TMNT: Mutant Mayhem is Everything. Including One Perfect Mid-Credits Gag

Dustin Waters
Dustin Waters is a writer from Macon, Ga, currently living in D.C. After years as a beat reporter in the Lowcountry, he now focuses his time on historical oddities, trashy movies, and the merits of professional wrestling.

This article was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

*Spoilers for TMNT: Mutant Mayhem*

As suggested by its title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been a shameless hodge podge of influences and intentions. What began as an indie comic spoof of Marvel’s Daredevil series quickly erupted into a commercial cash grab. Despite this dissonance, the characters remain beloved because — as shown in the newly released animated feature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem — the franchise doesn’t have to be just one thing. 

To preface things, I saw Mutant Mayhem at an Alamo Drafthouse, which is a theater, but also a restaurant and also a bar. This screening was accompanied by a special TMNT-themed menu, so I took the opportunity to order the pepperoni and pickles pizza.

This odd combination is inspired by the teenage turtles’ penchant for ordering a disgusting mix of toppings on their food of choice. And honestly, it was fine. It’s more about allowing yourself to get swept up in the moment than making sound culinary choices.

Going into Mutant Mayhem, my curiosity was already piqued after learning that Trent Reznor and co-composer Atticus Ross had provided the score. For this animated Ninja Turtles movie. Honestly, it is pretty good.

Then I made it to the action montage that was styled after the iconic hammer fight from the classic South Korean thriller Oldboy. Only in Mutant Mayhem the scene is now accompanied by Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” I hope you’re starting to notice a trend here. 

At the heart of Mutant Mayhem is a story about intergenerational trauma. Because why not?

Early on the movie establishes that our quartet of turtle boys are forbidden from stepping out of the shadows but want nothing more than to live life out in the open in New York City. This point is driven home while the turtles sneak under a subway platform as a dude bluntly exclaims something along the lines of “I love being young and doing whatever I want.”

It’s a funny line.

Unfortunately, the turtles are forbidden from the outside world. Their father, the human-sized rat named Splinter, was accosted by an unruly mob when he first tried to expose the baby turtles to the human world. This trauma and the fear of losing those he loves becomes ingrained. So he teaches the turtles that humans are bad, trains them to be weapons, and also claims that people want nothing more than to capture the turtles and “milk them.” 

It’s a funny line. 

But, of course, Splinter isn’t wrong about people. We are often bad. The turtles are rejected and demonized by the public. So, yeah, Mutant Mayhem has something to say about society. But it also has Paul Rudd as a skateboarding gecko. 

All this is to say that Mutant Mayhem doesn’t make the mistake of being ashamed of its admittedly — and intentionally — ridiculous source material. Nor is it too nostalgic. Not once does this movie come across as a bunch of dads pressuring their kids to play with the same toys they had when they were growing up. 

Instead Mutant Mayhem approaches the source material with a sense of excitement and brings in more things that the people who made this movie love. It’s a mix of fun shit added to more fun shit and then some sad shit followed by the Ninja Turtles paying tribute to the Oldboy hammer fight while “No Diggity” plays. 

Sure, there is a lot going on here, but if you came to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem expecting subtlety, then you are probably an asshole. 

Now to that mid-credits gag I mentioned. Following the film’s conclusion, we see the usual rundown of names. We’ve got the four adolescents who breathe new life into Leo, Donnie, Mikey, and Raph. We’ve got one Jonathan Cena as Rocksteady. Rose Byrne, Jackie Chan, Giancarlo Esposito, and so on.

Then, in the final card, we see “And introducing… Paul Rudd.”

It’s just such a sharp gag to squeeze into part of your movie that most people aren’t even watching. But why waste an opportunity to incorporate a bit of meta humor into this thing? It adds to the vibrance of Mutant Mayhem — a movie already bristling with jokes and action and longing. 

Now, let’s all keep an eye on this Paul Rudd guy. I’m sure he’s got a great future ahead of him. Turtle power. 

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