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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
1993 - PG - 96 Mins.
Director: Stuart Gillard
Producer: David Chan, Kim Dawson and Thomas K. Gray
Written By: Stuart Gillard
Starring: Elias Koteas, Paige Turco, Brian Tochi, Corey Feldman and Robbie Rist
Review by: Bill King
Official Site: www.ninjaturtles.com
   

Who in this picture has the best legs?
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" injects some new life into a series that had suffered greatly under a preposterous second outing. True, this would also be the last of the series, but it showed potential and a willingness to take the turtles into a new direction. Gone are the Shredder and his Foot clan. The plot this time involves time travel into feudal Japan, thanks to a magical scepter that April O'Neil (Paige Turco, reprising her role and sporting a hairstyle that complements her good looks) buys at an antique store. Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) is back, in an effort to bring some continuity to the series. The premise was a good idea, but the film never really takes off. There's too much plodding going on just when the turtles should be getting down to business, and the details on how the scepter works are sketchy at best.

April accidentally activates the scepter and it sends her to feudal Japan. The movie informs us that during the 17th century, the British began trading with the Japanese, which accounts for everybody's knowledge of the English language. (I've forgotten everything I've ever learned about this time period, so I'll have to take the movie's word for it that this is true.) A ruthless trader named Walker (Stuart Wilson) is in the process of convincing the Japanese lord that he should buy guns and cannons, but Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono) resists at first. When April arrives, followed by the turtles to her rescue, Walker sees this as an opportunity to sell his guns. The turtles get involved with a small resistance movement, whose superior martial arts skills are no match for Norinaga's men.

One curious development is the character Whit, played by Elias Koteas. The fact that he resembles Casey Jones is never explained. We know it's the same actor, and April even thinks Whit is Casey, but no more is made of it. Is he an ancestor or what? If not, why bother casting Koteas in the part. If so, why not say so? Whatever the case, Whit teams up with the turtles, but his motives are shady until the final act of the film. In the meantime, Casey Jones, back in the 20th century, watches over the five Japanese fighters (one of whom is Norinaga's son) that traveled forward in time in place of April and the turtles.

Like before, the turtles fight off hordes of enemies and offer a healthy dose of wisecracks while doing so. Their personalities are pretty much the same, though they've showed some maturity since we last saw them. The surfer jargon that they've always used with such eloquence is thankfully cut back. Writer/director Stuart Gillard must have spotted the second film's inability to present the turtle characters in a creative way, so his screenplay features better dialogue for them, as well as a small effort to see them grow. Michaelangelo's wish to remain in feudal Japan instead of going back to New York City is a step forward from his free-spirited pizza-obsessed persona. Gillard doesn't do enough with the foursome, but he had the right idea.

I objected to the fight scenes in the second movie because of the foot soldiers' inexplicable habit of approaching the turtles one at a time to get beat up. The feudal characters of Japan do the same thing, but the scenes aren't drawn out so long that we grow too frustrated. They're better staged and more exciting, though not enough to warrant a glowing recommendation. This is still a weak film, but it tries hard to match the standard set by the first film, which really wasn't all that high to begin with.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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