Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
Director: Stuart Gillard
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Stuart Gillard
Cast: Paige Turco, Stuart Wilson, Sab Shimono, Vivian Wu, Mark Caso, Jim Raposa, Matt Hill, David Fraser, Elias Koteas, James Murray, Henry Hayashi, John Aylward, Travis A. Moon, Tad Horino, Glen Chin, Koichi Sakamoto, Edmund Stone
Voice Cast: Corey Feldman, Robbie Rist, Brian Tochi, Tim Kelleher
Synopsis: The four turtles travel back in time to the days of the legendary and deadly samurai in ancient Japan, where they train to perfect the art of becoming one. The turtles also assist a small village in an uprising.
MPAA Rating: PG
Turtles In Time
The curse of the third movie strikes again! Why is it that so many movie franchises go down hill when it gets to the third movie? Is it merely a coincidence? Is it because most movie franchises run out of ideas, and sometimes they deviate way too far from the basic premise of the original film? Or could it be something more? Whatever the case may be, I have to say that "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" definitely gets plagued by the curse of the third movie. Granted, there have been some exceptions to this curse like "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King", "Back to the Future III", and "Rocky III" just to name a few. However, for every "Rocky III" out there, we always get a "Godfather III", "Shrek the Third", and "Spider-Man 3" to name a few. However, without further delay, lets look at "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" to figure out where they went horribly wrong with this movie
To be fair, the movie was not anywhere near as bad as most skeptics make it out to be, but it definitely fails to live up to the first two movies by comparison. The story pretty much starts off in ancient feudal Japan in 1593, where there's a huge war taking place. An evil tyrannical Emperor named Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), is out to oppress the people, while there's coincidentally a small resistance fighting them every step of the way. Meanwhile, our heroes in a half shell are busy training in their lair, in modern times of course. Unfortunately, Raphael grows frustrated over the idea that they still have to hide in the sewers, even though they saved the city twice from their arch nemesis, Shredder.
During Raphael's usual griping that we've grown accustomed to in the last two films, April arrives to give the turtles and Splinter a few gifts that she bought from an antique shop. One of these gifts happen to be an ancient Japanese scepter. Although from looking at it, the scepter may not seem like anything special, but it turns out that it possesses the ability to send people back and forth through time.
How this little device operates is simple..or at least..that's what this movie says. Whenever two or more people hold the scepter from different time periods, like 1593 Japan and today's era, then in theory the scepter exchanges them through time where each land in each other's time line. Meaning that the person from 1593 Japan ends up in the present, while the person from the present ends up in 1593 Japan in their place. However, there is a drawback though, as both parties must be equivalent in mass in order for it to work. Although from the film's explanation of how time travel works, it seems plausible for the context of the movie, but there's various plot holes that Stuart Gillard failed to address; which makes the notion of time travel in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" come off as ridiculously silly.
For one, they clearly established early in the film that the people being exchanged through time, by the scepter, need to be equivalent in mass. If that's the case, do they honestly expect us to believe that someone with April O'Neal's (Paige Turco) petite figure is equivalent in mass to that of a fairly muscular Japanese prince? Or for that matter, how is Donatello able to figure out how to use it so easily just by looking at it's schematics? After all, wasn't the scepter magic based versus scientifically based in the movie? And if the scepter is scientifically based, then does that mean that people in feudal Japan knew more about the prospects of time travel than the scientists of today's era? Plus, if someone were to get accidentally switched while holding the scepter to another time, then what assurances would they have of ever getting back? After all, the whole time travel method this movie relies on is that coincidentally two or more people of equal mass will be holding the scepter at the same freaking time for it to work. If that's the case, isn't it kind of convenient that the turtles somehow lucked out that four warriors, from 1593 Japan, would be coincidentally holding the same said scepter for them to rescue April after she got switched with the Prince. In theory, it would have been really bad if someone holding the scepter from say 1800 Japan switched with the turtles instead? I guess if that happened, then the turtles probably would've been royally screwed, but maybe I'm just over analyzing this whole premise. Besides, for plot convenience, the turtles just lucked out that four poor schmucks from 1593 Japan were holding the scepter at the same exact moment, so they could go back to rescue April. Aren't they so lucky?
Another problem that I had with this whole time travel method is that they clearly established, at the beginning, that the parties being switched to different time periods will often switch clothes during the process. Meaning that since April was wearing a pair of tight jeans, a t-shirt and leather jacket before getting transferred through time, then the person that comes back to replace her will be wearing her exact same clothing.
I guess that makes sense, as even other franchises like "Terminator" had it clearly established that nothing dead can travel through time. However, if that's the case, then why does April still have her walk-man cassette player with her once she gets transferred to Japan? And why does the Prince still have his sword after he replaces her in the present? And if that's the case, then why couldn't their clothes still be the same too? Plus, if the two parties exchange clothing during the time travel process, then wouldn't three out of the four Japanese warriors be naked when they replaced the turtles? Hell, even Michaelangelo brought up the same concern, as he decided to wear boxers to ensure that the person replacing him wouldn't be naked. Yet, the irony of it all is that none of them were naked. No, the turtles that didn't bother wearing any clothes for their replacements were lucky, as the other three warriors were instantly transferred with underwear on to cover their privates.
(Warning: This paragraph contains spoilers) Granted, I know this movie is geared towards kids, so they're obviously not going to feature any nudity, but it's a bit inconsistent to say the least. Plus, at the ending when they exchange places again, why didn't the turtles end up with the clothing that the Japanese warriors had on in the present? Again, as I said in my review of "The Legend of the Titanic", once you establish the rules of the fictional world you lay out, then you should always try to be as consistent with said rules as much as possible. Otherwise, it makes it very hard for an audience to take it seriously. Again, I could be over analyzing the whole time travel concept this movie touches upon, so I'll let it go for now. Besides, the rest of the film still holds up right? Well...let's get into that now...
To get back to the story of this movie, April ends up exchanging places with a young Japanese Prince named Kenshin (Henry Hayashi), who happens to be the son of the same tyrannical Emperor....again..what are the odds? Anyway, the turtles must now figure out a way to go back in time to get her back to save her. Wow, it's a good thing those turtles have a little something called plot convenience on their side, or else one would think April would be royally screwed seeing as how there's no exact way to tell if four people of equal mass, from that same exact time period, will be holding the scepter...at the same exact freaking time that the turtles hold onto it from their time. Gee, isn't it nice to have plot convenience on your side for these types of situations?
Anyway, to make a long story short, the turtles miraculously find April, but they lose the scepter upon arrival. Needless to say, our heroes end up getting involved with this war between the peaceful villagers and the evil Emperor, as it looks like they're stuck there for now. Damn, plot convenience. To make matters worse, there's an evil English trader named Walker (Stuart Wilson), who profits off this little war by selling various weaponry to the Emperor, and he could potentially pose a bigger threat for our protagonists to be concerned about.
Although the whole time travel concept this film presents is inconsistent, the bigger problems with this movie have not even been mentioned yet. As I said earlier, plot convenience seems to plague this movie way too much, which makes it not only predictable, but almost verges on the edge mindless stupidity.
In one scene for instance, it's revealed that Casey Jones' ancestor was also in feudal Japan, in the exact same time and place that April was being held, when the Emperor mistakes her for a witch because of the whole time travel thing. Not only does Casey's ancestor look so much like Casey (wink wink), but they even bothered to get the same exact actor to play him too; while leaving the real Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) back home to babysit the four Japanese warriors while the turtles are gone. Isn't that nice? To add insult to injury, she stares at a rat while waiting for the turtles to save her, and she says, "Yeah, you look familiar too." After she says this, the camera shifts towards the rat's face, then fades back to Splinter in the present day as if to suggest that same freaking rat might be his ancestor (wink wink). Although, if you ask me, all rats look the damn same, so that's kind of a big assumption to give the audience the implication that this particular rat could be Splinter's ancestor. Granted, it's possible considering that Splinter is from Japan, so maybe there's some truth in that implied scene. But then again, how do we know the rat that Splinter is related to was even in that same part of Japan? After all, Japan is a big country, so it's possible that maybe April was just looking at some random rat.
Another thing that bothered me about this movie were the plot holes. In the film, the Emperor is scared of the turtles because according to legend, his ancestor was beaten by demons (that eerily look like the turtles), in another time line, so he fears that they might have came back to get him too. How does the Emperor know of this legend? Why it's on a scroll of course, as it shows our heroes beating up an enemy that bears some resemblance to Shredder. Gee, I guess this means that the evil Emperor must be Shredder's ancestor. Isn't that rather convenient? First we run into a man that could be Casey Jones' ancestor, then we see a rat that could be related to Splinter, and now we have an Emperor that could be Shredder's ancestor. What are the odds? The possibilities are just endless here folks. At one point during the film, I was honestly expecting to see April O'Neal to run into her own ancestor in feudal Japan. After all, plot convenience already made it possible for all those implied ancestors to be in the exact same freaking place, at the exact same freaking time...so why stop there?
Granted, my brother brought up a good point that this film was merely trying to emulate the same camp feel of the cartoon show, and I can respect that. However, if you're going to make the entire movie campy, then why are there moments during the film where it seems like it takes itself way too seriously? In one scene, Michaelangelo and Raphael start to ask themselves why should they go back considering that the people in feudal Japan respect them; whereas in the present, they're regarded as freaks. A legitimate query, and a great sub plot that could have been explored, but there's only one problem. They wait until the very end of the movie to bring it up, and make no mention of this concern beforehand to establish this concept better. Not only does this cause the concept of the turtles debating this seem forced, but it's brought up completely out of nowhere.
Although, my brother does have a point that this film obviously had a tone more in ilk of the old eighties cartoon series, but the only problem with that is that's not what made the first movie so good. No, any true fan of this franchise will tell you that the reason why "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was such a huge success was because it blended in the dark tone of the comic books with the kid friendly camp entertainment of the cartoon series perfectly; which is something this film completely ignores. Don't get me wrong, I understand parents back then wanted the studio to tone down the violence and themes of the movies to make them more kid friendly, and you could definitely feel that already in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze." However, like "Batman & Robin" after "Batman Forever", "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" took things way too far, and in the end, it alienated it's modern audience that was already vested into the franchise.
Don't get me wrong, the movie does have it's moments, as I liked how the turtles actually used their trademark weapons to fight instead of normal household items, like the last film did. Plus, it was kind of refreshing to see a new villain instead of Shredder again, but the only problem is that the villains they used didn't seem that interesting. If anything, you tend to wonder why the turtles would even want to fight them in the first place. Granted, they're heroes and all, but to them, this whole war already happened in history, and shouldn't Donatello (of all people) know that anything they do in the past could have ramifications on the present?
Therefore, wouldn't it stand to reason that they would want to get the heck out of dodge as soon as they do find the scepter again; instead of staying to help these people win their war, while simultaneously altering history. And if Donatello is so smart, then why would he ask such a stupid question like "If we die in the past, then does that mean we won't get born in the future?" Um...I know I'm not an expert in science, and I would never claim to be one, but that question makes no sense. How will dying in the past possibly affect you being born in the future? No offense, but that sounds like the sort of question that I'd expect Michaelangelo to say, since he's obviously portrayed as being the youngest of the group. Also, shouldn't Donatello really be asking, "If we get involved with their war in the past, how do we know it won't lead to serious problems in the future?" Now, that would've been the type of philosophical question that I'd expect from Donatello.
But like I mentioned earlier, I might be thinking way too much into all this, as it's obvious this movie was geared to be nothing more than a kid friendly pop corn flick, so it's hard to really bash it. However, I will mention one more gripe before rendering a final verdict on this movie.
As the "Angry Video Game Nerd" pointed out, on cinemassacre.com, when he reviewed "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas", we may have been spoiled a bit with the animatronics and costume designs of the first two movies, and I certainly don't mean to be nit picky here....but I can't ignore the obvious. The animatronics used in this movie seem like a joke, and the faces of the turtles themselves seem obliviously fake looking. Of course, it doesn't help when the dialogue that the turtles are forced to reiterate sound too cartoonishly rehearsed, and annoying. Sure, in the previous films, the turtles did have their fair share of bad puns to lighten up the tone of the movies, but it was never to the point that they practically had a bad joke in almost every other scene like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" did. And, don't even get me started on Master Splinter, as I could literally write an entire piece just depicting what went wrong with the character design and portrayal of that character alone.
In the end, I'd have to give this movie a one and a half out of four. The film moves at a pretty decent pace, and most kids around six and under should like this movie regardless. Plus, you do have to applaud Stuart Gillard for trying to bring something new for the franchise, but sometimes bringing in a concept that's new and bold doesn't always equate to success. Overall, unless you're a huge fan of this franchise, or you're a kid that's basically six and under, then I'd probably avoid this one altogether.