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. Written by
David Landers <email@example.com>
In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, "turtles in time" is the theme for the 1st Super Nintendo game, the 2nd arcade game, the 3rd movie and the 4th game made for Nintendo (the previous three were for the original Nintendo Entertainment System). See more »
Leo ducks a cannon shot and his bandana straps are over the front part of his shoulders, actually going into the inner part of his shell, next shot they are back behind his shoulders. See more »
Gee, if we die here in the past, does that mean that we don't get born in the future?
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Like a lot of prepubescent children in 1989 or 1990, my imagination was captured by this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fad. I remember sitting down and watching an interview with the creators, a pair of comic book authors who chose to go the independent route and gamble on their own ability to succeed. They were lucky enough to win against the odds, at least for a time, but in this interview, they also mentioned something about believing the phenomenon would go on forever. Well, the Turtles are still selling on comic book stands, and you can still see some of their adventures on DVD, but as to whether it survived the 1990s is a matter of opinion.
The first feature film, complete with man-sized turtles played by actors in suits, was a low-budget triumph. Indeed, the dominance of Golden Harvest studios in Hong Kong martial arts cinema can easily be traced back to their winning of the rights to do the original film. With a little help from the Jim Henson workshop and some well-cast B-actors in key support roles, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was a major success that utterly dumbfounded the studio system. What is even more surprising is how the film did not go in the easy "we're primarily marketing to children, so we can be patronising" route that most children's entertainment follows.
That last point is where the first sequel, and this one in particular, went wrong. By the time 1993 rolled around, the Turtles fad had more or less utterly died, replaced by a far longer-lasting fascination with The Simpsons. As a direct result, the budget allocated by Golden Harvest to the third Turtles film was a mere fraction of that allotted to the first film. This is most obvious in the turtles themselves. Sure, they are still portrayed by men in suits, and those suits are still maintained by the Henson workshop, but the overall tone of the turtles' skin and the motion of their mouths indicates that Golden Harvest told the Henson workshop that they just wanted something passable. Given that the first film was dedicated to Jim because it was one of the last things he worked on before he died, this is quite the sad come-down.
Another major problem is in the tone of the story. While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will never be confused with the likes of RoboCop, the first film went back to the roots of the original comic book and depicted a world that was, for all intents, rather dark. There was a bare hint that being a 5'6" turtle with consciousness was not all it was cracked up to be, unlike the utopia implied by the afternoon cartoon series. There was acrimony, grief, rage, and a million other things that children's entertainment seems to believe we cannot really handle now or ever. That was what turned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into Golden Harvest's big breakaway hit.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, also known as Turtles In Time, picks up with the turtles milling around their sewer hideout with Splinter (who now looks like a shag carpet with eyes). When April shows up with a bunch of items she found at a garage sale, she happens upon an ancient artifact that transports her back in time to feudal Japan. The turtles, in their usual confused weird-species adolescent fervour, take it upon themselves to go back and rescue her, because we all know how an adolescent turtle would go all bug-eyed at the thought of rescuing a woman who looks anything like Paige Turco.
Elias Koteas, the real star of the original film, gets to jump back in here, but the character he is best known for spends most of his time eating pizza, watching over a bunch of Japanese soldiers who changed places in time with the turtles (don't ask), and sharing conversation with the shag carpet that Splinter turned into. For the rest of the time, he plays one of the English scoundrels who are trading with the Japanese monarchs. Yeah, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Nor does it particularly excite the viewer. In fact, much like the previous film, the fight sequences are so toned-down and PG-fied that the adults in the audience will fall asleep. Or worse yet, just use this film as a kind of artificial babysitter, which I somehow doubt was what Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had in mind for their original creations. I don't doubt that they were trying to reach the widest possible audience, but as this film proves, the more you try to please everyone, the more you wind up pleasing no one.
I gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III a one out of ten. There are moments when it gets bad enough to be funny. The problem is that there are just not enough such moments to justify this film for all but the most hardcore fans of the turtles. And since the most serious fans would all be at least twenty years old by now, well, let us just say this film has its work cut out for it pleasing even that audience.
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