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Teenage mutant franchise adaptations

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WORLD Radio - Teenage mutant franchise adaptations

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem tops the podium for franchise adaptations, but Miraculous: Ladybug and Cat Noir, the Movie is a disappointment


Michelangelo "Mikey", Donatello, "Donnie”, Leonardo "Leo", and Raphael "Raph" from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem." Associated Press/Photo by Paramount Pictures

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, August 4th.

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler.

Today we take a look at two new animated movies about teenage superheroes, one in theaters and one on streaming. Here’s arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino.

COLLIN GARBARINO: In 1983, comics creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird wondered what it would look like for the slowest animal to take on a job that required quickness. This absurd thought experiment gave birth to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Almost overnight, those heroes in a halfshell became cultural icons.

This week, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem arrived in theaters, rebooting the 40-year-old franchise and continuing its legacy of reveling in the absurd.

LEONARDO: Master Splinter has given us a very important mission for tonight. The target is across the street. We must use stealth and cunning to infiltrate the human world and retrieve … Go-Gurt.

ALL: Gooo-guuurrrttt.

MICHELANGELO: Okay, Batman.

The four mutant turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael live in the sewer with an old rat named Splinter who acts as their adoptive father. Splinter taught his turtle sons martial arts using scavenged videotapes because he fears the world above.

LEONARDO: Don’t let any humans see you, because why?

ALL: Humans are the demon scum of the earth, avoid them, don’t say “hi,” they lust to murder that which is different from them to interact with them is to die.

LEONARDO: Hey, I know that’s objectively prejudiced but that’s what Dad taught us.

But Leo, Mickey, Donnie, and Raph aren’t so sure that all humans are evil. Life outside the sewer looks kind of fun.

MICHELANGELO: I think humans seem kind of cool to be honest. Beyonce.

RAPHAEL: Drake! That guy’s the goat of all humans.

LEONARDO: I’d love to have a champagne brunch with Tom Brady.

MICHELANGELO: Guy Fieri seems like a fun hang, and I’ve always wanted to go to Flavortown.

The brothers think that if they can prove they’re heroes, humans will accept them, so they set off to defeat a villain who goes by the name Superfly. They’re shocked to discover Superfly is actually a giant mutated fly. They thought they were the only mutants.

SUPERFLY: Let me guess. Fifteen years ago, right? Some sludge was pumped in the sewer, and y’all came from that.

RAPHAEL: We prefer the term “ooze,” but yeah.

LEONARDO: It’s like more… It’s just nicer.

RAPHAEL: It rolls off the tongue better, yeah.

ALL: Ooze.

LEONARDO: It’s nice, right?

Mutant Mayhem is family friendly, but the script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg pushes the boundaries of good tastes. The movie’s rated PG for some martial arts action, mild language, and gross-out humor.

The voice acting is delightful. The movie has real teenagers play the turtles. Jackie Chan and Ice Cube are fun as Master Splinter and Superfly. But the best part of the movie is the animation. It’s fresh and kinetic, with an off-kilter style that’s reminiscent of quick notebook sketches and sidewalk chalk. Visually it pays homage to the grittiness of Eastman and Laird’s earliest comics, while embracing the sillier aspects of the turtles’ legacy.

The Ninja Turtles are animals who take on aspects of humanity through radioactive ooze. Our other feature is about human teenagers who get the superpowers of animals from magical gemstones.

Miraculous: Ladybug and Cat Noir, the Movie recently debuted on Netflix. This feature film is based on the popular French TV series with the similar name Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. The movie isn’t a continuation or a reboot. It’s sort of like an abridgment of the five-season series.

ADRIEN: Your dad has a bakery? That’s so cool!

MARINETTE: Yeah, waking up to the smell of fresh croissants every morning.

ADRIEN: Your dad sounds awesome.

Marinette and Adrien are two Parisian teenagers who each find a miraculous gemstone that has a magical animal living inside. These tiny creatures grant superpowers to the teens.

TIKKI: I’m a tiny genie, except I don’t grant wishes, but together we’ll do the most dangerous stunts, risk our lives, and save the world!

Marinette gets the powers of the lucky ladybug, and Adrien gains the destructive potential of a black cat. But neither knows the other’s secret identity.

LADYBUG: Who even are you?

CAT NOIR: Name’s Cat Noir.

LADYBUG: Do I know you?

CAT NOIR: I’m the new hero in town. Here, to save the world.

LADYBUG: Ha! With what? Furballs?

The two heroes battle monsters spawned by human grief and anger. The movie has plenty of action, but just like the series, the real attraction comes from the teenage romance. Marinette is in love with Adrien. But Adrien isn’t interested because he’s in love with Ladybug. It’s sort of like Clark who loves Lois who loves Superman, except this time both characters have secret identities.

Miraculous: The Movie juices up the story with improved animation and some Disney-style musical numbers.

[Marinette singing]

The Ninja Turtles movie surpasses the franchise’s other adaptations, but this Miraculous movie feels rushed. The TV series has got a lot of heart that this hour-and-45-minute feature fails to capture. It looks like the race for the best animal-human superheroes will be won by the tortoise—err—turtles.

I’m Collin Garbarino.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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