"Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie" stars Ben Schwartz, Omar Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, Josh Brener, Kat Graham, Eric Bauza, and Haley Joel Osment. Released on Netflix on August 5, 2022, the film has the turtles saving the world from the Krang.
The film was directed by Ant Ward and Andy Suriano, the developers of the television series "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". It is based on the superhero team created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Since the beginning, the Ninja Turtles franchise has gone through many styles and concepts to introduce the brand to countless generations of fans. Whether it's comics, television, movies, or all of the above, this franchise about a team of mutant turtles learning martial arts continues to maintain its popularity through its creative ideas. Its latest iteration of the Ninja Turtles on television is no exception. Following the conclusion of the 2012 version, Nickelodeon wasted no time rebooting the franchise with a new coat of paint and a central focus on mystic elements. That reboot came to be known as "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", which has the turtles using their newfound mystical abilities to save New York City from villainous mutants. Unfortunately, this new version didn't last as long as Nickelodeon's 2012 iteration, as it lasted for only two seasons before it got canned by the channel. However, that didn't stop its creators from continuing the series via a full-length movie exclusively for Netflix. As someone who enjoys everything involving the Ninja Turtles, I was tempted to watch this, even though I didn't watch the show as much as the previous versions. After giving the series another shot (and finishing it), I decided to conclude that journey by watching the movie. So was it bodacious enough to continue this stylized reboot? Let's find out.
The movie takes place two years after the show's finale, with the turtles adapting to the changes following their victory over the Shredder. Unfortunately, their latest mission wound up being a failure due to Leo's (Schwartz) growing ego, but that's not the only worst thing happening to the mutant ninja team. They eventually encountered a young man named Casey Jones (Osment), who came from the future to warn the turtles of an incoming invasion from an alien race known as the Krang. He is tasked with finding a mystic key, which the Foot Clan stole, that allows the Krang to enter Earth. When their attempt to battle the Krang resulted in them losing their magical powers and Raph (Miller) being captured, Leo is forced to take on the role as the team's leader. With April O'Neal (Graham) and Master Splinter (Bauza) by his side, Leo must learn to take responsibility and lead his brothers Donnie (Brener) and Mikey (Smith) to defeat the Krang before they destroy the Earth.
I neglected to watch "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" when it first came out because I wasn't very fond of the changes made to the characters. It's possibly due to how I'm used to the franchise's classic formula that I found the new show a bit alienating at times. However, my opinion drastically changed once I gave it another chance to prepare for the movie. While I didn't think it was as fantastic as the 2012 series, "Rise" was entertaining enough to be more than just Nickelodeon's "Teen Titans GO" knock-off. It boasted some riveting animation, solid seasonal arcs, and decent humor to take advantage of the show's refreshing changes, such as Leo's self-absorbed persona and Raph's leadership role. So now we have the long-awaited film that serves as the show's epilogue, which sees the turtles putting their newfound skills and responsibilities to the test.
If you've watched the show, you'll know what you're going to get from the movie. Considering that it's got the same team from "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", this is far from shocking. You got the intense and stylized action scenes you'd expect from the show, but you also have the light-hearted and physical comedy that made the characters beloved icons. Although, they can be a bit too looney compared to the other versions regarding their characteristics. So if you like the recent iteration or any version of the Ninja Turtles, I can easily guarantee you'll get some enjoyment out of "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie". But the big question is whether casual watchers unfamiliar with the franchise would feel the same way.
One thing I liked about "Rise" is that even though the episodes seemed to be separate comical misadventures, they all serve as interconnected plots representing character development and high-stakes battles against the main antagonists: Baron Draxum and Shredder. This is the case for the movie, with the main focus centering on Leo and his coming-of-age journey to become the team's leader. Leo in "Rise" is nothing like the Leo from the previous shows, as he's depicted as the wise-cracking and arrogant brother member of the group. This was one of the reasons I turned away from the show when it was first released. Fortunately, upon my recent viewing, I got used to his new personality thanks to Schwartz's vocal performance. I also think his persona works well with the film's high-stakes storyline and message, with Leo learning what it means to be a leader. It's a great message to share with the young viewers, assuming they aren't scared by the Krang. More importantly, it's combined with a story that's both entertaining and heartfelt regarding its emotional moments and characters.
However, I wouldn't be quick to call it the best thing to come out of Nickelodeon or even Netflix. While the story works as a continuation of the show and a casual movie for families, "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" carries a narrative structure you'd usually see in a made-for-television film. It could've premiered on television instead of Netflix, and you still couldn't tell the difference. The story has plenty of familiar elements from other films, such as "Terminator". There's also a minor issue with its pacing in which certain character moments wound up feeling rushed, mainly due to its 82-minute runtime. If they tweaked the structure and pacing yet maintained its style, the movie could've worked as a theater-exclusive before we get an actual Turtles theatrical film next year. Other than that, I appreciate Andy Soriano and Ant Ward for crafting a fun, high-stakes plot that's worth the film treatment.
The main cast from the series reprised their roles as their respective characters, ranging from Schwartz as Leo to Bauza as Splinter. Like how they were in the show, the voice actors were undeniably superb in their vocal performances. Schwartz was once again excellent as Leo, even though his personality can be a bit annoying for specific fans of the franchise. Miller, Smith, and Brener were also amusing as Raph, Mikey, and Donnie, respectively. The only new celebrity joining the cast in the movie is Haley Joel Osment, best known for "Sixth Sense" and the voice of Sora from "Kingdom Hearts". He plays the recent version of Casey Jones, a member of the resistance in the future. I thought Osment did pretty well in his role, and Casey has enough moments to make his refreshing persona enjoyable.
The animation has also been one of the show's most vital aspects, as it provides stylized anime-influenced sequences to give the series a beautiful coat of paint. Regarding the character designs, colorful settings, and mystic abilities, the series is a vibrant blast of non-stop hilarity and adrenaline-filled action. So it's no surprise that my thoughts on its animation remain the same for the movie. It has a similar style you'd see in the series but offers some changes to its lighting and camera movements to match the "cinematic quality". It's not as creative as "Into the Spider-Verse", but it's serviceable in delivering a sublime blend of style, color, and energy. I also enjoyed some of the film's humor, which is also a special trademark of the franchise. While they're far from memorable, the comedy does enough in the characters' chemistry to keep me chuckling.
Overall, "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie" is an entertaining and highly stylized mixture of action, comedy, and heart that we'd expect from a Ninja Turtles movie. Its plot does have several issues that make it look like something made for television, such as its pacing. However, it also boasts enough heart and entertainment values in its familiarity to satisfy many Netflix subscribers. From its voice cast to the vibrant and frantic animation, the film is a solid continuation of the 2018 series and a decent Ninja Turtles movie for fans and newcomers. It's no season three of "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", but it'll do.