Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, 1993.
Directed by Stuart Gillard.
Starring Mark Caso, Brian Tochi, Jim Raposa, Corey Feldman, Matt Hill, Tim Kelleher, Robbie Rist, David Fraser, Stuart Wilson and Elias Koteas.
The teenage mutant ninja turtles travel back in time to ancient Japan and embark on an adventure.
I owned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) on VHS, and so I had quite a strong nostalgic attachment to the movie when I recently revisited it. I was absolutely delighted that the movie was still entertaining and packed enough charm to transport me back to my childhood. It was with eagerness that I ploughed into the sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), a film which I also owned on VHS. I had vague memories of preferring this sequel over the original, but when re-watching I was struck by how average the movie is. Much to my dismay as a child, I never owned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. In fact, I never even got an opportunity to watch the film in its entirety, only catching snippets on the rare occasion it was shown on TV. I was apprehensive to say the least.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is a disappointing effort, with the most obvious problem being the entire concept of the movie. The last two films dealt with our four heroes in a half shell facing the splendidly bad Shredder on the mean streets of New York City. Their rivalry was excellently established and Shredder proved to be a worthy foe, growing even stronger at the end of the second film to become Super Shredder, a truly formidable opponent. It wouldn’t have been difficult to bring him back, or even to draw from the comic books or cartoon series and draft in one of the many memorable villains from those sources. Instead, Leonardo (Mark Caso, voiced by Brian Tochi), Donatello (Jim Raposa, voiced by Corey Feldman), Raphael (Matt Hill, voiced by Tim Kelleher), and Michaelangelo (David Fraser, voiced by Robbie Rist) are transported back in time to ancient Japan where they get embroiled in a family feud. The dastardly villain is Walker (Stuart Wilson), an utterly forgettable personality-free tradesman who is supplying guns – a far cry from Shredder or anything remotely memorable.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that by setting the plot in a change of scenery, a fresh breath of life might have been given to this franchise. Unfortunately this is most certainly not the case, as the story is painfully predictable and awfully paced. There is very little excitement, with even the fight scenes proving to be woefully unimpressive. Even the turtles begin to irritate, their once cheesy but somewhat adorable slang and pop culture references now being overused to the point of annoyance. The majority of the dialogue is appalling, but it’s made worse by the animatronics used to operate the mouths of the turtles completely failing to synchronise with what’s being said. Don’t even get me started on the appearance of the turtles themselves, as someone in the costume department owes the fans a pretty big apology.
It would be easy to throw one’s hands in the air, snort in derision and dismiss this movie as mindless child-baiting fluff. I’m sure for an audience of the right age this wouldn’t be too traumatic an experience, and I never quite found myself completely bored so the film must have been doing something right – or perhaps I was living in hope that it would pick up. The problem with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and this is probably my biggest gripe, is how many wasted opportunities there are. Even the awesome character Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), who was sorely missing from the second instalment, returns only to be sidelined babysitting in New York City. There are even a few viable reasons for sending the turtles back in time that could have been incorporated, teaching them in the way of the samurai for example, or an examination of culture clash (which is touched upon but only for disastrous attempts at comedy). Instead this just feels like a lazy effort from all involved.
It may be that without any nostalgic connection whatsoever I am finally able to look upon a film from this franchise and see it without any emotional attachment clouding my judgement, but if anything I am relieved that my happy childhood memories of those teenage mutant ninja turtles weren’t sullied by this wretched entertainment abortion. If only this movie could be sent back to a time before the existence of cinema and promptly forgotten about.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ** / Movie **