If Letterboxd existed back in the ’90s, you would have certainly seen every kid (or at least me) filing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” every other day. Despite not getting a lot of critical and commercial love, “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation” seemed pretty cool. The 2D-animated television series (which was the first reboot and the second animated series in the franchise) was also one of the most watched TV series back in the 2000s. So, naturally, we showed up for “TMNT” and the live-action movies produced by Michael Bay. “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” never reached this household because it was geo-blocked and limited to maybe the U.S. and Canada. Thanks to Netflix, fans can feast their eyes upon the best (and the most action-packed) iteration of their favorite reptiles.
Directed by Andy Suriano and Ant Ward and written by Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” starts off in the future. Leo (Ben Schwartz), Mikey (Brandon Mychal Smith), and Casey Jones (Haley Joel Osment) are fighting off the Krang. They are about to be defeated and killed off. That’s when Leo comes up with the idea of sending Casey into the past, when the gang is still alive and together, to stop the Krang before they ever come into power. Heartbroken and determined, Casey rushes to the Turtles. But he is shocked to find that Leo, Mikey, Raph (Omar Benson Miller), and Donnie (Josh Brener) are still not mature enough to comprehend the might of the Krang. So, with some assistance from April O’Neil (Kat Graham) and Splinter (Eric Bauza), he must teach them how to be a team while fighting off the alien invasion.
From the word “go,” “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” leaps into action that’s made of one gorgeously animated and beautifully colored sequence after another. If you haven’t watched the series (that the movie is based on and is a sequel to), you’ll notice all the anime influences. There are a lot of action lines, exaggerated virtual camera angles, hyper-expressive facial contortions, and, of course, the most inventive fight choreography you’ve laid your eyes upon. And right when you are in the thick of it, you’ll be hit with this overwhelming sense of realization that you are watching this certified animated masterpiece on the small screen instead of the big one. It is an utter shame that a movie of this caliber isn’t getting a theatrical release because, in that dark hall, you would’ve gotten the full impact of these kinetic frames, assisted by some heart-pounding music by Michael Gatt and an immaculate sound design.
Directors Ant Ward and Andy Suriano and writers Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, without a shadow of a doubt, aced it in the storytelling department. Like in every time-travel movie (or show), we are made to think that the TMNT must become the characters we see in the future. But its biggest caveat is kept just out of focus, i.e., whatever decisions the TMNT made to save humanity led to the greatness of a few and the death of many. So, you see the characters, especially Leo, aspiring to become what they are told they will be in the future that doesn’t exist yet, and failing miserably. And through that failure, they learn nothing is set in stone and, with a little smidgen of hope and heroism, they can counteract predeterminism. Also, if you’re a fan of movies that echo scenes from the 1st act in their 3rd act, but in a different context, to show character growth, you’re going to love this one.
Last but obviously not the least, the voice cast of “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” brings it home in the most awesome way possible. Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, Josh Brenner, Haley Joel Osment, Kat Graham, and Eric Bauza are so lovable as the protagonists of the team. Their chemistry and their commitment to their respective characters is palpable. But (and this can be considered a side-note) they also chip in by playing the side characters of side characters, e.g., Janitor Man, Office Man 1, Foot Soldier 1, Security AI, Tank AI, Dragged Man, Foot Soldier 3, Cafe Woman 3, Foot Soldier 2, Radio Newscaster and Secret Agent Man. If that doesn’t scream, “I love my job,” I don’t know what does. Jim Pirri and Tok Olagundoye, as the Krang siblings, are deliciously diabolical. The cameos of John Michael Higgins as Warren Stone and Rhys Darby as Hypno-Potamus are hilarious.
In case it’s not clear yet, “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” is one of the best action films of the year and (although it’s not a genre but a medium), it’s one of the best-animated films of the year. From the first frame to the last, the directors, writers, and animators throw the most creative, colorful, and enjoyable action sequences at the screen, and every single one of them sticks. Surprisingly, it has a good amount of grotesque imagery in order to visualize the power of hatred. So, be prepared to be a little horrified. The voice cast is amazing and so absurdly perfect for the roles they are playing (shout-out to the casting department). And, at the cost of sounding repetitive, this movie deserved the big-screen treatment. Therefore, if it’s possible, project it on a big surface, surround yourself with some loudspeakers, and watch it with your friends and/or family or on your own. Either way, you’re going to have fun!
“Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” is a 2022 Animated Film directed by Andy Suriano and Ant Ward.