Following the success of the first two films, it was obvious the turtles trilogy would soon be completed and, sure enough, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was released in 1993 and it did well enough at the box-office despite receiving mostly negative reviews.
The plot this time sees April O'Neil (Paige Turco) get sent back in time to feudal Japan because of some magical sceptre she found in a flea market. The turtles soon go after her but they find themselves quickly separated and in the middle of a local conflict between Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono) and his own children who disagree with his desire for war and his dealings with shady English trader Walker (Stuart Wilson). Meanwhile, back in the New York sewers, Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) returns to babysit Splinter (now voiced by James Murray) and the Japanese warriors who have exchanged places with April and the turtles. The time travel aspect of the story is promising and yet you get the feeling right off the bat that it could have been handled much better.
The whole sceptre thing is a bit of a cop out as the convenient MacGuffin gets in the way of a potentially more creative way of sending the turtles back in time. In the video game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time, it's The Shredder who sends them back to various different times, which would have definitely made more sense. Even having it be Krang's evil plan would have been cool. Then Casey Jones, Splinter and the Japanese warriors could have taken on the villain while the turtles are doing their own thing instead of sitting back watching ice hockey and whining about everything. It's also a massive leap to have Jones' ancestor be in the same exact room as April O'Neil when she is captured by Norinaga.
There's suspension of disbelief and then there's this!
Jim Henson's Creature Shop is not handling the animatronics this time and it shows: the mouth movements on the turtles and Splinter are clunkier and somehow the costumes don't look nearly as good as they did in the other movies. But younger viewers won't really care that much about all that since Michaelangelo and the others are still as entertaining as ever and there's enough fighting that the film isn't a complete bore, even if the plot is a snooze. The script is definitely weaker in that it's not only packed with plot holes and key things left unexplained but also hundreds of groan-inducing jokes which, luckily, help the film stay fun and rank it firmly in the guilty pleasure category. Corey Feldman, by the way, also returned to voice Donatello despite skipping the last movie.
All in all, TMNT III is an enjoyable mess. Yes it's silly, it makes very little sense and it feels more like the Pilot for a low-budget TV series than a real movie but younger fans of the turtles won't be too turned off by all that as it remains goofy and charming enough throughout.
Watchable, if inferior, sequel.