Release Date(s)2010 (February 22, 2011)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: C-
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: C-
When Bill first asked if I wanted to review Alien vs. Ninja, I naturally assumed it was a new SyFy Original movie. In retrospect, this was a stupid mistake. Obviously the SyFy version of this would be Mega-Alien vs. Octo-Ninja. No, what we have here is the latest effort from producer Yoshinori Chiba, whose previous films have included such blood-drenched oddities as The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police. I thought those movies were reasonably diverting so I figured what the hell. Let’s check out some alien-ninja action.
If you need me to summarize the plot of this for you, I’d like you to scroll back up to the top of this page and reread the movie’s title. This ain’t exactly Nicholas Nickleby here, people.
The movie starts with some swordplay to establish the inherent badassery of our ninja heroes, then stumbles around for 15 minutes, killing time with needless exposition about warring ninja clans (a back story that ends up having absolutely nothing to do with anything) and typically over-the-top “comic relief” involving a cowardly older ninja and a fey, overweight villager with an eye-patch. Finally, our heroes are sent out to investigate the giant fireball that fell from the sky just outside the village and the fun, such as it is, starts.
The opening salvo in the alien-ninja war sets the stage for the rest of the movie as ninja after ninja gets sucked underground (because apparently these aliens are part gopher), after which an enormous fountain of blood and rubbery body parts shoots up and drenches every actor and crew member within ten feet. Wisely, director Seiji Chiba decides not to reveal his extra-terrestrial menace just yet, saving that indignity for the next big fight scene. The monsters look like a cross between a reasonably priced Halloween costume knockoff of Giger’s Alien and a dolphin, with retractable prehensile tails courtesy of some unconvincing CGI.
It’s impossible to take any of AVN seriously and it’s pretty clear that nobody behind the camera was taking it seriously, either. The movie is at its meager best when it cranks the knob up to 11 and revels in its own absurdity. There’s an outrageously hyper-sexualized fight between an alien and Rin, the lovely lady ninja, that’s about as subtle as a kick in the face. Later on, our heroes face down their comrades, implanted with wee aliens that look a bit like those Martian toys whose eyes, ears and mouths pop open when you squeeze ‘em. And while this nonsense is kind of fun to watch, none of it adds up to anything remotely like a good movie. AVN resolutely remains a low-budget cheese-o-rama with goofball effects, weak CGI and below average fight scenes.
For a Blu-ray disc, FUNimation’s presentation looks like a pretty good DVD. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just sort of drab and uninvolving. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is a bit better (offered in both Japanese and English) though it’s not going to knock your socks off. Apart from trailers for this and other FUNimation releases, the sole extra is a standard-issue making-of that runs just shy of 20 minutes. It doesn’t tell you much that a first-year film student couldn’t figure out on their own, apart from perhaps why anyone would bother making this in the first place (spoiler alert: director Chiba likes both ninja movies and Ridley Scott’s Alien... who’da thunk it?).
Apart from a few brief moments of unbridled goofiness, Alien vs. Ninja is never quite as enjoyable as you’d like it to be. For a movie of such limited means to be worth your time, it needs to either commit itself completely to full-on gonzo weirdness or take itself SO seriously that it enters so-bad-it’s-good territory. AVN does neither, leaving us alone in the universe to contemplate the potential outcome of a war between leather-clad ninjas and dolphin-headed aliens.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke