastman High,” which is a nice nod for those fans of the turtles who know this info.
Another easter egg for huge fans: Cynthia Utrom. Those who are not well versed in turtles would just think that this person is the head of TCRI, but in reality, the name “Utrom” is the TMNT alien species where the infamous Krang comes from. Will we see Krang in the future? With that kind of hint, signs point to yes.
We also think that Jackie Chan may have had a hand in the choreography of Splinter’s big fight scene. While it will go over a child’s head, those of us who were really into the ‘Rush Hour’ franchise will be quick to notice some staple moves and fight tropes that Splinter employs that we’ve seen Jackie Chan do in live-action. Much like ‘Cats Don’t Dance’ from 1997 when dancer Gene Kelly choreographed the dance sequences for animation, we wouldn’t be shocked if Chan himself got to pick how Splinter fights based on his style and moveset.
References are heavy, but you may not catch them right away. The turtles bring up Batman, Attack on Titan, Anime, Drake, BTS, and more. There are also visual references, like Sponge Bob being in Times Square, the turtles catching the parade moment in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ at a movie night in the park, and there’s even a Shrek reference when the chop shop goons don’t know what the turtles actually are. Also, Michaelangelo thinks Mark Ruffalo’s improv skills as ‘The Hulk” in Marvel movies is one of the coolest things ever. There are so many more, but we don’t want to spoil EVERYTHING if you’re reading this and haven’t seen it.
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It’s become fairly common for movies to have extensive needle drops or sequences where the music in a piece of media is either mainstream or from the real world. Some movies get a little too aggressive with it (we love you, James Gunn, but there was probably way too many needle drops in the last ‘Guardians’), and sometimes it can take you out of the sequence if not done correctly.
Luckily, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ does it right. They slip in music or music references without it being too overpowering, and the moment in which it’s so overpowering, it’s for comedic timing and lands perfectly. A prime example of that is when Superfly instructs his brothers and sisters to drive the van the turtles arrived in with the cargo they brought, and the turtles are trying to devise a plan to crash the van from the back. The other mutants put on 4 Non Blondes track “What’s Going On” for a sing-along, but when the turtles take the wheel, the song shifts from the real song to the internet-famous meme of the song, most commonly associated with a looped video of He-Man. And it. Is. HILARIOUS.
Other tracks, which are included on the soundtrack, include De La Soul’s “Eye Know” with the Otis Redding sample, “No Diggity” from Blackstreet, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” from Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and “Can I Kick It?” from A Tribe Called Quest. The hip-hop-heavy soundtrack leans into the 90’s hip-hop roots, which is perfect for any old-school rap lovers.
Also, speaking of old school, Vanilla Ice gets a second chance. During a fight scene in the chop shop, one of the turtles is thrown through the window of a car, and the radio turns on to play a snippet of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze’ song “Ninja Rap,” specifically the “Go Ninja! Go Ninja! Go!” part of it. It’s short enough to where you don’t have to endure the song, but enough to get a laugh out of you, y’know, in case you’re not into Rob Van Winkle.
While not played in the film, there’s also a call out to Ice T (you read that right, not Ice Cube, but DONE BY ICE CUBE). When Superfly is fighting the turtles, at one point he comes through an area and says “Six in the morning police at my door,” which is a reference to Ice T’s “6 ‘n the Mornin'” — forming a full-fledged beverage between Ice T and Ice Cube (sorry, had to).
IS THERE A POST-CREDITS SCENE?
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There is not. However, there is a mid-credits scene. Utrom calls for more drastic measures, which means she requests one of the most brutal warriors. In the next frame, you see the back of Shredder, looking toward New York. We know there will be a sequel to this film, but time will tell if that sequel will be when Shredder appears, or if he appears sooner.
Paramount+ announced there will be a series from Nickelodeon Animation and Point Grey Pictures called “Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It will be a 2D animated series that has already been green-lit for two seasons, and it will take place between the events of this movie and the next. Reprising their roles from the film, according to Variety, are Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu and Brady Noon as the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Given how the movie ended, we’re guessing the animated series will be the 4 turtles in High School with April.
IS IT BETTER THAN ‘ACROSS THE SPIDERVERSE?’
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It would be a hefty feat to be better than Marvel’s crown jewel of Spider-Man. Unfortunately, even though this movie is SO GOOD, it doesn’t beat Spiderverse in our book. If you’re into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’re absolutely going to love this movie. There are some plot points that could have been cleaned up a teeny better, but what do you want? Things don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be entertaining.
Are you going to get something that has 100% continuity with everything explained? Absolutely not, Michaelangelo has braces and we have no clue what dentist did that if he can’t hang out with humans. We also don’t know why Superfly somehow collected horses on his ankles when he fell into the WATER after the first attack.
Despite those little nitpicky things, you will have a good time, the animation is awesome, and if I had to give it a letter grade, it lands at a B+.
Head out to your local theatre now and check out ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ now!