It has to be hard to keep a movie series going for three installments. “Jaws 3″ failed miserably, “Robocop 3″ was abominable, “Alien 3″ didn’t do so well, and it’s better to forget “Critters 3.” Yet another failure was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” which premiered a bit late into the merchandising phenomenon. The “Power Rangers” had settled in for their invasion and it doesn’t take much thought to figure out that a distinct lack of care presides over this final film in the series.
April O’Neal (Paige Turco, reprising her role from the second film) finds an ancient Japanese scepter at a pawnshop. Preparing to present the gift to Splinter, it suddenly sucks her into a time warp, sending her back Japan in the year 1603. The Turtles figure out the scepter and send themselves back in order to rescue April. Stuck in Japan, the four shelled heroes now must also defend a small clan from an overbearing warlord and his English counterpart.
This movie barely even tries. While the location shooting backed with beautiful mountain scenery looks great, the newly revised suits do not. Without the Jim Henson Studio, everything from the obviously computer controlled faces to the large eyes just look terrible. Unlike the previous two entries, the TMNT suits really look rubber, and it certainly doesn’t help that the paint jobs are even worse. Who’s idea were the spots anyway? Leonardo is easily the worst of the bunch with an elongated face that makes him look like a frog.
Casey Jones, once again played Elias Koteas, is downgraded here. Now inserted for comedic effect, the character change is grating, the hard edge from the first film is completely lost. He does deserve credit for pulling double duty, playing a character named Whit back in feudal Japan, but his lines there are few. Paige Turco gives a laughable performance, though this has as much to do with the quality of the script as it does her talent. Corey Feldman returns as the voice of Donatello, but the rest of the cast is unremarkable. Video games fans should take note: The fighting double in the costume for Raphael is none other than Ho Sung Pak, the player controlled character from “Mortal Kombat” (and the sequel) named Lui Kang.
Though it reaches for many of them, the movie does deliver a few laughs. The Japanese “Honor Guards” who are sent forward to present day New York are priceless, playing hockey the only way they know how. Other than that, the script, the pacing, and a poor attempt to give depth to the Turtles (particularly Raphael) all fail miserably. Kids may not mind this one, but where the first sequel was fun to watch for the entire family, this one sticks to the target audience far too closely. (** out of *****)
New Line comes through here with a magnificent transfer, one very close to absolute perfection. Clean, clear, and hardly with any noticeable problems, “TMNT III” is immaculate. A few very minor moments show compression issues, but unless you’re looking for it, you won’t see it. This very well may have been cleaned up if both the 1.85:1 widescreen and pan & scan versions of the film weren’t on one side of the disc, but New Line aims to please. This gorgeous transfer could also be the reason the Turtles suits look so fake as well. It really is that good. (*****)
Likewise, the sound is also quite strong. Whenever a time travel sequence starts up, you have a perfect demonstration for a surround sound system. It’s easily the best effect in the series. Many of the fights feature countless horses moving throughout the sound field, but the bass is a little bit on the light side. The lackluster soundtrack also envelops the viewer when it has the chance, but this hardly something you want to listen to. (****)
Once again, the menu system here is superb, flawlessly integrating itself with the film. Sadly, you won’t spend much time here. Besides some trailers, you’ll soon be on your way into the movie. (*)
Even though this one turned out pretty bad, I see no reason why a fourth film isn’t in order. Maybe the can just start all over, basing the film on the new and darker cartoon series. However it comes about, it should happen so we can forget about this mess and introduce another generation of kids to some great characters.