Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is the black sheep of the Turtles trilogy and I’m not exactly sure why. I know it’s a departure from their escapades fighting the Foot Clan and there’s no Shredder, but I’m not seeing a major difference in quality here. The Turtles still look good, and it keeps its trademark sense of humor from the previous movie, for better or worse. They even brought back Elias Koteas as Casey Jones and Corey Feldman as Donatello’s voice.
One thing to note before I go on – I didn’t watch this in theaters. In fact, I didn’t watch it until I first wrote this review in 2018. I wish I could say why, but it just never happened. I was still interested in cartoons and other kids’ shows as I approached graduation. Hell, I watched the Power Rangers movie in theaters so obviously I still liked cheesy costumed action movies, but I still never watched this in all those years. Oh well, better late than never.
The story we’re dealing with here is a relic that teleports April into feudal Japan, and the Turtles must travel through time to rescue her. It’s a time tested (pun intended) formula, and it really works here considering a quarter of what the Turtles are is Ninja and that’s where it was born. They’re able to disguise themselves as the daimyo’s honor guard, rescue April, overthrow an Englishman’s plot for power, and go back to their own time.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is out as the puppeteers for the Turtles, and their absence is apparent. The Turtles still look fine and have about the same functionality as before, but there’s a bit of life missing from them. The voice cast is still at it and Feldman’s return is definitely appreciated. While Feldman doesn’t get any breakout scenes in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the recognizable voice helps elevate him a bit.
Since Raphael and Leonardo got the focus in the first movie, and Donatello in the second, you’d think this time Michelangelo would get some big scenes in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, but you’d be wrong. I mean, they tried doing that with Mikey wanting to stay in the past, but he only got two scenes to talk about it, so it surprises you in the end. I wish he got more scenes to show his desire to stay, slowly learning more about it and liking what he finds. It’s undercut, though, because Raphael comes to the same conclusion, so Mikey’s decision doesn’t stand out.
April plays a bigger role here than the second film, allowing Paige Turco to show she’s the superior April by showing some attitude. The Turtles are rubbing off on her—uh, that sounds gross after they schwing’d her. I was pretty disappointed that Casey Jones got nothing to do. Elias plays him with his typical bravado, but I’m not sure what the point was of having him play another guy in the past. If they did not tie him to Casey Jones’s past, what’s the point?
My biggest problem with the film is that going to the past in Japan could have been linked to the Turtles’ history. The writers could have easily had the Turtles run into Uroko Saki’s or Hamoto Yoshi’s ancestors, or an early Foot Clan, tying in themes from current times. Maybe the Turtles go full circle, helping to establish the Foot Clan? Maybe some weird stories from Splinter’s past are finally explained by learning of their involvement with the Hamoto family? As it is, facing off against some generic English trader and his crew and saving a generic Japanese daimyo felt pretty… meh to me.
If you want to see more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle goodness, check out my blog, where I’m reviewing each cartoon series, from the original through Rise. If you want even more mutant mayhem, why not check out Old School Evil, my books inspired heavily by the original Turtles cartoon.