This chapter of the 'Turtle' saga was released in March of 1993, making me 10 at the time, and still very much into the whole 'TMNT' craze - and what a craze it was, too! The Turtles have never really gone away, but there was once a time when they were once on basically anything you could name, from things like lunchboxes right down to cereal that turned your milk green. So truth be told, when I first saw this, I liked it okay.
Indeed, it was no dancing on stage with Vanilla Ice, and it always sucked that the villain was just some guy. They had a wide range of villains to choose from, and a whole bunch of adventures they could have adapted. I didn't exactly expect Dimension X, but what would have been wrong with a Baxter Stockman story? For that matter, if they planned it out a little, the scientist from 'Secret of the Ooze' could have been Stockman, and carried through to the next movie, which could have still kept Casey Jones for backup against a Stockman as the giant fly (granted, in 1993, the fly could only be awful). But I digress. We're stuck with time travel to feudal Japan with a Walker.... no really, that's his name, Walker.
In present day (1993), the Turtles; Leonardo (Brian Tochi/Mark Caso), Michaelangelo (Robbie Rist/David Fraser), Donatello (Corey Feldman/Jim Raposa) and Raphael (Tim Kelleher/Matt Hill) are partying and training in their train station lair (as introduced in 'Secret of the Ooze') when April (Paige Turco) arrives for a visit. As a quick dies note, it's interesting to note that Feldman comes back to lend his voice to Donatello, Raph's voice is brand new, but Leo and Mikey's voices have been the same through all three films - just a little tidbit of info. Anyway, April arrives with gifts for everyone after shopping at a flea market. One of the gifts, for Splinter (James Murray), is an old Japanese scepter that looks interesting enough to question why anyone would give it over to something like a flea market. She actually has no idea what the hell it is, but it's for Splinter.
Back in feudal Japan, Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono) makes deals with an English arms trader, Walker (Stuart Wilson), who is there to supply Norinaga with extra manpower and guns for his war. Meanwhile, Norinaga's son, Kenshin (Eidan Hanzei) is brooding after being scolded by his father, and comes across a scepter just like the one April thinks is an egg timer. He activates it, and before you can say "turtle soup", April and Kenshin trade places throughout the timeline. Now it's up to the Turtles to use their scepter to go back in time, rescue April, and come back within 60 hours. Meanwhile Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) is left to babysit the four Japanese priests who trade places with the Turtles. The whole thing is an idea that would have worked a hell of a lot better as a two or three-parter of the cartoon. Speaking for myself, I find it just lacks the theatrical quality of the first two. I came out of them loving them, with this one, I only said it was okay. Remember, I was 10, so I hadn't quite grown out of things quite yet.
Now, even watching it today, it might sound weird, but there actually were aspects about the movie I thought were interesting ideas, just not executed altogether well. For example the idea that a kid named Yoshi (Travis A. Moon) befriends the hot-headed Raphael, and Raph kinda learns through him about his own temper, and he tries to set the kid in the right direction. Sadly, it's executed more like an After School Special, and they miss out on an opportunity to really expand Raph's character. I know some reading this right now are saying "but... it's Ninja Turtles". To some extent, I get that, but the childishness of it all can't be too overlooked with a movie where the Turtles use the 'Wayne's World' "schwing!" joke. With that, the movie doesn't really seem to understand who it's for. Some of the dialogue is so basic, and the jokes are mostly lame, and it leads you to believe that it's for little kids. But then some scenes lend themselves more to a teenage crowd, who are long done with overly kid-friendly dialogue.
I'm not sure I'd agree with the masses that this is one of those movies that needs to be set on fire and forgotten about. It's dumb, not well written, and it's an obvious cash-in, playing with time travel idea that 'Turtles in Time' popularized in 1991. To this day, that is still probably the best of the games, if you can possibly get your hands on it, it's a high recommendation from yours truly, and it definitely plays with time travel much better than this movie did. Back to the movie, however, I have no ties to it like I do the first two. I think for me, this was the beginning of my loss of interest in the Turtles. I came out of it liking it okay when I was a kid, but I was still willing to admit there was a lot that sucked about it. Nowadays, I see it as a neat idea, but a poor execution. With better writers, it could have been a bit more passable. But still... what WAS wrong with a Baxter Stockman story (other than a crap-looking fly)?
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