If Letterboxd existed in the 90s, you would definitely have seen every kid (or at least me) drop “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” every other day. Although it didn’t receive much critical and commercial love, “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation” seemed pretty cool. The 2D anime television series (which was the first reboot and the second series anime franchise) was also one of the most-watched TV series in the 2000s. So naturally, we showed up for “TMNT” and the Michael Bay-produced live-action movies. “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” never made it to this hotbed as it was geo-blocked and limited to perhaps the US and Canada. Thanks to Netflix, fans can enjoy the best (and jam-packed) iteration of action) 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” begins in the future. Leo (Ben Schwartz), Mikey (Brandon Mychal Smith) and Casey Jones (Haley Joel Osment) battle the Krang. They are about to be defeated and killed. It’s then that Leo comes up with the idea of sending Casey back in time, when the gang is still alive and united, to stop the Krangs before they come to 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 understand the power of the Krangs. So, with the help of 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” transitions into the action that is made of one beautifully animated, beautifully colored sequence after another. If you haven’t watched the series (on which the movie is based and is a sequel), you’ll notice all the anime influences. There are plenty of lines of action, exaggerated virtual camera angles, hyper expressive facial contortions and, of course, the most inventive fight choreography you’ve ever seen. And just when you’re in the thick of it, you’ll be hit with that overwhelming sense of realization that you’re watching this certified animated masterpiece on the small screen instead of the big one. It’s such a shame that a film of this caliber doesn’t hit theaters because, in that dark room, you’d have had the full impact of those kinetic frames, aided by heart-pounding music by Michael Gatt and impeccable sound design.
Directors Ant Ward and Andy Suriano and writers Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, without a doubt, succeeded in the storytelling department. As with every time travel movie (or show), we’re made to think that TMNT is to become the characters we’ll see in the future. But his biggest caveat is just fuzzy, which is that every decision TMNT has made to save humanity has led to greatness for a few and death for many. So you see the characters, especially Leo, yearning to become what they’re told they will be in a future that doesn’t yet exist, and failing miserably. And through this failure, they learn that nothing is fixed and, with a little hope and heroism, they can counter predeterminism. Also, if you’re a fan of films that echo scenes from the 1st act in their 3rd act, but in a different context, to show character growth, you’ll love this one.
Last but not least, the voice cast of “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” brings it home in the most impressive way possible. Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, Josh Brenner, Haley Joel Osment, Kat Graham, and Eric Bauza are so adorable as the protagonists of the team. Their chemistry and commitment to their respective characters is palpable. But (and this can be taken as a side note) they also contribute by playing the side characters of the 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 is. Jim Pirri and Tok Olagundoye, as Krang siblings, are delightfully evil. 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 movies of the year and (although it’s not a genre but a medium) , it is 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 on screen, and every one of them sticks. Surprisingly, it contains a fair amount of grotesque imagery to visualize the power of hate. So prepare to be a little horrified. The voice cast is amazing and so absurdly perfect for the roles they play (thanks to the casting department). And, at the cost of sounding repetitive, this movie deserved the big-screen treatment. So, if possible, project it over a large area, surround yourself with speakers, and watch it with your friends and/or family or alone. 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.