Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III Review

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are sent back in time in this third sequel, all the way back to feudal Japan. Raphael, typically the one with a short temper, befriends a small child. It is a tender moment, one that makes you think writer/director Stuart Gillard is making a genuine attempt to expand the characters.

Nope, it is all a plot contrivance so the Turtles can regain a magic scepter to time travel to modern New York. Oh well.

Ninja Turtles III is a movie that is almost too easy to dissect and rip apart. It is a mess, a last gasp of the Turtles popularity before the Power Rangers took hold of the kid’s imagination. It is disappointing to admit that yes, bringing back arch-villain Shredder a third time would be repetitive, but the Turtles have a number of adversaries to choose from. Sending them back in time reeks of desperation.

Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) makes a re-appearance here, his introduction handled as poorly as a TV sitcom with an advertised cameo. He jumps into frame with a smile on his face, a departure from the rough exterior of the first Turtles movie.  April O’Neil (Paige Turco) now dresses like the Fonz, a convenience for the plot so the Samurai who replaces her when she is sent back can wear something manly. Turco is given some awful dialogue to work with, and delivers it forcefully causing unintentional laughs as she is put on trial as a witch in ancient Japan.

Gone is the Jim Henson creature shop, and their lack of involvement shows the minute the Turtles appear on screen (just over the two-minute mark, the quickest appearance in the series). The suits are noticeably cheaper, the animatronic heads appalling, and Splinter hardly moves. The terrible, accentuated spots painted onto the Turtle suits are baffling, along with their brighter exteriors. They completely lack the charm of the previous films.

Dialogue as the Turtles contemplate using this mysterious scepter to go back in time (which according to the story was purchased at a flea market) is all exposition. Michelangelo pointing out that the four must go back in time to get April after she is sent back must have had even the youngest kids in the audience groaning. Not even Mikey is dumb enough not to realize that’s the plot.

Turtles III cuts corners everywhere (especially with the John Du Prez score which sounds like it was stock from another film), and as if the film couldn’t possibly be anymore of a let down, the ending is an embarrassment. Walker (Stuart Wilson), the evil, conniving Western trader moving onto the Japanese land, falls off a cliff. The camera follows the fall into the ocean from the top of the cliff.

Bad blue screen shot aside, Walker simply disappears into the water. There is no splash, he simply fades from the screen. It could be cheap, it could be unfinished, or it could be a lack of care. Regardless, it is a truly pathetic way to send off what could have been an enjoyable, lively franchise, now ruined by what can only be described as a corporate cash grab.

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

Unlike the other two live action films in this box set, Turtles III lacks film grain… any of it. The film looks significantly processed, wiping away high-end detail. Close-ups still deliver some so-so texturing on the Turtle suits, and some minor facial detail on the humans. Flesh tones are relatively accurate, and there is no smearing. This is hardly the worst DNR application on the format, but is still noticeable and distracting.

Colors are bright, and the contrast is strong. Black levels are fine. Sharpness is only fair. One sequence of edge enhancement is noted, as Mitsu stands on a cliff and Michelangelo walks up to talk to her.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Despite being the latest of the three films, the audio is surprisingly subdued. Action scenes are somewhat flat, lacking directionality. Some light gunfire is noted in all channels. Bass is provided by cannon fire and horse footsteps. The stereo channels have positional dialogue sporadically, and tracking is handled well. This TrueHD track lacks the presence of the previous two films.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

As with the other films in this set, the only extra is a trailer.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆ 

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