Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Breathe New Life into an Old Franchise

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for me, is pure unfiltered nostalgia. As a child of the ‘90s, mutant amphibious brothers Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael were all the rage, even in my home country of Ireland.

First and foremost, there’s the original animated series that ran from 1987 to 1996, which took Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman’s dark comic book source material and made it much more kid-friendly, majorly influencing the commercial mainstream depiction of the Turtles to this very day. The animated show was even adapted into arcade games, beloved by many, myself included, ranking at the top of my go-to list for any given arcade.

Then there are the live-action movies of the ‘90s, which leaned into the darker tone of the comics, but also took major cues from the animated show, such as incorporating the Turtles’ different coloured bandanas and their love of pizza (the latter is surprising, I know). Reactions were split on the movie, but it was an overwhelming box office success, making over $200 million on a budget of $13.5 million (in 1990!). This of course led to two sequels in 1992 and 1993 which, while successful, saw diminishing returns both critically and commercially with each release.

With the writing on the wall after the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, there wouldn’t be another attempt at a live-action Turtles movie until (gulp) the Michael Bay-produced duology released in 2014 and 2016, which traded in the practical costumes of the ‘90s for a typical CGI-fest that cares more about set pieces than characterization. I should also probably mention that there was a short-lived live-action series that aired from 1997 to 1998 and tried to introduce a new Turtle named Venus de Milo, but the show was apparently as forgettable as its newest member.

However, things fared much better on the animated side, with many creatives recognizing and embracing it as the best-suited medium for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, producing two different acclaimed series, the first running from 2003-2009 on Fox (and later the CW), and the second aired on Nickelodeon from 2012-2017.

Despite the franchise being most at home when animated, the first and (until recently) only attempt at a feature-length animated Turtles movie was 2007’s TMNT, which found moderate success at the box office, but largely failed to live up to its TV show counterparts. This left fans wondering, for many years, if anyone would manage to tap into the brilliance of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV shows in a theatrical release. 

Well, it seems their prayers have been answered, as the upcoming animated feature, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which is written and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, has received positively glowing reviews during its pre-release showings, currently sitting at 97% with 65 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. While this will unquestionably change as another 150 or so reviews are published in the coming days and weeks, the consensus nonetheless is that Rogen, Goldberg, and director Jeff Rowe, best known for his work on The Mitchells vs. The Machines and cult show Gravity Falls, have delivered what many are already calling the best Turtles movie to date, and it hasn’t even been widely released yet.

If the talent behind the camera (so to speak) wasn’t enough to convince you, it features a star-studded cast that includes Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, John Cena, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Giancarlo Esposito, Post Malone, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, and Rogen himself. This is all without mentioning the young voice cast of the Turtles, who might lack any big-name recognition but have been unanimously praised for their performances and one need only watch the trailer to see why.

Additional praise has been aimed at the animation style, which immediately evokes the groundbreaking visuals of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (and its recently released sequel Across the Spider-Verse); the script, which is almost a given considering Rogen and Goldberg’s penchant for sharp wit and humour; and the score, which was as much of a foregone conclusion when you realize that it was done by two-time Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who are otherwise collectively known as frickin’ Nine Inch Nails!

Audiences can judge for themselves when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem releases on August 2nd.

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