Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Superhero Media: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Due to some mild trauma I experienced when I was fifteen, I really don't recall my childhood, or much before 2002. I have some dream-memories, which I don't trust for validity, and occasionally something floats up from the subconscious, but for the most part, it's all gone. One glimmer that remained for years was that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was a terrible film. It's not. Sure, it's not even the third best TMNT film, but I think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III may actually be a bit better than Secret of the Ooze. The premise is silly (par for the course for TMNT, really), a magical lantern transports April, then the turtles, back to the last days of feudal Japan where they must save the local village from the machinations of Walker, a colonial exploiter leveraging the local Diamyo. As with the previous two films, the plot is pretty basic, think a stripped down Seven Samurai with four turtles and Western colonialism as the villain rather than bandits. 

Actually, that the bad guy, even in feudal Japan, is a greedy European man, is pretty damn smart for a TMNT film, compare it to TMNT(2007), where a colonially-minded, wealthy, culturally appropriating white man is the red herring villain obfuscating the "dangerous foreigner" mastermind. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is full of nice little touches and clever ideas, like the turtles, now 17 years old (they were identified as aged 14 in the 1990 film) wanting to stay in the past because they don't have to hide from people and are appreciated for who they are. Those familiar with psychological development theories will see something in that small part alone. The puppetry has improved again since the previous film, and this time around, the action scenes got better, possibly because the suits are easier to move in? I've done enough horse riding to know that it's actually pretty tricky, I'd hate to try it in a foam-rubber turtle suit and plastic samurai armour. 

Casey Jones is back, but relegated to a b-story about teaching hockey to the time-displaced Samurai Honour Guard; still better than the version in Out of the Shadows. Even, for the moment, not taking the decline of the turtles culturally in the mid-1990s, it's easy to see how there wasn't a fourth film in this franchise. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was, despite some truly clever moments, just not good enough to cycle into another film. Again, I don't own a physical copy of this film, and I don't intend to get one, but I'm glad I got to see it again as an adult and not have to rely on misty memory. Seriously, I remembered this film having child vampires in it? I'd say I'm confusing it with The Next Mutation, but I don't recall having ever watched The Next Mutation. Due to my non-existent memories of childhood, nostalgia doesn't really function for me, but I felt a twinge of something with this film. 

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