ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III’ (1993), Part Two
Chris Sims: Welcome back to ComicsAlliance’s review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, everyone! When we left off last week, the Turtles had solved literally every single problem that the script had presented them with so far. There are still 48 minutes left in the movie. This should be a fun time for all of us.
Matt Wilson: It’s just all dancing and eating rubbery pizza for the remainder. Might as well be.Chris: But enough about our afternoon plans. In the movie, Thin Meat Loaf From Bloodrayne is meeting up with Norinaga to break the news about the Turtles interfering in his plans. Norinaga scowls about how his men “lack courage,” but to be fair, they did pretty well when confronting with what is pretty close to Lovecraftian horror.
Matt: Of course, this is followed by Norinaga unrolling a scroll and talking about how terrified he is of demons. He asks Walker if his men verified that the turtles were really kappa. A tad hypocritical on his part.
Chris: According to Norinaga, a gang of kappa defeated his ancestors earlier, which was recorded in a scroll by the team of Kenji Eastman and Toshiro Laird that became a sought-after collector’s item in the Tokugawa period. I didn’t watch ahead because I wanted to be surprised; are we going to get the Turtles going even further back in time to beat up Norinaga’s grandpa?
Matt: I’ll only tolerate it if a Vanilla Ice ancestor also appears. Back at the village, the turtles are still having horse trouble, even through they were riding them pretty capably earlier. The scepter seems to be missing, Donatello tells April, so he decides to…have some guy build a new one? Even April thinks the script is going overboard on that one. So she leaves to go “find an apartment.” I was on your side for a minute there, April.
Chris: Wait… Didn’t they HAVE the scepter? Mike had it when he got conked on the head by Avatar Mitsu.
Matt: I was pretty sure Mitsu grabbed it after that. She just hasn’t shared that information, and they haven’t thought to ask, because they’re idiots.
Chris: I’d say this is the dumbest movie we’ve ever watched, but Judge Dredd and Barb Wire still exist, no matter how hard we try to forget.
Matt: It’s a real horse race.
Chris: Casey Jones I, who has been leering at April all day, goes to watch her take a fully clothed shower (?) and asks her to take him to New York. She kind of begs off, because a dude from the 1600s probably would not fit in too well in the ’90s. Her reaction confuses him, because she is baring her knees like a harlot and not obeying his commands. It’s a meet-cute!
Matt: If only she knew what 2013 Brooklyn was like. He’d be right at home there.
Chris: In the present, Prince Kenshin is super upset about his men being unable to wear pants. At least, I think that’s what he’s upset about? It’s pretty unclear, and Casey tells him he should “try some herbal,” so I guess they time traveled right to 4:20.
Matt: Splinter explains that Kenshin’s upset because he thinks they’ll never get home, something he could have explained himself because he speaks English. You can’t have it both ways, movie. And the dudes from the past don’t even need any weed to act like they’re high. Casey turns on the TV to some hockey. They paw at it and notice just how big their hands are.
Chris: When you say “pawing,” you are not kidding. They’re batting at the screen like little kitty cats, and I can’t decide if that’s adorable or not.
Matt: It is exactly what my cat does to my TV. It’s infuriating. The turtles are still in the village making burnt pizza in a kiln, seeing aspects of themselves in kids, and yelling at their blacksmith for not being able to build a mystical time-traveling lamp.
Chris: This is seriously the dumbest plan. Why don’t they just look for the thing that they know they were holding half an hour ago? Why do they think they can just cold build a new magic item? Does that guy even have the right feats?!
Matt: The scene where Raph and the kid fly a kite is kind of sweet, though.
Chris: Raph tries to tell this kid he needs to stop being mad (even though Raph himself has been mad for no reason for three movies) and that fighting is a thing only grown-ups should do (Raph is fifteen years old). The kid makes a face at this.
Matt: This scene had to be written by someone else, right? It’s insightful, it involves character growth, it ends in a nice moment. Can we see whatever movie this came from?
Chris: While Raph is learning to fly a kite, Walker’s dudes are out on the beach practicing with their muskets and cannons. We glossed over it earlier, but Walker totally told Norinaga that his cannons were capable of killing demons, which seems like a spurious claim at best.
Matt: He’s changed his mode of dress from French nobleman to pirate. Captain Jack Spurious.
Chris: Back at the village – have you noticed that no one location in this movie is shown for more than like two minutes at a time? – Michaelangelo walks over to Mitsu praying at a shrine, and asks her if Kenshin is “her beau.” This is the weirdest thing to come out of their flappy puppet mouths in the entire trilogy, up to and including Donatello insisting that “a capella” was a term of celebration.
Matt: More insane: She knows what the word “beau” means. I wouldn’t think that word would be particularly useful for trade negotiations, or very prevalent in 1603. Mikey assures her Kenshin is going to get back to her, while he goes out to get dance lessons (?!). Back at turtle HQ, the guardsmen eat Cheetos and watch hockey, which means they’ll never leave now. They’re putting on too much weight. Casey decides to deal with this by playing some indoor street hockey with them. They use the sticks as swords while Looney Tunes sound effects play. What ribaldry.
Chris: I’m 100% sure that the makers of this movie didn’t exactly do a lot of research, but I’m not even sure they saw the first two. Casey has gone from “dude who uses sports equipment to beat up crooks” to “hockey fan.” It’s like they half glanced at an action figure and then wrote a whole movie.
Matt: He did mention he played hockey in the first one.
Chris: Yeah but he also had a cricket bat and therefore knew what a crumpet is, but he didn’t show up in this movie as a pâtissier.
Matt: It is a bad scene, for sure.
Chris: Back in the past, Walker is writing up some scrolls for dubious purposes and he tells Norinaga that he’s just going to kill everyone with his cannons, a plan that Norinaga agrees to, and then back in the present, Splinter pauses his game of Go to tell Kenshin that he senses… danger. Seriously, if not for the end of Barb Wire, I would be losing my mind at how dumb this is.
Matt: Something I’ve been wondering about this whole time, while we’re on this: When Kenshin read the inscription on the scepter, why did it activate in 1993? It could have sent someone back from literally any other time. The flea market owner, or whoever brought it to the U.S. from Japan. The only answer seems to be, “This is a movie.” That seems to be the answer to a lot of questions in this.
Chris: And this is only the beginning of the dumb parts. Back in the past, the village blacksmith has finished building the fake scepter, and Michaelangelo is worried that it will send them to “Godzilla times.” I’m not even sure what that is. Is that, like, dinosaur times, or does he mean a version of Japan with giant mutant amphibians? Because that is literally where they are now. Either way, he and Raph end up breaking the scepter so THIS ENTIRE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS HAS NO POINT.
Matt: Maybe he means 1954? Like, he hates black and white movies?
Chris: Everybody suddenly realizes that this movie could be about twenty minutes shorter and looks sad. Also, Norinaga and Walker are scheduled to arrive the next morning… with guns. If only they knew where he was, and had multiple people who were trained in the art of infiltration and assassination, maybe they could cut this actual massacre off before it started. But where would they find someone like that?
Matt: It is the great mystery. Raph stops in to see Yoshi again to give him a yo-yo he made and tell him to get out of town for tomorrow’s big battle. Like one of those precocious, morbid kids from a kung fu movie, Yoshi says he can’t let Raph die, goes into a cellar and grabs the scepter. Oh, there it is! Great! Movie over, right?
Chris: I hate this f**king movie.
Matt: Turns out Mitsu was hiding the scepter from the turtles because she wanted them around to fight Lord Norinaga and Walker. So…she knew what the scepter could do? Even though Norinaga doesn’t and Kenshin was shocked to discover it? How…what?
Chris: Also Yoshi, who owes his life to Leo’s (gross) mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, watched the Turtles try to build a fake scepter all day before deciding he should mention this one to the Turtles. How does any of this work or matter?! Is there a deleted scene where Mike asks if anybody saw a big golden time travel scepter in his hands when Mitsu bonked him on the head and she distracts him with pizza?
Matt: Shang Tsung comes in to tell the turtles he told Yoshi to hide the scepter so they could stay there to fight Goro…uh, Walker’s men instead of Mitsu. On cue, Mitsu screams as Casey Classic tries to escape with her. A double-cross!
Chris: He demands the scepter or he’ll kill Mitsu, and the Turtles hand it over. Then he says that they can exchange Kenshin for Mitsu at dawn, and nobody bothers to tell him “hey, we kind of need the scepter to get Kenshin back. Have you not been paying attention for the 18 hours we’ve been talking about this?”
Matt: Olde-time Casey takes her back to the castle, and she and Norinaga discuss, in English for some reason, Kenshin’s “magic journey.” Norinaga, who thinks that turtle demons killed his ancestor, finds this difficult to believe. Nor does he believe that Walker has the scepter, but he totally does. Norinaga is a bad judge of character.
Chris: Walker doesn’t actually know he has the scepter, though. He’s surprised as anyone when Original Casey whips it out, which means that nobody told Casey to steal it, which means he had no idea what its deal was, since he apparently didn’t pay any attention to the Turtles hanging out talking about how it was a Minor Magic Item.
Matt: April creates a distraction while the turtles infiltrate the dungeon and free Mitsu. While they’re making their way out, they notice the very obvious set that has the scroll depicting the four kappa who killed Norinaga’s ancestor. As they waste time and make noise, Norinaga comes by and flips out. Mitsu and Norinaga charge at each other. Mikey stops it. A big fight ensues. It’s all very sleepy, even with the goofy fight sound effects added in.
Chris: Not to backtrack, but there’s a bit earlier on where the Turtles are scaling a wall and Mikey wisecracks “is this what they mean by getting totally vertical?” This is a piece of slang I’ve never heard before, but I can only assume that it refers to getting an erection. I never thought I’d have to ask this but… is Michaelangelo f**king that castle?
Matt: He’s thinking about his crush on Mitsu, returning us to the uncomfortable human/turtle romance from the first movie.
Chris: This big fight is set up in a way that makes you think it’s going to be awesome, with Mitsu whipping out a dagger and being all intense and Norinaga finally drawing his sword, but then the Turtles bust in with some jokes about the Addams Family and a few cartwheels. It is sub-Xena action.
Matt: It’s just really slowly paced. The stunt guys in the suits still move pretty well, but there’s just no urgency. In fact, this whole movie is just really low-stakes. The turtles aren’t really invested in anything that’s happening. Leo even says, “Are we out of the loop here, or what?” That’s kind of how I feel.
Chris: The Turtles end up running out and opening up the dungeon so that Norinaga’s prisoners can join the fight, but they never really specify that these are political prisoners or unjustly jailed villagers or anything. There have got to be at least a few straight up murderers in there.
Matt: They all have torches, too. Where’d they get those?
Chris: Leonardo ends up in a one-on-one duel with Norinaga, and so far, this is the most interesting thing that has happened, even if it makes no sense. At one point, Norinaga kicks Leo in the chest and Leonardo staggers back in pain, growling “big mistake, pal.” Why? It seemed pretty effective. Every single line in this movie is placeholder dialogue that they never went back and wrote.
Matt: There’s nothing personal for Leonardo in this fight. He’s just been mistaken for another turtle creature who killed some guy we haven’t seen. The turtles are secondary to any of the actual action in this movie. Remember how they all got really invested in the first movie, when they kidnapped Splinter? This is the opposite of that.
Chris: Leonardo beats Norinaga by cutting off his hair (it’s cartoonish and funny but that’s perfectly okay at this point), and then they drop a bell on him and crack jokes while smacking it around. Then Walker and Fakesy show up with April O’Neil, and everyone is surprised, even though it was April’s entire job in this plan to go talk to the evil dudes for a while. What the hell did they think was going to happen?
Matt: And finally, now that the turtles have something to care about with their friend being in danger, Walker just pushes her back to them and tells his men to shoot them. The movie has literally shoved away the one reason for its title characters to really care.
Chris: We don’t even really know what’s going on with this whole rebellion! We have no reason to think that Norinaga is a bad guy other than that he wants to buy some guns, which seems like kind of a reasonable thing for a guy who runs an army to do? The worst thing Walker has done in this movie up to this point is sell cannons to a guy who wants to kill demons. Again: Pretty reasonable!
Matt: Mitsu seems to have some personal thing with Norinaga, but I don’t think it’s actually been stated. It’s like they went through the script looking for character motivations and just removed them all. 17th Century Casey says he’s not into April being shot, so Walker throws him in with the turtles. Then, defying the entirety of the rest of the movie, Leonardo comes up with a clever idea. He tells Walker he has to shoot them, because all his men should be scared about their bullets not being able to kill demons.
Chris: This is a pretty big bluff, considering that actually shooting the Turtles in their big squishy faces probably would kill them, but before we can sort out the logic here, Donatello says the dumbest thing I have ever heard: “If we die in the past, does that mean we don’t get born in the future?” F**k off, Donatello.
Matt: This is the same Donatello who figured out the physics of time travel earlier. The intelligence level of the turtles is Homer Simpson-like in how much it varies depending on the plot or a joke.
Chris: Also, the Turtles’ bluff would probably work better if they weren’t visibly terrified whenever someone pulled a gun on them.
Matt: Walker, now looking like Somewhat Taller Napoleon, goes over to a cannon and lights it. Leo ducks into is shell and the shot hits the bell Norinaga was in. So he’s dead now.
Chris: The “I love being a turtle” gag from Secret of the Ooze is recycled, just in case the concept of “diminishing returns” was still not clear enough to the viewers.
Matt: Everyone flips out and runs away because they’ve never seen what turtles actually do, and Norinaga, who is not actually dead, emerges from the bell looking like Yosemite Sam after he stuck his head in a cannon. There’s a Don King joke. This movie is about 40 percent “he looks like” jokes. That’s OUR thing!
Chris: This prompts a chase across the rooftops (???) that ends with Walker asking what kind of demons the Turtles are, because apparently he doesn’t know what kind of green animal has a shell. Son needs a Speak-n-Spell. Also, the Turtles actually refer to themselves as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which seems a little weird. Maybe that’s just me.
Matt: It is an accurate description, at least.
Chris: The Turtles recover the scepter, and then Olde Casey tries to kill Walker with a f**king catapult and Michelangelo says he’s going to stay in the past what the f**k is actually happening right now.
Matt: Before they get the scepter, through, Walker tries to break it. It’s intact in the future! It can’t break! Why in heaven’s name would this movie wade its way into paradoxes.
Chris: Michaelangelo wants to stay in the past because “your home’s a nice apartment. Mine’s a sewer.” WASN’T THIS RAPHAEL’S WHOLE THING AT THE BEGINNING? WHY IS IT MIKE AND NOT RAPH? WHY DOESN’T ANYTHING MAKE SENSE?
Matt: Raph does momentarily think about staying, too, but Mitsu tells them they shouldn’t because she’s into Kenshin and not reptile men. Kenshin activates the scepter from the future and it activates at that specific time in the past because this is a movie. The guardsmen come back from a bar and try to steal a TV, there’s further debate over whether to stay for NO REASON, Raphael says goodbye to Yoshi, and finally everyone goes back to their proper time. Except…Mikey misses the transfer.
Chris: Also none of the turtles thought about how they’d be stranding these other dudes in New York which is kind of a massive dick move. No offense to New Yorkers, but c’mon. They live in a sewer.
Matt: There’s a moment where the turtles look at this poor schmuck who seems to be stuck there. He runs up a ladder. There’s some lightning and Mikey appears, even though he gave Mitsu his nunchucks, which means his weight changed. Follow your own damn rules, movie!
Chris: In the past, Mitsu and Kenshin get married to unite their warring clans because that was literally the one cliché that this movie hadn’t pulled out yet. Then Splinter cheers Mike up by putting a lampshade on his head, which is both terrifying and completes the three-movie streak of Splinter ruining the movie by making a “funny” at the end.
Matt: Splinter should have made a funny about how he doesn’t have legs anymore.
Chris: He tried, but the joke couldn’t stand on its own.
Matt: What has this movie done to us. The turtles dance. The credits roll. Michelangelo voice actor Robbie Rist’s name is a registered trademark, apparently. The end.
Matt: The Raphael/Yoshi subplot, even though Raphael played no role in Yoshi’s rescue, is the basis for the handful of actually good scenes in this movie. It’s underplayed as everything else, but the kite-flying moment was nice.
Chris: April looked nice in her hakama miniskirt.
Matt: And as much of a step down as these turtle costumes are, they’re still not terrible. They work, in a kind of cartoony way. I don’t get the freckles, though.
Chris: That’s pretty much it. I have no other nice things to say about this movie.
Matt: Me neither.
Matt: The plot of this movie is nonsense, but the bigger sin it commits is that I don’t even care that it’s nonsense. There’s nothing that gives me any reason to care about anything that’s happening. The turtles don’t have any good reason to even go back in time. Old-time Casey Jones doesn’t get any reason to betray April, then go back to her. Even Mitsu doesn’t have a worthwhile motivation.
Chris: The plot of this movie is resolved THREE TIMES. There is no reason for it to continue after the first half, but for some reason it does! The conflict isn’t clear, none of the characters are particularly motivated, I don’t really get what happened at the end. Mitsu and Kenshin got married to end a war, but we don’t really know who the war was between. Was Mitsu a rebel or the princess of another family? It manages to be both convoluted and stupid.
Matt: When I was 10, I hated this movie because it was boring. 20 years later, it’s still boring. The turtles are idiots. There’s no real threat. And the villains are a stock feudal lord and a sort-of pirate guy/profiteer. They don’t do anything interesting or have any personality to speak of. They’re just there.
Chris: They’re not even that bad! The worst thing Walker does is jack up the price on his guns, so he’s more of a scummy businessman than a supervillain. I guess there’s that scene early on where Norinaga looks like he’s about to slash Kenshin with his sword, but Walker stops him, so even then…
Matt: Norinaga’s thing with the turtle demons gets played up as much as anything in this movie, and then it fizzles out into exactly nothing. Nothing pays off!
Chris: I’d be pretty upset if demons killed my ancestors too! I mean, he thinks they’re demons! That is good justification for his actions, especially when the turtles are going “hey, what’s up, we’re demons.” That dude has every right to lose his mind when his son is off cavorting with a lady who summons a bunch of monsters from Hell to do her bidding.
Matt: And yet he just kind of coldly seethes. Then he gets taken out of the picture when a bell falls on him.
Chris: And the plot with the scepter! They don’t even try to look for, Donatello just draws it and goes “hey dude, make this magic thing.” That doesnt’ even make sense if it’s a decoy, but April asks him if he’s actually trying to build a magic item and he says yes. And it turns out to be completely unnecessary to the plot, because the real scepter is 20 feet away the entire time.
Matt: We, the audience, even know where it is. It’s super frustrating.
Chris: The justification for this whole dumb plot is that they want the Turtles to help them win the war, but they had THE SON OF THE OPPOSING LEADER. That’s a pretty big trump card, even though he goes home at night when they’re done rebelling (?!?!).
Matt: It’s impossible to know if Mitsu knows how the thing works or not. She doesn’t want the turtles to leave, but having Kenshin/Zuko back would mean the war was instantly over! They got married and it was over!
Chris: April doesn’t realize she’s in the past when a bunch of Samurai are walking around referring to her as a witch and trying to chop up a Walkman. Donatello doesn’t know how time works. Casey mesmerizes a bunch of samurai with hockey on TV. Everyone in this movie is an idiot.
Matt: The thing with the honor guard is literally only in there because someone thought the audience would be wondering, “Hey, what’s the honor guard up to?”
Chris: This movie is basically garbage, you guys. It’s dumb and they made it because they thought their audience was dumb, but no audience is this dumb.
Chris: This movie sucks.
Matt: I thought it was bad when I paid for it with my own allowance money in 1993 and considered asking for my money back. I think it’s WORSE now.
Chris: I don’t think we should end on this note, though. We need to give the TMNT franchise one more chance to do right by us.
Matt: Yes. You demanded it, and we decided that maybe we’ll listen! Next week, join us for the animated follow-up to the live-action TMNT movie series, simply titled TMNT!
Chris: Is Venus De Milo in this one?
Matt: No, but Patrick Stewart is.
Chris: Fantastic. Be here for that, and the vote for our next movie series, right here on ComicsAlliance. And keep in mind, I’m going to keep putting Street Fighter on there until it wins.