I’m going to preface this with two things: One, I am a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, looking over everything from other movies, toys, games, and much more. Two, I’m not a fan of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, having written a long rant about how much I hated this concept from the beginning and receiving a lot of grief for it. However, after watching Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, I might have enough reason to go back and give the TV series another go now that I’ve seen that the team behind Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie can actually put effort into their version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Title: Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie Production Company: Nickelodeon Movies & Nickelodeon Animation Studio Distributed by: Netflix Directed by: Ant Ward & Andy Suriano Produced by: Vladimir Radev & Andy Suriano Written by: Tony Gama-Lobo & Rebecca May Starring: Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, Josh Brener, Kat Graham, Eric Bauza, & Haley Joel Osment Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird Release dates: August 5, 2022 Running time: 85 minutes
Years Later: Enter the Krang (Story)
Set years after the series finale, New York City (and possibly the world) has been taken over by a powerful invading alien force. Leo, Mikey, and Casey Jones are a part of the resistance, looking for a way to stop the aliens in their tracks. In a last-ditch effort, Leo and Mikey send Casey Jones back into the past, to the day the invasion began with the phrase “find the key, stop the Krang.”
Casey doesn’t know that by the time he arrives in the modern day, the Turtles have allowed The Foot to take the key from them. By the time Casey finds the group and they go to get the key back, The Foot has summoned The Krang, a group of aliens who have the ability to use biotech, and also take away the team’s mystic powers. The Turtles are powerless, yet they keep trying to fight against The Krang in a losing battle, with Rach calling for the Donnie-pods to be used as an escape. Leo, who is trying to be better as a teammate and ninja, stays behind to get the key, with Raph ultimately sacrificing himself to save Leo, becoming captured by The Krang.
The Krang summon The Technodrome, their main warship, and begin to take over New York. The Turtles, April, Splinter, and Casey launch another attack on The Krang, finding a way to get the key back, and Leo facing off against a Krang mutated Raph. Ultimately, Raph comes around, the group gets the key, the Krangs are defeated, and Casey gets his first slice of pizza.
Small but Decent Cast (Characters)
Ben Schwartz as Leonardo/Leo Out of all the characters that I had an issue with during the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series, was Leo. This is meant to be the serious ninja, the true leader of the group, but he got smacked so hard with the stupidity stick that he was never going to recover. Well, after 52-odd episodes, it looks like we started to get the Leonardo that we have expected in previous versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lore. Leo had a LOT of personal growth and showed sparks of the greatness that he has when he is a mature Turtle. We get this proven in the opening moments of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, and then see it grow in the rest of the film. A much better representation of the character we know and respect.
Omar Benson Miller as Raphael/Raph While Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had Raph as the leader of the group and a dumb-as-rocks tough guy, we get a version of Raph who looks to have grown into the leader role during the TV series but is tired of being the leader because he knows that Leo is more suited to the role. But he loves and protects his brothers with every fiber of his being. Raph, much like most of the other characters, comes off a lot better in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie than he did in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series. It’s a shame that they used Raph as a Krang lackey near the end of the film in order to push Leo’s growth and the relationship between the two with a “love conquers all” trope. But overall, a major improvement for the character.
Brandon Mychal Smith as Michelangelo/Mikey Mikey is one of the characters who didn’t get slapped around during the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie TV series, and nothing has changed here…except he gets his “The Holy Chalupa” (Or Mystic Mikey) look from the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series at the beginning of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, and I’m all for it. Otherwise, it’s just the typical Mikey that we’re used to seeing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles media from the beginning.
Josh Brener as Donatello/Donnie I wasn’t too sure about Donnie in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as it looked like they had him being the “hidden nerd” trope, hiding his intelligence from the rest of the group. In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, we see that he is still hiding a lot of what he can do, but he comes out more sneaky yet confident in himself and his tech. When the group loses their mystic powers, for some reason, we get Donnie losing his tech, which was a weird choice. But one thing I’ll give credit to Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is that it showed why he has a “battle shell” and got him to actually have the confidence to turn an issue with his body into something that will save the day. While there isn’t much growth to Donnie here, at least he seems more confident in his intelligence instead of coving this smarts up with goofy modern-era quips and memes.
Kat Graham as April O’Neil April still comes off as hot-headed, aggressive, pushy, and egotistical in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. Frankly, I stopped caring about April any time she was on screen, and thankfully the writers understood that she needed to be pushed into the background during Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie in order to move focus onto the new kid character on the scene. They also, thankfully, didn’t do any push towards the Casey/April relationship for no reason.
Eric Bauza as Splinter
Another character who got pushed into the background, and with good reason. One of my biggest gripes with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was how they took the wise and noble Splinter and turned him into a lazy, shitposting, TV-watching pain in the ass. Instead of actually teaching the Turtles, he does nothing yet still comes off as a powerful fighter. Well, in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, he is pushed to the background and gets his ass whooped so severely by the Krang that he is out for the rest of the movie. If there was one thing Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie didn’t need, it was anything that gave screen time to this shitty representation of Splinter.
Haley Joel Osment as Casey Jones
Considering that Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was to focus on Casey finally being added to the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie universe, they did a really good job at making him not only the story focus but also the emotional focus of the film. Casey, in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, is focused, dedicated, and loves his master Leo in the future. When he comes back to the present day, he doesn’t get disappointed in the Leo he finds but knows that his master is in Leo somewhere and just needs the motivation to come out. Casey also knows what he needs to do to get the key and stopping the Krang and adapts to each situation as a trained fighter/soldier would. There’s barely a time in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie where Casey comes off silly or stupid. Instead, he becomes the link between story and viewer, with one moment late in the film standing out as one of the best emotional moments in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles history. A great addition at the right time with the care and dedication that should be shown through the whole franchise.
Jim Pirri as Krang One & Toks Olagundoye as Krang Two
The Krangs, of which there are 3 of them, come off as some of the best villains I’ve seen in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I wasn’t a massive fan of the villains during the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series, but none of them felt like real threats. Shredder came close, but it’s destiny that he will always be defeated in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles media. The Krang, on the other hand, walked out of the portal and instantly whooped the whole group’s ass so badly that you think they’ll actually give up, and the future shown at the beginning of the film will come to pass no matter what. They summon The Technodrome, a biotech version of the legendary warship (Which I’m not a fan of, but it makes sense when you think about The Krang as characters) and start messing things up on Earth while also getting personal mecha robots that wipe out Earth’s military with ease. This is what I mean about them being a threat, overpowered beings that nothing seems like they can be defeated.As mentioned before, there are 3 Krang creatures. The leader of which is the most powerful, with the ability to “lock” the mystical powers of the group away (I say group as I noticed Splinter and April having mystic weapons too), having them powerless and having to adapt to this loss too. The other Krangs, one a female who gets into a grudge match with April, comes off as April’s mirror to a degree, but it is just as aggressive, egotistical, and rash as April is. This felt like it could have been a learning moment for April if Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was given more time and development. The third Krang is a small, silent one who pilots The Technodrome, and that’s about it. He’s just there. But as a group, The Krang come off as the best version I’ve seen ever… and thank got there was no Roseanne Barr as Krang Prime or Gilbert Gottfried as Krang SubPrime like they did in the 2012 series.
Cameo: John Michael Higgins as Warren Stone, Rhys Darby as Hypno-Potamus, & Rob Paulsen as Foot Lieutenant
These characters, one of the better ones in the early show (Hypno-Potamus) and one of the worst (Warren Stone) appear at the beginning of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie as a plot device to get the key to The Foot. This felt like a kick in the dick as I hated these characters in the TV series, and having them open up the movie made me feel like I was in for more of the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that I hated and walked away from.Thank the gods that they only appear for a small time and then disappear from the movie forever. The Foot Lieutenant, on the other hand, comes off as a delivery device to step up to a better villain, and the thanks he gets for bringing the Krang to Earth is to get mutated into one of the lackeys feels like something that should happen to make the main villains ever worse, which is a good thing. However, I feel like Rob Paulsen is becoming the Jason David Frank of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. If it’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles related, you’ll find him involved at some point in some role, coasting on the franchise to make money at any point.
A Huge Improvement (What worked)
As I mentioned in the beginning, I wasn’t a massive fan of the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it first aired three years ago. However, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie made me think there might be some reason to go back and watch the series again and try to find something redeeming about it. I heard a lot of people saying that it gets “good in the later episodes,” something I watched and wasn’t too impressed about. Watching Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie showed me that this show that just appeared all around silly and dumb for the sake of a low-IQ audience was actually redeemable through its storytelling, characterization, and some moments in its animation.
One of my biggest gripes about Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was that it was just a stupid show, with all the characters suffering from some sort of ADHD or other mental disorder in some way. There was never a moment where you felt like anything mattered or was a real threat, but with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, you got everything I wanted and expected from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story. The Turtles themselves have growth (Mainly Raph and Leo, but 50% is better than nothing), Casey is an interesting and emotional tie to the story, the Krang actually comes off as an unbeatable threat that’ll take something significant for them to be defeated.
I think the longer running time and focus from the writers really helped Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie come off as what people expected Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be in general, which shows that this concept could have been a great addition to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe rather than the disappointment that the show came off as.
The other thing in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie that I wanted more of was more of the Krang invasion era that was shown off at the beginning of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. Seeing a mature Leo and Mystic Mikey fighting alongside Casey Jones had me wanting to know more about what happened to cause this future to happen. Seeing the Turtles later in life with more experience and seeing them go through different things in that life is something that barely gets explored in any medium, and I want to see more of it.
Sure, there were moments (TMNT 2012: Season 5 Episodes 11/12/13, aka “The Final Chapters”, Archie’s Adventures of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book: Issues 42 to 44, aka The Future Shark Trilogy) that showed these ideas, but I want to see an extended opening to this film that covers what happened from the end of the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series to the future shown in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.
The Same Old Flaws… (What didn’t work)
While Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie improved on a lot of the issues I had with the show, it had a habit of ruining some moments with either stupid humor, or some animation thing where the characters do or look stupid in some way. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Leo sacrifices himself in the battle with Krang, leaving Casey without his master once again (see image below). This scene is presented in a dark context, where you can see and feel the emotion of the moment.
It’s a great moment of storytelling that really makes Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie stands above Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a TV series. In contrast, you have the opening scene where the Turtles are chasing down Warren Stone (The worm guy I loathed in the series) and Hypno-Potmus, two really dumb villains in a scene that has every single frame filled with goofy expressions and goofball faces that really takes everything out of the scene and feels like the old “dangling keys for a two-month-old” style comedy which really turned me away from Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the beginning. When it’s used here, which it’ll be good for the hardcore audience who love this show for some reason, it’ll turn other viewers away.
Another thing that carried over from the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series was the lazy animation. The use of Dragon Ball Super levels of lack-of-care in the background characters through to the overuse of single frame “speed frame” moments in the action scenes just felt like this movie was pushed out on the cheap just to shut all the hardcore Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans up about their show being canceled. I’ll admit, while I didn’t like the overuse of the Dragon Ball Shonen-style “beyond human sight” speed fighting of the final Shredder vs. Turtles fight (Yes, I saw the finale of the show), even using that style would have been better than some of the shots we got in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.
It Took A Movie… (Closing)
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie showed me, a hater of the TV series, that there might be something in going back and watching Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a series with new eyes. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie proved that the writers behind the show actually know how to write something with emotion, character development, and a really good story that is fitting with known Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lore and on par with other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles properties.
Do I think that Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is still worse than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation? Not as a stand-alone movie, but the series as a whole concept still feels less than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is a good finale to the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show and will hopefully get the fans to stop wanting a revival.
Nickelodeon needs to move on from Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie and head back to something more like the 2002 Cartoon (the best series IMO) or the 2012 CGI series (2nd best IMO), where you are telling more standard style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories that the WHOLE fanbase can enjoy.
Review Disclosure Statement: Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was provided to us by Netflix for review purposes. For more information on how we conduct and handle reviews here, please visit our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info. Thank you
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is one of those projects that turns the way you can look at an entire franchise on its head. As someone who hated the series, I found Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie to be a really well-written and produced plot that dragged me into it and showed me that this version has some redeeming qualities.
It’s just a shame that it took something like to to make Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into something worth watching. This should have happened a lot sooner. However, there are some hangovers from Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series that drag the movie down a bit into a “still needs improvement” territory.
Solid story with effort and emotion put into it
Casey Jones is a great central character as the Krang are formidable villains
Gives growth to characters who needed it a long time ago
Donnie gets the ass-end of the development ideas
Most of the character and animation holdovers from the TV series
Not enough focus on the future invasion segment to build the story