Our review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition, published August 14th, 2009, is also available.
More turtles means more torture!
Donny, Raphy, Mickey, and Leo are hanging out in their sewer style bachelor pad when pal April O'Neil shows up with an ancient Japanese bug zapper. Our reptilian retards latch onto the bulky no-pest strip and are warped back to 17th century Japan. There they discover that even several thousand years ago, the rice eaters were light waves ahead of the rest of the world in technological advances, like time travel devices and feet binding. The same old Asian actors you have seen in every film since Mt. Fuji was a molehill are at war with each other over the North American rights to the next Gamera movie and our pond dwelling dumbskulls are viewed as ancient demons heck bent on undermining this dynasty to dynasty dickering. There are also some British pirates who want to trade guns for gold, silver, and natto beans and a cute little Asian boy who teaches Raphael the meaning of anger management. Oh yeah, that Casey Jones guy from the first movie is back in a pointless double roll.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III addresses one of the age-old Hollywood quandaries that have confused both moviemaker and filmgoer since Edison first made illuminated pixies dance on the head of a pin. For nearly a century, the paying audience and the cinematic magicians have wondered how one can completely screw up a successful franchise and turn it from a money maker into a rump baker. The answer? Time travel. That's right, time travel. Oh sure, Star Trek IV can ship the Enterprise and its entire arthritic crew back to San Francisco to save the sperm whales and attend the annual Gay Pride Sci-Fi Con. But unless your name is Dr. Everett Brown, Marty McFly, Mr. Peabody and/or Sherman, no one in any form of entertainment should zoom back in time for any reason (unless its to stop The Learning Channel from producing Trading Spaces at which point, funding for fooling with the space-time continuum should be sought immediately). But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III spits loudly and longly in the face of this bit of dicta, and tiki torches our big green boogers back to feudal Japan. Now, it's true that our little Asian friends were responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor (and by default, giving Michael Bay a reason to direct Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in a film version), but wasn't nuking the wasabi out of them enough? Did we have to go and undermine their heritage and traditions by awarding nijitsu traits to a bunch of talking foam rubber and the cast of Shaolin House Party?
Imagine if the producers had decided that the United States Civil War would have been a better location for a little turtle temporal locomotion. As a nation, would we sit back and giggle as Donatello fiddled with Lincoln's hat or marvel as Leonardo spilled pizza sauce all over the Underground Railroad? Or what if, maybe a shorter trip, back to the fall of the Berlin Wall had been conceived? Let those lame jade judo jokes run around Checkpoint Charlie while giving the East German border patrols salmonella. Sounds good, huh? Let's face it, America just loves to unclog its nose on the cultures and time-honored traditions of the rest of the world. Fiascos like Iron Chef USA, where William Shatner had his one and only chance to act without his industrial strength girdle, exemplify this desire to willingly fart all over the Japanese love of honor, virtue, and abalone. The Turtles represent a very imperialistic, hegemonic view from the Western entertainment conglomerate: that which we don't understand we'll just ridicule. Heck, Hello Kitty gets more respect and has more inherent dignity than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. It is not funny, it is not exciting, and even the most underdeveloped feti, for whom fast moving objects should supply necessary brain building blocks, will be bored. The kung fu fighting is badly choreographed and shot in a fashion to purposely undermine its battle as ballet precision. The sets are Benihana tawdry and the Asian actors seem mere embarrassed moments away from Hari-Kari. If we are ever again attacked by the so-called "yellow menace," we need look no further than their nation's treatment at the hands of Hackywood to find the motivation for a little "round eye" destruction.
New Line Cinema offers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III in either an anamorphic or full screen presentation. Both are perfectly acceptable, with no major defects and substantially better pictures than previous installments of the series. However, aside from the trailer and the "make it go away" Pick a Flick game, there is nothing special or desirable here. The film is pathetic in its meandering attempts at entertainment and the return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones (and the past life dual roll of pirate Whit) adds nothing to this sequel except for financially, since it must have cost a pretty penny to lure this talented actor back for such a piece of puke. The bottom line is this: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the original, was a decent attempt (that failed, by the way) at recreating the successful animated series for the live action big screen, if for no other reason than to cash in on the product's popularity. The sequels move further and further away from anything that made these characters novel or interesting, and closer to unbridled mass marketing and culture insulting meltdown. Rumor has it that none other than John Woo is working on a CGI version of the Turtles saga that will remain true to its comic origins and the dark, troubled life of the ninja. Too bad that Woo and his main man Chow Yun-Fat could not just grab onto a tacky oriental lantern and teleport back to the first production meeting for the creation of the Turtle films. A few slow motion gunfights later and we would not even be discussing this appalling cinematic stool sample. But then we might not have gotten The Killer, or Hard Boiled either. Perhaps we could work out a deal. No turtles, no Hard Target. Seems fair.
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