Brand-New R-Rated ‘Ninja Turtles’ Teaser Leaves Fans Shocked

in Movies & TV

Donatello headshot from 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

An R-rated Ninja Turtles just got one step closer.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) might be taking some big slices out of the global box office right now, having grossed $118 million worldwide so far, but at the same time, fans are still hungry to see an R-rated Ninja Turtles reboot.

This is really no surprise when you consider the dark and gritty origins of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The franchise first found life in a grungy underground comic book from co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird way back in 1984.

The TMNT ready to fight in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem trailer
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Related: 5 Reasons ‘Mutant Mayhem’ Is Overrated

Mirage Studios would churn out a number of black-and-white runs in which the titular half-shell heroes were portrayed as menacing, rooftop-scaling vigilantes, a far cry from their candy-colored counterparts in the popular 1987 cartoon series.

But even as the ’87 series found continued success into the early ’90s, the first live-action film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), was quite the tonal departure. Still not quite as dark as those original comics, but the closest we’ve gotten on the screen ever since.

Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Credit: New Line Cinema

Related: ‘TMNT’ Reboot Takes Franchise in Bold Direction, Replaces Iconic Heroes Forever

Even with Mutant Mayhem impressing fans, the 1990 film is still widely considered the superior entry. However, it was followed by two pretty goofy sequels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993).

Four more films have emerged since then: a CG-animated sequel to the first three, TMNT (2007), the live-action reboots, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016), and now, the CG-animated Mutant Mayhem.

April and the Turtles in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Related: R-Rated ‘TMNT’ Installment Gets First Official Trailer

Despite being the most critically praised TMNT film so far, Mutant Mayhem is catered largely towards children. While there’s plenty there for long-standing fans of the franchise, if you’re hoping for any sort of grit, you’ll walk away disappointed.

Fans have been crying out for an R-rated Ninja Turtles film for longer than you might realize. In fact, ever since Mission: Impossible II (2000) director John Woo was first attached to direct an adult-themed reboot (which obviously never happened).

Donatello poster for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Related: Marvel and DC Actors Dominate Our New Live-Action ‘Ninja Turtles’ Cast

We’ve had four TMNT films since that failed project, and several animated shows, which have satisfied our appetites somewhat. But since IDW Publishing’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin” (2020) arrived, the demand for such a film is palpable.

Recently, fans called for The Dark Knight (2008) director Christopher Nolan to helm The Last Ronin film. Not only has “The Last Ronin” become a huge success, with a new series starting this December, there’s a video game based on the comic book in development.

Last week, we were finally treated to the first teaser-trailer for The Last Ronin game, which you can check out below:

Related: Will the Live-Action ‘Ninja Turtles’ Reboot Be All-Female?!

Unfortunately, though, Kevin Eastman confirmed at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con that Nickelodeon decided not to go down the big screen (or small screen) route with “The Last Ronin”, instead opting for the video game.

This is more than likely because of their confirmed plans for a Mutant Mayhem shared universe. A sequel to the film has already been greenlit, and a 2D animated follow-up series will be available to stream on Paramount+ later this year.

New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem trailer TMNT
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Related: Upcoming R-Rated ‘TMNT’ Installment Could Anger Same Fans Already Hating ‘Mutant Mayhem’

Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. But as “The Last Ronin” continues to grow, it’s possible Nickelodeon will eventually consider a movie adaptation, or even a live-action television series.

One thing that might help The Last Ronin‘s cause are a couple of TMNT fan films. One that has been doing the rounds for the past year is based directly on the comic book; a CG-animated short film that imagines what The Last Ronin film might look like.

Michelangelo in The Last Ronin fan film trailer
Credit: YouTube channel “Speedokaggen” by creator Magnus Edlund / TMNT Copyright owners IDW Publishing, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures

Related: Will One of These Actresses Play April O’Neil In the Live-Action ‘Ninja Turtles’ Reboot?!

But if you think that short film is impressive, wait until you see what recently emerged online. Titled “TMNT: Leonardo: Test Footage”, a brand-new TMNT short film has found its way out of the sewers and onto the New York City streets, which in this case are on fire.

The video, which has been made with photorealistic CGI and is designed to serve as an unofficial “teaser” for a live-action film or series, sees Leonardo fighting robotic Foot Soldiers with his twin Katana blades, but this time he’s not holding back.

Check it out below:

Related: Every Version of April O’Neil From ‘Ninja Turtles’ Ranked

The synopsis beneath the video reads as follows:

Outnumbered. Never Outmatched. — Get ready for a TMNT journey into madness. It’s a darker and grittier approach to the iconic turtles, featuring cinematic storytelling, intense action and drama. — A long standing goal of mine is to create a TMNT film or episodic series. Until that day comes, here’s a little taste test of what that might look like. Created entirely by yours truly. And yes… there’s a lot more where this came from. COWABUNGA DUDES!

The video was created and uploaded to YouTube by director and designer John Likens.

Fans on Twitter/X wasted no time in sharing their reactions to the video. Bounding Into Comics shared the film, and the tweet has already garnered several comments:

“Check out this awesome test footage of Leonardo from John Likens. His goal it to make a TMNT film or episodic series.”

Related: New ‘TMNT’ Installment Finally Replaces Original Four Heroes

“Now THIS is TMNT,” one user says, while another compares it to “The Last Ronin”, saying, Looks very #TMNT #TheLastRonin.” Other comments include “That is some cool stuff right there” and “OH THIS IS SICK.”

One reply that stands out is from user “Not James Franco”:

“This is the live-action TMNT I’ve been wanting since the original movies. They need to pick this up and give it a bit of the grittiness the comic has. I wanna see ’em dismember some enemies and drink beer with their pizza. Is that too much to ask?” [edited for clarity]

Others, however, called out Mutant Mayhem for not delivering what fans expected.

“100x better than the garbage Mutant Mayhem we got,” one says, while another adds, “See, this is TMNT! Not that sh*t they just put out that’s a crap-fest for kids and just like the Mario movie sh*ts all over the source material.” [edited for clarity]

This isn’t Liken’s first rodeo in the world of TMNT.  Earlier this year, he uploaded “TMNT: DONATELLO: TEST FOOTAGE”, which, as you’ve probably already guessed, shows the purple bandana-wearing, bo staff-wielding Ninja Turtle in battle.

You can watch the video below:

Related: First, Female Ninja Turtles, Now ‘TMNT’ Eyed For R-Rated Horror Reboot

Besides the fact they look incredible, while delivering that brutal tone fans have been waiting so long to see on the screen, the biggest takeaway from these two shorts is that the Turtles are inspired by the beloved Jim Henson designs from the first two live-action films.

This has us wondering: are there any existing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films that can be followed up with an R-rated sequel? Following a set of family-friendly installments with a violent outing sounds a bit farfetched, but Logan (2017) already proved it can be done.

Let’s take a look.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

April O'Neil in TMNT 1990
Credit: New Line Cinema

As the Ninja Turtles in the two “test footage” videos from John Likens are based off the designs from the original two live-action films, an R-rated sequel within this timeline would likely go down well with fans. Although many would probably prefer that it ignores the second film, The Secret of the Ooze, as it’s very cheesy, even compared to the first one.

Related: All 12 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Explained (Yes, 12!)

TMNT (2007)

April O'Neil in TMNT (2007)
Credit: Imagi Animation Studios

TMNT has garnered a cult following over the years. While it suffers from paper-thin storytelling (ironic considering it was the Turtles’ first 3D outing in theaters), it’s viewed as a canonical sequel to the three live-action films. So we see no reason why it can’t be followed by a live-action sequel (or CG, we’re not fussy), this time one that’s much darker.

Related: What Is the New Female ‘Ninja Turtles’ Sequel About?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows poster
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows never really stood a chance in movie theaters. While many fans have come to appreciate it in recent years, it still “lives in the shadow” of its poor 2014 predecessor. As the film underperformed at the box office for this reason, we’ll never get a follow up. But if we do, why not go down the darker route?

Related: R-Rated, ‘Logan’-Inspired ‘Ninja Turtles’ Installment Confirmed

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin 

Michelangelo in The Last Ronin fan film trailer
Credit: YouTube channel “Speedokaggen” by creator Magnus Edlund / TMNT Copyright owners IDW Publishing, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures

The most obvious choice for an R-rated Ninja Turtles film would be one that’s based on “The Last Ronin” comic books. Whether or not this will ever happen remains to be seen, as Nickelodeon is admittedly more focused on developing the new Mutant Mayhem universe, which is no surprise considering the family-friendly side of the franchise has served them incredibly well for a long time now.

Related: ‘Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ Full Characters and Cast Guide

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The Turtles with white eyes in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Speaking of Mutant Mayhem, it’s not impossible for a future film in this timeline to go down a darker path. While it’s unlikely to happen considering the film is aimed towards children, recently, actor Shamon Brown Jr., who plays Michelangelo in the film, was asked if he’d be interested in reprising his role in The Last Ronin film, should it ever happen!

Mutant Mayhem is in theaters now.

As per Wikipedia, here’s the official synopsis for Mutant Mayhem:

After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtles set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O’Neil helps them take on a notorious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.

Leonardo fighting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Related: Is the New ‘Ninja Turtles’ Film Canon With Any of the Previous Installments?

Mutant Mayhem stars Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo), Micah Abbey (Donatello), Shamon Brown Jr. (Michelangelo), Brady Noon (Raphael), Jackie Chan (Splinter), Ayo Edebiri (April O’Neil), Seth Rogen (Bebop), John Cena (Rocksteady), Hannibal Buress (Genghis Frog), Rose Byrne (Leatherhead), Ice Cube (Superfly), Post Malone (Ray Fillet), Paul Rudd (Mondo Gecko), Maya Rudolph (Cynthia Utrom), Natasia Demetriou (Wingnut), and Giancarlo Esposito (Baxter Stockman).

There’s no release date for The Last Ronin game. “The Last Ronin” comic books are all on sale now. The third series, “Re-Evolution”, goes on sale in December.

What do you think of this new TMNT fan film? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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