In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I am reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies. I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.
“Would somebody please tell me what the heck is going on around here?
“Well, relax, April. It’s just your, uh, ordinary time travel equal-mass-displacement kind of thing.”
With Shredder and The Foot defeated, New York City is safe once again thanks to the turtles. Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael spend their time practicing their ninja skills, but Raph grows weary of it since they have no enemy to fight. April O’Neil (Paige Turco), who is about to leave for vacation, has picked up some antiques for the guys to keep them entertained. One of the items is an ancient Japanese scepter she’s gotten for Splinter. It has the ability to switch people of the same weight in time. The scepter is activated, whisking away April to feudal Japan, and replacing her with Kenshin (Henry Hayashi), a prince from that time.
Naturally, the turtles go back and face new villains: Walker (Stuart Wilson), an opportunistic Brit who does business with Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), Kenshin’s father. Aiding the rebels, among them Kenshin’s mate Mitsu (Vivian Wu), the turtles try to end the civil war and bring April back to the present day.
Growing up I always thought this movie was entertaining and fun. As time has gone on, though, the reality that this film does a lot of things wrong, ultimately being the last turtles film from New Line Cinema, have become very apparent.
Having killed Shredder at the end of Secret of the Ooze, the turtles have no real enemy to worry about. The city is safe, and they’re left twiddling their thumbs and continually practicing their skills.
The replacement villains just don’t match up with Shredder and the Foot Clan. Though I don’t know what else they could have done with Shredder had he lived, I would imagine it would’ve been better than Walker, his bumbling sidekick Niles, and Lord Norinaga.
This was the first turtles movie that didn’t use Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for the animatronics, and it definitely shows. The mouth movement with the turtles’ dialog wasn’t great in the first two films, but here it’s so far off it’s just plain sad. Most of the time it’s not even close.
This film brought back Casey Jones. Though I prefer his character over Keno from Secret of the Ooze, here he’s used in a more comical surface-level character in Turtles III. One of the things I enjoyed most about him in the original film was the depth and interconnectedness he had with both the turtles, April, and Splinter. It was interesting, though, how they incorporated Elias Koteas into ancient Japan as Whit.
Unfortunately Casey, along with the rest of the cast, is reduced to juvenile comic relief. As much as I was disappointed with how they used Casey, Splinter’s surface level role was more disappointing. Whereas he provided depth, historical context, and fatherly insight in the first two films, here he’s just another comic. Paige Turco returned as April O’Neil. As with many other aspects of the film franchise, I thought she gave a much better performance in Secret of the Ooze. Her character had a bigger part in the previous films, but here she’s somewhat a voice of reason for the turtles, but primarily used in a more comedic way.
One of the only redeeming qualities in this film is the development of the turtles as they try to get back to present day New York City. They did move Raphael’s character forward in his relationship with Yoshi, Mitsu’s son. Seeing Yoshi’s temper and watching as Raphael moves from student to teacher was interesting and overall well done.
As a film in general, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was very disappointing, and it’s understandable why it was 14 years before another turtles movie, animated at that, was made. By trading in-depth and a strong enemy like Shredder and his clan, the turtles franchise gave up some of the things that made the first two films great, and instead rely too heavily on comedy, comedy, comedy. There was no balance of the serious sprinkled with the comedy. It’s definitely geared towards a younger audience, but even at that it still wasn’t that great. I’ll probably watch it again at some point, but that’s more because I’m a fan of the early franchise.
My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.