‘TMNT’s Most Iconic Villain Likely to Get “Woke” Treatment in ‘Mutant Mayhem 2’

in Movies & TV

(L to R) Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem'

Credit: Nickelodeon Movies / Paramount Pictures

These days, many fans are finding it increasingly difficult to become attached to iconic characters, mainly because reboots seem to have adopted the trend of making major changes to some of those well-known figures whom audiences have known for decades.

The first that comes to mind is the ongoing debate about whether James Bond will be female in the next film following Daniel Craig’s exit in No Time to Die (2021). The latest 007 flick certainly hints at a female Bond, but many are vehemently opposed to this, calling the idea “woke.”

Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'No Time to Die'
Credit: MGM/Universal Studios/EON Productions

Related: ‘Ninja Turtles’ Director Hints at “‘Dark Knight’”-Style Sequel, Throws Shade at Michael Bay Reboots

The tuxedo-wearing, martini-guzzling superspy probably won’t even be rewritten as a female character, but many other characters already have. Though it’s not quite the same, some fans have taken to calling the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU) the “M-She-U,” a substitute for the word “woke.”

This is because recent years have seen all of the original male Avengers given female counterparts, such as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman), Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), and Shuri/Black Panther (Letitia Wright).

She-Hulk screaming from 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law'
Credit: Marvel Studios

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

As for characters who have actually been rewritten as women, perhaps the most obvious that comes to mind is Doctor Who, a fictional hero who has been male since 1963 but was played by actress Jodie Whitaker between 2018 and 2022, much to the dismay of many fans.

However, some of these characters have gone under the radar, mainly because they’re of the lesser-known variety. Just as the title states, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) is packed to the brim with all sorts of different mutants.

The Turtles battling giant Superfly in New York in 'Mutant Mayhem'
Credit: Nickelodeon Movies / Paramount Pictures

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

With the exception of the titular brothers Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Raphael (Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and their master Splinter (Jackie Chan), the mutants are villains, each plucked from the franchise’s long history.

Though there are some iconic villains in the mix in the latest reboot, including mutant warthog/rhino duo Bebop (Seth Rogen) and Rocksteady (John Cena), the rest are relatively unknown — although they’re each played by well-known actors, some of them megastars.

Official Baxter Stockman 'TMNT Mutant Mayhem' poster
Credit: Nickelodeon Movies / Paramount Pictures

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Among them are Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), Superfly (Ice Cube), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress), and Ray Fillet (Post Malone), while non-mutant villains are Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph) and Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito).

However, only diehard Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans will have noticed that some of these characters have undergone notable changes, not just in their overall design and the essence of their character, but their gender.

Let’s look at which characters in Mutant Mayhem were rewritten as female characters.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Cynthia Utrom

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem' character poster - Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph) may appear to be an original TMNT villain, but diehard fans will recognize that the TCRI (Techno Cosmic Research Institute) executive is an alien in disguise, as Utroms are an alien species whose most famous member is the iconic Krang.

Though her true identity is yet to be revealed, it’s pretty obvious (as obvious as Chancellor Palpatine’s identity in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace) that Cynthia Utrom is a female version of Krang, the evil pink blob who resides inside a large robotic human.

She also resembles the Utrom from the CG-animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 — 2017), who also appear in “human” form, wearing snappy suits and sleek sunglasses. It should also be noted that the Utrom like to experiment with mutations.

Related: ‘TMNT’ Sequel Geared Towards Adults Shares First Look

Wingnut, Leatherhead, and Scumbug — Mutant Mayhem

Rose Byrne as Leatherhead in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem' character poster
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

The three mutants, Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), and Scumbug (Alex Hirsch), a bat, an alligator, and a cockroach, are female. However, before Mutant Mayhem, these characters were portrayed as male throughout several TMNT iterations.

Related: All the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movies Ranked Worst to Best

April O’Neil — Mutant Mayhem

April O'Neil in 'TMNT: Mutant Mayhem'
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

While April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) is, of course, no villain, it’s still worth pointing out that she’s yet another character the filmmakers decided to make some changes to, which led to the anti-woke mob attacking the film.

This isn’t the first time April has been portrayed as African-American, though — the animated series The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018 — 2020) was the first, but it proves that the team behind Mutant Mayhem isn’t afraid to make significant changes to iconic characters.

Mutant Mayhem isn’t the only area within the wider franchise that has led to some fans calling TMNT “woke.” Even the comic books have led to some controversy in recent years.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Cover art for 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika' - female Ninja Turtle
Credit: IDW Publishing

Jennika is a human who becomes the sixth Ninja Turtle in the Jennika comics, which are part of the wider TMNT universe established by IDW Publishing. However, many fans have described both the character and her story as “woke.”

She’s not the first female Ninja Turtle, though — that honor goes to Venus de Milo from the live-action series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997 — 1998), who would also later appear in the IDW comics. Venus de Milo is also a widely hated Ninja Turtle character.

Related: ‘TMNT’ Sequel Kills Off Original Heroes, Officially Replaces Them With Female Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Odyn, Yi, Moja, and Uno

Odyn, Yi, Moja, and Uno in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin - The Lost Years' characters - Odyn, Yi, Moja, and Uno
Credit: IDW Publishing

The TMNT universe isn’t done with creating female Ninja Turtles. And why should it stop? The hugely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (2020) comic book series has expanded into a universe of its own, now dubbed the “Ronin-Verse.”

The Last Ronin ran for five issues and was followed by a five-part series subtitled Lost Years (2023) earlier this year, which introduces the new Ninja Turtles, Odyn, Yi, Moja, and Uno, two of whom are female. They will return in the third series, Re-Evolution (2024) next year.

Interestingly, though, it seems these characters have gone down well with fans, as there doesn’t appear to be any online discourse surrounding the fact that two are female. Not yet, anyway.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 2

April and the Turtles in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem'
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

Will any other characters be changed in Mutant Mayhem 2? If you’ve seen Mutant Mayhem, you’ll know that the sequel, which has been greenlit by Paramount and Nickelodeon, will feature The Shredder, the most iconic villain in the franchise.

This is teased during a mid-credits scene where Cynthia Utrom has the Ninja Turtles, who are now enjoying life at Eastman High in New York City, under surveillance. She decides to summon The Shredder, who is briefly shown standing near Brooklyn Bridge in the storm.

The Ninja Turtles looking scared in 'Mutant Mayhem'
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Nickelodeon Movies

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

When you look at some notable changes made to some of the mutant characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, it’s not so hard to believe that The Shredder could be female in the upcoming sequel.

In fact, Cynthia never refers to The Shredder as “him” or “he,” nor do we see the villain’s face — just the back of their helmet, shoulder, and cape. As such, it’s a huge possibility that this iconic Ninja Turtles villain will also be female in Mutant Mayhem 2.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that Mutant Mayhem director Jeff Rowe, who is returning for Mutant Mayhem 2, used male pronouns while talking about the villain’s role in the sequel in an interview with Collider earlier this month. Here’s what he said:

Here are his full comments:

“That is exactly what I am trying to figure out and what my next meeting will be about. That is what we are in the thick of now. Shredder is just a great character. He’s an iconic, classic, loved character. He’s like the Joker. You know who he is, even if you’re not a fan of the source material. I think we definitely wanna do a villain-forward film. We’re currently trying to make decisions about that, but those decisions for us as filmmakers will always come from the place of what tells the best story, specifically about our main characters, the Turtles.”

However, the director could simply be referring to the more general version of the character and may even be keeping things under wraps.

The Shredder threatening Splinter in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' 1987
Credit: Fred Wolf Films

Related: ‘TMNT’ Prequel Follows ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot, Replaces Beloved Heroes With Female Turtles

If this happens, undoubtedly, there will be an uproar from many fans. After all, the decision to portray April O’Neil as African-American in the film was met with plenty of backlash.

Personally, we don’t think there would be anything wrong with making The Shredder female. And if the film goes down the TMNT Multiverse route, as we suspect, it could reintroduce previous versions of the villain, which, like April O’Neil, aren’t exactly going anywhere.

In other words, Mutant Mayhem 2 could have its pizza and eat it.

Check out the trailer for Mutant Mayhem below:

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

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.

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).

Mutant Mayhem is now available to watch at home. There’s no release date for Mutant Mayhem 2.

Do you think The Shredder should be portrayed as female in Mutant Mayhem 2? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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