• Film reviews

    #461 – Ninja Apocalypse (2014)

    Ninja Apocalypse (2014)

    Film review #461

    Director: Lloyd Lee Barnett

    SYNOPSIS: in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, a summit is called between the various ninja clans for peace talks, as clan leader Fumitaka believes the clans must come together to overcome an external threat that threatens all of them. The clans agree to the terms, but Fumitaka is suddenly assassinated, with witnesses saying that Cage, leader of the Lost Ninja clan, was the one who did it. Cage and his fellow clan members are forced to flee, and must find a way out the bunker where the peace talks are being held, with all the other ninja warriors out to get them…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Ninja Apocalypse is a 2014 post-apocalypse martial arts film. Set after the collapse of society through nuclear war (as with most post-apocalyptic films), what remains of humanity seems to have banded into various ninja clans (for some reason). Fumitaka, the leader of one of the clans, holds a peace conference between the clans at his bunker, where he claims they must unite to fight an “external force” that threatens them all. The clans agree, but Fumitaka is suddenly assassinated, and three witnesses claim it was Cage, the leader of the Lost Ninja clan, that did it. Cage and his clan ninjas flee, attempting to escape the bunker while fighting off the remaining clans. The story is fairly simple to follow, even if it doesn’t make much sense: why is everyone a ninja in the post-apocalypse? Why do they have magic powers? Are they mutations or supernatural? Not much is explained, but then again it is a martial arts movie, and doesn’t need too much explanation. The whole premise is very silly, and manages to get even sillier when it introduces zombies. Overall it’s not a story that will keep your interest, and while there’s a few twists and surprises, doesn’t offer too much.

    The various clans of ninjas we see at the beginning of the film all have unique special powers, including lightning, fire and illusion. As mentioned, there’s no explanation of these powers and whether they are mutations or supernatural, but it’s not too much of a concern. Apparently their powers have a certain limit and have to recharge, but it’s mechanics are not explained any further. These abilities make the film a bit more over-the-top and unique, but they’re not utilised in a massive way to bolster the film as a whole into a unique experience. The characters themselves are a fairly typical bunch of tropes, with Cage and his brother Surge being at odds with one another forming the most notable relation between characters. Cage’s rivalry with Becker, leader of the fire-based ninja clan, is also fairly interesting, and it’s fun to watch them interact, but there’s too little of it. The big reveal of the villain at the end has little impact too because we see very little of Cage and the villain actually interacting, so we are left only with exposition to fill in the gap.

    This is not a high budget production. The film is almost exclusively set in this nuclear bunker, which means there is no need for complex sets, and most of the action takes place in non-descript corridors, stairwells and industrial empty rooms. The CG is pretty basic stuff and probably something anyone could make in After Effects, but it’s not overused too much, and is mainly just to create blood splatter, which the film doesn’t linger too closely on (although sometimes the physics of the blood is noticeably off). The acting can sometimes be alright, but other times is very stuff and wooden, making the whole experience very uneven. The most important aspect of a martial arts film has to be the fight scenes, and the ones in Ninja Apocalypse are…fine I guess. The actual stunts and fighting are good, but the editing of them is often too sharp and ruins the flow. There’s plenty of variety though, from the various ninja clans and their unique powers to slicing up zombies. Overall though Ninja Apocalypse is a fairly forgettable affair with a threadbare story and limited characters. There’s a few decent stunts and fights, but they are ultimately hampered in their editing and composition. There’s not much to really take away from this film, apart from the premise should be much more interesting than what is delivered on screen.

  • Film reviews

    #380 – Fantasy Mission Force (1983)

    Fantasy Mission Force (1983)

    Film review #380

    Director: Kevin Chu

    SYNOPSIS: Four of the world’s top generals have been captured by Japanese forces. In order to rescue them, Lieutenant Don Wen assembles a squad of misfits to undertake the perilous mission. The squad must brave tribes, ghosts and Nazis in order to accomplish their mission, all the while being followed by Sammy and Lily, a pair of con-artists looking to get the reward that the squad have been promised…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISFantasy Mission Force is a 1983 action comedy film. The film opens up with a group of generals from different countries dressed in stereotypical uniforms being captured by Japanese forces (the Japanese are usually the enemy in Chinese films). The generals include the French “Pierre Retreat” (sly jab at the French there) and the American “Abraham Lincoln”. But this is only the start of the madness that this film throws at the viewer. We next see world leaders trying to formulate a rescue plan, looking through various people who might be able to pull it off, including 007, Snake Pliskin, and Rocky Balboa, all of whom are for some reason or another are unable to do it. With this in mind, Lieutenant Don Wen assembles a squad of the world’s most bizarre specialists in order to pull off the rescue. Alongside this, a pair of con-artists, Sammy and Lily, are following the group as they try and get a hold of the vast reward. The story, as you can probably tell from the outset, makes very little sense and is all over the place. I think the film is supposed to be set during WWII, which makes things even stranger when they bring up 007, Pliskin and Rocky who would not have even been alive then, alongside the vehicles definitely being not of the time period. As a comedy action film I suppose you can’t be too concerned about the integrity of the story, but it is so disjointed and all over the place that it is difficult not to pay attention to it.The story behind Jackie Chan being in the film is equally as strange, as the director apparently saved him from being killed in a mob hit, and Jackie Chan contributed to the film to pay him back.

    The group eventually wanders into a tribe of women, who take them prisoner, leading them to escape to a house that is haunted by ghost and vampires, before finally reaching the Nazi outpost where the hostages are being held. Again, all these different settings and characters add up to a very surreal experience which, while full of variety, really have no connection to each other. The film also has musical numbers too, just to make things even weirder. Nevertheless, the characters all have their own personalities and roles to play, so that helps keeps things consistent if nothing else does. There’s the drinking cowboy-character, the arguing couple, the comedic relief characters and more who have their own distinctive ways. Another of the film’s positives is the martial arts choreography, which is fluid and fun, although dubbed with awful sound effects. Overall, it’s difficult to be to harsh on Fantasy Mission Force: it’s clearly a low budget picture so you can’t expect much, but it is full of so many nonsensical settings and bizarre characters that you can’t help but marvel at their overall ridiculousness. It certainly isn’t boring, and you can easily be entertained by looking for all the different elements that do not go together. Its a fun, if nonsensical, film.