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February 22, 2011

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
Stuart Gillard
Writer: Stuart Gillard (created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)
Distributed By: New Line Cinema
Starring: Page Turco, Elias Koteas, Corey Feldman, Stuart Wilson
Release Date: March 17th, 1993

[Hey dudes and dudettes! Make sure you check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Also make sure to check out Z Boy’s tubular TMNT review]

In ancient Japan 1603, Japan is being ruled under the iron fist of Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), aided by British weapons-trader Walker (Stuart Wilson). But things are going to have a radical change when Leonardo (Mark Caso and Brian Tochi [voice]), Raphael (Matt Hill and Tim Kelleher[voice]), Donatello (Jim Raposa and Corey Feldman [voice]), and Michelangelo (David Fraser and Robbie Rist [voice]) accidentally fall back through time. Can they help the rebellion led by the beautiful Mitsu (Vivian Wu), save April O’ Neil (Page Turco), and get back home before it’s too late?

If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the Batman 1989 of the turtles films (gritty and great), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is the Batman Forever (childish but fun), then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III must be the Batman and Robin of the franchise.

The major problem with this film, is that it wastes any major potential it may have. Rather than using any of the possible characters, plots, and story lines of the cartoon and comics, they chose to do something that’s new but feels unoriginal. I understand that some ideas, such as the Technodrome, would be too expensive to do, but still, there’s plenty of ideas that could have stayed within budget. But what did they choose instead?

Ancient Japan.

Wait, did Netflix mess up my cue?

But even then, there’s plenty of potential here. They could have Shredder survive (again), go back in time, and bring forth an ancient demon that happens to be a fan favorite villain. Or have Tatsu’s great-great-great-great grandfather be the leader of an ancient, even deadlier foot clan. Of course, this is only applying basic story logic to a film that lacks it.

Instead, you get a generic story of pirates versus samurais (not as cool as it sounds). If I complained that TMNT II has too few subplots, this one has too many subplots, most of them major. Fortunately they mesh together well, but still, it thins out the story and makes you care less about the new characters.

Donatello attempts to explain the reason for the plot.

Speaking of characters, none of the new ones are interesting. Tokka and Rahzar (TMNT II) were interesting enough to be added to the series cannon in TMNT IV: Turtles in Time. But the new guys, Walker and Lord Norinaga, are your stereotypical pirate captain and feudal warlord, respectively. Even the familiar characters become more one dimensional. Leonardo becomes a stubborn leader, Raphael goes into Rorschach mode, Donatello is always spouting “scientific” facts, and Michelangelo is too silly.

Remember these favorites from the cartoons and comics?

It doesn’t help that many actors have been replaced and the new actors aren’t nearly as good. The only ones who were in the original films are the only decent actors, the turtles, Page Turco (April O’ Neil), and Elias Koteas (Casey Jones). Koteas does the best job, but unfortunately he either plays Whit, a bland ancestor of Casey Jones, or gets stuck as Casey Jones teaching samurais to play hockey in the present day.

Casey and Splinter are glad for once that they're missing out on the action

But what was even worse than the acting, was the dialog. Ugh! If TMNT was cheesy and TMNT II was bad, this one was awful. Tacky pop culture references and smart alec comebacks lined up one after another. At least this one didn’t have turtle puns unlike Howard the Duck‘s duck puns.

Leonardo feels smug over his latest and greatest puns.

It should also be noted that this film has a ton of PG film clichés. Ancient object of mysterious power? Check. “Noooooooo” fall off of a high edge cliff? Check. Fried hair?  Check. Getting down and dirty in the mud? Check (unfortunately this does not mean lesbian mud wrestling with April O’ Neil).

Movie Rule #76: Owning any object over 200 years old will cause crazy sh*t to happen

Of course, if there’s one thing that I’m sure anyone who’s watched TMNT III will complain about, it’s the puppetry. They’re completely out of sync and their facial movements are freaky. You can tell right away that the turtles’ bodies are made of hard plastic. Also, Splinter looks like one of those fortune telling mannequins that are behind a glass booth. There should be no excuse for it to be that bad, since its budget was $22 million, while TMNT‘s budget was $13.5 million (and that was made three years earlier, so there’s no need for inflation).

(Insert your own caption here)

And you thought your hangover was crazy.

Aside from Tarzan Boy by Baltimora (the best part about the film), the only other major reason to watch this film is the action. Granted, it’s nowhere near TMNT‘s fight scenes or even TMNT II‘s. You can definitely tell that they’ve really toned down the violence in this one. And after seeing Raphael having a heart to heart talk with Yoshi about how violence is for adults and playing is for children, I’m pretty sure it was due to parental complaints about the previous films’ violence.

Remember kids, flying kites is more fun than all the stuff that, you know, made the first two films good.


Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III the worst comic book film of all time, or even the worst film of all time? Not by a long shot. The real shame is that it’s a major disappointment, and worse, a complete waste of potential. I guess if Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III teaches us anything, it’s that sometimes it’s better to go all the way and fail spectacularly, than to play it safe and end up failing anyway.

This pic summarizes everything you need to know about the film.

Editor’s Note: has been pre-nominated for an Eagle Award! Please click here to vote for us in the “Favorite Comic Book Website” category (question #27). Thank you for your continued support!

Andrew Hudson



  1. Yeah, this movie seemed way too long and for all the wrong reasons.

  2. Dude, the last picture caption- priceless.

  3. […] this has to be without a doubt the lowest budget Turtles project. The costumes in this make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III costumes look like something created by Stan Winston. They look like cheap pieces of plastic ready […]

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