R-Rated TMNT Reboot Will Be a Legacy Sequel to Original 1990 Film

in Movies & TV

Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (1990)

Credit: New Line Cinema

In celebration of the TMNT franchise’s 40th anniversary, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming “out of the shadows” in all sorts of exciting ways.

Upcoming TMNT Projects

A brand-new wave of IDW TMNT comic books is underway following the publisher’s renewal with Paramount, and a 2D-animated television series titled Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2024) is heading for Paramount+ this August. The new series follows on from last year’s box office hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023).

The movie itself is also getting a sequel which will be released in theaters on October 9, 2026. There also a several video games on the way, too, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants Unleashed (2024), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (TBA), based on the incredibly popular ongoing comic book series from IDW Publishing.

Raphael fighting in the trailer for 'Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (2024)
Credit: Nickelodeon / Paramount

Related: ‘TMNT’ Film Series Officially Dead in the Water as New Reboot Takes Over

So, this year has already seen several announcements for upcoming TMNT projects emerge from the sewers. But there’s one that has left fans excited in ways they never thought possible: the live-action movie adaptation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin” (2020 — present), which will be getting an R rating; a first for the franchise.

“The Last Ronin” has made waves within the TMNT fandom since it arrived on shelves four years ago, spawning three follow-up comic books (“Lost Years,” “Lost Day,” and the ongoing “Re-Evolution”), brand-new toy lines, and now, a video game and a movie. The critically-acclaimed graphic novel even made its way onto The New York Times bestsellers list.

IDW Publishing's 'TMNT: The Last Ronin'
Credit: Inside the Magic

“TMNT: The Last Ronin”

Set in a dystopian New York City several decades in the future, “The Last Ronin” follows a sole-surviving Ninja Turtle (while his identity is revealed at the end of Issue # 1, we’ll keep it anonymous), who has set out on a brutal, bloody one-way mission to avenge the deaths of his three brothers and his father, Master Splinter, years ago. But he’s not alone.

Resisting the iron first of dictator Oroku Hiroto, the ruthless, twisted grandson of the Turtles’ nemesis The Shredder, who’s also long dead, is an underground rebel movement led by an older April O’Neil and her daughter Casey Marie (her father, the hockey stick-wielding vigilante Casey Jones, also fell alongside the three Ninja Turtles and Splinter years ago).

The new Ninja Turtles in "The Last Ronin - Lost Years
Credit: IDW Publishing

Related: ‘TMNT: The Last Ronin’ Trailer Breakdown

The Last Ronin Movie

In April, per The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Pictures confirmed that “The Last Ronin”, which is penned by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman (the other half is Peter Laird) and Tom Waltz, will be getting an R-rated live-action adaptation.

But beyond the script being penned by Tyler Burton Smith, whose credits include the gory horror reboot Child’s Play (2019) and this year’s ultra-violent actioner Boy Kills World (2024), and the film being produced by former head of DC Films Walter Hamada (through his 18hz production company), we don’t know anything else (besides the premise, of course).

Michelangelo in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (1990)
Credit: New Line Cinema

Now, we may have some indication as to how the R-rated TMNT reboot will fit in with the wider franchise. Until now, we’ve assumed that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (TBA) will simply be another reboot. And why wouldn’t we? It’s based on a comic book series that has no affiliation or overlap with any other TMNT story, film or otherwise.

However, during a recent interview with Screen Rant, “The Last Ronin” comic book series co-writer Tom Waltz made a comment that has left fans completely shell-shocked.

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

Related: R-Rated ‘TMNT’ Movie Everything We Know: Plot, Cast, Trailer, Release Date, and More

Legacy TMNT Actress Could Return

Tom Waltz said that he’d love to bring back the original live-action April O’Neil actress for The Last Ronin movie. “My dream is for the lovely and talented Judith Hoag to be a part of something we do in other media for The Last Ronin,” he said.

Judith Hoag played the iconic news reporter and friend of the half-shell heroes in the original 1990 live-action film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “For much of the Ninja Turtles audience, Hoag’s portrayal of April [O’Neil] had a formative impact on their attachment to the series,” Waltz added.

Hoag didn’t return for the two sequels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), in which April was played by Paige Turco.

Since then, April O’Neil has been portrayed (in film) by Sarah Michelle Gellar (2007’s TMNT), Megan Fox (2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 2016’s Out of the Shadows), and, more recently, Ayo Edibiri (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem).

Megan Fox as April O'Neil spying on the Turtles in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (2014)
Credit: Paramount Pictures

“Talk about what a ‘Cowabunga!’ moment that would be for TMNT fans, am I right?!” Waltz later said in the interview. He isn’t wrong — fans would love to see the original April O’Neil actress back on the big screen, especially after her cameo was cut from the 2016 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

But there are two pretty big reasons to be excited about Hoag potentially reprising her role as April O’Neil in The Last Ronin movie.

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

Related: Failed TMNT Movie Franchise Gets Official Sequel

The Last Ronin Could Be a Sequel to the 1990 Movie

Firstly, while it remains to be seen who will play April O’Neil in the film, diehard fans would give half their shells to see a legacy actor like Judith Hoag back in the fold (but we’d all probably be just as excited if Waltz had name-dropped Paige Turco instead).

Secondly, the fact that the original 1990 movie remains the most beloved film in the franchise — largely because of its gritty tone and the Turtles’ costumes — means that The Last Ronin movie could be off to an even greater start than we imagined.

Directed by Steve Barron, the 1990 movie gave fans brilliant animatronic suits for the titular half-shell heroes (courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop), which have aged incredibly well over the last 34 years. The film also went on to become the highest-grossing independent film of all time until it was dethroned by The Blair Witch Project (1990) nine years later.

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

But if Hoag doesn’t return, Tom Waltz would still like her to appear in other The Last Ronin media (which could include the game) as there are plans to expand the “Ronin-Verse” even further, which Waltz talked about in another interview with Screen Rant.

If she does return, this could mean that The Last Ronin will be a legacy sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990). As such, the film would follow in the footsteps of many others in recent years and ignore all the sequels and reboots that span the decades, serving as a sequel only to the original film (the latest Halloween trilogy being a recent example).

While many fans are already calling for the return of those Jim Henson suits, it’s yet to be confirmed which route the filmmakers plan on taking where the Turtles’ designs are concerned. However, The Last Ronin will more than likely give us CG-animated motion-capture performances like in the two Michael Bay-produced movies.

But even if they do opt for CG, they can still re-create the iconic Jim Henson puppets in CG for the purpose of the many flashbacks we get throughout “The Last Ronin” comic book series — which show the Turtles in their heyday — essentially re-creating the “1990 Turtles.”

Check out the two short videos below that reimagine those iterations in CG form from special effects artist John Likens:

“TMNT: Donatello: Test Footage”:

“TMNT: Leonardo: Test Footage”:

If the filmmakers reach out to this talented artist, they could have their pizza and eat it.

While it’s likely The Last Ronin will follow the comics and establish a brand-new TMNT universe, if it also chooses to act as a legacy sequel to the 1990 film, it would be a very smart way to attract an entire generation of original fans. An R-rated movie and a sequel to a fan-favorite? Take our money.

Either way, as the reboot will take place in the future, there’s nothing stopping one from thinking of it as a distant sequel to the 1990 film anyway.

As fans have been clamoring for an R-rated TMNT movie for decades, The Last Ronin could derail the Mutant Mayhem cinematic universe. While there are three Mutant Mayhem sequels incoming (the aforementioned TV series, the video game, and the movie sequel), older fans may lose interest in favor of something geared more towards adults.

The Last Ronin will be the seventh theatrical installment in the TMNT franchise. There’s currently no release date for the film.

Would you like to see Judith Hoag reprise her role as April O’Neil in The Last Ronin movie? Let Inside the Magic know your thoughts in the comments down below!

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