Mutant Mayhem: A Story of Turtles and Activism

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It’s Turtle Time!// Before watching the new TMNT film, junior Samara Timms struggles to contain her excitement in front of a cardboard cutout of the squad in action. During the movie, her eyes were fixed on the screen while she had a similar expression to the one in the photo. (Photo by Mariska Roberts)

Mutant Mayhem: A Story of Turtles and Activism
by Mariska Roberts

The famous quartet of turtles and their favorite journalist, April O’Neal, made an appearance in theaters on August 2, 2023. Spoiler warning: details about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

In search of social acceptance, the funky reptiles find themselves adventuring the streets of New York looking for Superfly, a menacing insect with a craving for inclusivity, yet a cynical approach to achieving it.

Like many new movies released, the message “Bring everyone together,” is the basis of this plot. Humans hate mutants, and mutants hate humans, but deep down, everyone wants the same thing: to live in harmony.

“It’s nice to see movies directed towards younger audiences sharing a good message,” junior Samara Timms said. “I also enjoyed the soundtrack; it’s cool they used an ODB song.”

People have been fans of the turtles for the last four decades, and it’s not surprising that another production in the TMNT franchise is adored by the public once again. From the message to the music, Mutant Mayhem is especially popular because it contains something that everyone can appreciate.

“I grew to like the clay-like animation style,” junior Scarlet Struble said. “The visuals were unexpected but pleasantly surprising.”

The art in the cinematography was not only impressive but vibrant and fast-paced, which kept children engaged. Dimensions of each setting were enticing and put visual emphasis on each character, even when they alternated frequently. The color coordination was mesmerizing, specifically in the turtles’ fight scene against Superfly. While active combat held attention, the aesthetic of the film remained consistent throughout.

As children were mesmerized by the scenery, the teen turtles used modern-day slang like, “rizz,” and “ate that… no crumbs,” which contributed to the relatability to adolescents. Seth Rogan (voice of Bepop), suggested the actors improvise in most of their scenes. This made the dialogue realistic, which can be rare in some screenplay written only by adults that don’t have an understanding of today’s teens’ lingo.

Additionally, the soundtrack did not disappoint the grown-up demographic of viewers. Several scenes featured songs that were popular in the late 90s; two prime pieces being Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) and No Diggity by Blackstreet and Dr. Dre. If the appeal to all audiences was the goal, it was certainly achieved.

The filmmakers made unexpected changes and additions to the production, plot, and characters in the movie, which risked the potential for backlash. However, analyzing each “controversial” aspect is important before jumping straight into criticism.

For starters, the turtles’ origin story had been obscured. The mutant turtles had originally met with the infamous “ooze” after a truck lost samples of radioactive material that fell into the sewers. The turtles stumbled upon the substance which infected and mutated them.

Mutant Mayhem tells a different story of the scientist, Baxter Stockman, who had been conducting an experiment when his DNA intertwined with radioactive matter. The sewer segment remains the same while the ooze origin tells a different tale.

It’s also important to mention, in Mutant Mayhem, Baxter Stockman and Superfly are two entirely different characters. This is a huge difference from the storyline of every other production in the series, where Baxter Stockman is Superfly. In addition to the character adjustment, April O’ Neal had been changed. In the 1980s, she was illustrated as a pale, ginger-haired woman; following in 2014, she was a pale brunette played by Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. In this recent film, O’Neal is depicted to have a darker skin tone. Although a change no one was expecting, viewers have appreciated seeing such a noticeable difference in this film.

The movie itself was proactive in the encouragement of inclusivity and public appeal. It’s visually enticing to young children, shares an important lesson for adolescents, and brings a sense of nostalgia to adult viewers as well.

While it’s still playing in theaters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is also available for streaming on Paramount+, The Roku Channel, and Amazon Prime Video. Entertaining and inspiring, it’s a must-watch for everyone. Cowabunga!