With the release of the first two Ninja Turtles movies a year apart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III seemed to have taken ages to release. If my memory serves me correctly it wasn’t even released theatrically in my country. It’s just one of those sequels that suddenly pops up at you local video store. This is often a sign that the movie bombed in the U.S. upon its release and no one wants to take the risk of releasing as a theatrical feature overseas. So they release it directly on video to make a quick buck on rentals. In a lot of cases there is a justified reason such a sequel bombs a the box-office: it sucks. Just look at RoboCop 3 for instance. Released three years after part 2 with the lead role being played by a different actor. Is there actually any one who thought this was a good movie? If you have trouble remembering it: it was the one where a RoboCop movie suddenly was suitable for kids and RoboCop himself took on Ninjas. Ninjas in Detroit: just let that sink in for a moment. There are similarities between RoboCop 3 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: both are the weakest entries in the series, have a largely different production team compared to the previous two movies and are also very different in tone and style to their predecessors. While being the weakest Turtle movie, Turtles 3 is still way better than the turd called RoboCop 3. But I could film my dog shitting in the backyard and I would have a better movie than RoboCop 3, so that’s not saying much.
This movie had the Turtles sent back into time to feudal Japan, where they become involved with some small local village which some evil lord called Norinaga wants to take over. I don’t know exactly what was going on, which is says enough about how uninteresting this movie is. The Turtles come to the aid of the villagers while also looking for a magical lantern that transferred them back in time.
Meanwhile in present day Splinter and Casey Jones are saddled up with a couple of Japanese soldiers from the era where the Turtles now reside. It’s an unnecessary plot-point as apparently the time travel only works if someone of the same height and weight comes back in your place. The only thing we get out of this are a couple of interludes basically ripping off the whole premise of the classic comedy Catweazle. This comedy revolved around a character from the middle ages suddenly finding himself in the present day and the culture shock that comes with it. Something which has been done to death, but most notably a year earlier in the 1992 Paulie Shore comedy “Encino Man”. Doing something Paulie Shore has already done is never a good idea.
In the previous two movies the effects were done by the Jim Henson Workshop, most famous for the creation of all the Muppets, Yoda and Sesame Street characters. For this movie the studio went with a different company, one which can’t deliver the same type of quality Henson can. It isn’t obvious at first as we are treated to a training scene where the guys in the rubber suits show off how little negative influence these suits have on their skills. I was pretty impressed at all the moves on display and thought this wouldn’t be that bad, but then the movie cuts to Splinter…
The original Splinter puppet was as realistic as a talking rat puppet could get. Especially in the first movie, where he was chained to a wall, was he as convincing as can be in his scenes with the young boy. In Turtles 3 he can hardly move his mouth realistically, making it look like a cheap puppet show for kids. They also only show his upper body at all times. It’s a good thing they reduced his screen time, because it pains me every time he was on screen.
The animation of the Turtles themselves are OK, though their mouth movements are often off, but they aren’t as cringe worthy as Splinter. Casey Jones is totally wasted as his only function is to babysit the the Japanese soldiers and learn them stuff like Ice Hockey. The only reason he’s here is because it was probably cheaper to hire him than create a more convincing Splinter.
Despite its shortcomings, Turtles 3 is still a rather enjoyable movie. The Turtles themselves are still fun to watch even though their jokes are pretty stale and corny, but some of the actors really ham it up nicely. Especially Stuart Wilson as a British arms dealer trying to convince Lord Norinaga that guns are better than swords. Which, to a certain degree, is true I guess. Of course in the end the guns are no match for Nun-Chucks, Katanas and Sais. It’s interesting how this movie is actually a bit “Lord of War” for kids, but without Nicolas Cage. Now there’s something I would like to see: A Turtles movie with Nicolas Cage. Michael Bay, make this happen!
This was the last of the 90’s Turtles live action movies with guys dressed up in rubber suits. Sadly the franchise fizzles out with a movie that is a mere shadow of the superior first movie.