Bullet Points: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3
The newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 film is number one at the box office and that means that it will most likely make far more money than it deserves to make and warrant another abysmal attempt to cash in on the franchise. I’ve discussed my thoughts on the first Michael Bay entry into the series once before, no need to open old wounds, but I’ve said little about the TMNT films from the early 90’s.
It’s true that I think of myself as a child of the 80’s, but I could just as easily have said that I was a child of the 90’s and I wouldn’t be wrong. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were huge when I was a kid. I saw the first two films in theaters with my dad. They were amazing! I don’t, however, remember going to see the third film on the big screen. I’m sure that I did but it’s possible that I attempted to block it from my memory at some point and have totally forgotten the experience. Make of that what you will but it would be safe to assume that I’m not a huge fan of it to this day.
Synopsis: The quartet of green-skinned heroes are magically transported back in time to feudal Japan in order to save their good friend April O’Neil. When they switch places with members of the Shogunate’s elite guard, they find themselves in the middle of a civil war between the Shogun and a ground of rebels. The Turtles only have a few days to save April, find the magical scepter, and return before they’re stuck in Japan forever.
- First things First: There are so many great characters in the comic books and from the original animated series It’s really dumbfounding to me that they would choose to send the Turtles back in time and not include a single one of them. The “fish out of water” story is always easy to do. It’s been done with so many movies that replacing the metaphorical fish with a literal turtle just means that you’ll see pretty much the same jokes that you’ve seen in previous time travel films. The easiest explanation for why they did what they did was that the budget was cut by quite a bit and it must have been easier to film some dudes running around with swords than a brain in a giant robot.
- Get these Turtles some skin wash: The special effects had been handled in the first two films by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. That’s important because this third film was taken over by All Effects Company and the animatronic work looks like something you’d see at a Chuck E. Cheese. The Turtles’ skin looks like they’ve been rolling around in a pile of used syringes and picked up every skin disease imaginable. What the hell All Effects?
- Too good for this sh*t: Veteran English actor Stuart Wilson was a breath of fresh air as the evil European gun peddler Walker. Wilson plays a very important role in the film because it gives the Turtles someone to interact with that speak English. Wait, all of the characters speak English? I thought they were in Japan in 1603? Oh, I get it, no one cares….
- Book of Elias: I’m not sure what Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones and Whit, had written in his contract but he was underpaid and underused. I had forgotten that Casey Jones was even in the movie since he didn’t travel back in time with the team but it was still nice to see and hear him even though he was only in the film for a few minutes. They tried to sneak him in as a second character but they barely mentioned the resemblance to the two characters and it was even more surprising that they didn’t try to make him a love interest to April O’Neil.
- Dames of 1603: The ladies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 got me feelin’ some type of way! Paige Turco as April O’Neil could have easily had posters covering the walls of a million teenage boys rooms if only she had shown a little more skin. Chinese-born Vivian Wu, who played the rebel leader Mitsu, gave Turco a run for her money but what kid born in this era didn’t have a crush on April O’Neil? Also, a quick Google search of Vivian Wu led to some very NSFW images, so beware!
- The Action: Maybe I was just spoiled after watching the awesome action scenes from the first film and then getting to see Ernie Reyes Jr. kick foot clan ass in The Secret of the Ooze, but this third entry in the series is like taking a long swig of an off brand sports drink after hooping all day in the hot summer sun; disappointing and unfulfilling. The fights scenes are almost entirely reliant on the comedy gimmick and the final showdown with Lord Norinaga and Walker is just as weak. If you’re watching TMNT for the action then you’re probably already short a few brain cells but this iteration of the Turtles is even more sad.
- Maybe it’s just me: Hearing Corey Feldman’s voice after he came out recently and talked about all of the sexual molestation’s that he and his fellow child actors went through is very awkward. I think we can all agree that people who molest kids deserve to burn in hell for all of eternity. That is one demographic that I have no issue pissing off!
The Verdict: I hadn’t seen any of the original films for some time so it was a bit fun going back in time (just like the Turtles) and re-watching this movie after so many years. That certainly doesn’t mean that I didn’t love it but it did have its charms. Stuart Wilson is great. His role in the super underrated No Escape with Ray Liotta is one of my favorite bad guys of all time and he’s one of the best parts of this movie. Casey Jones should have gone back to Japan with the Turtles, but I understand why he didn’t. There really isn’t any way that this movie could have been better than the first two in the series. The lack of Shredder or any other traditional Turtle villain hurt the movie and it never felt like they were in any trouble. Worst case scenario for the Turtles was that they got stuck in the past and just lived there happily without having to hide in a sewer and fight mutant bad guys the rest of their lives. In fact, going back to present day New York is the most tragic thing that could have happened to them.