Ben HiuraMika HijiiDonpei TsuchihiraShuji Kashiwabara
Alien vs. Ninja
Medium: film
Year: 2010
Writer/director: Seiji Chiba
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese, English [one scene]
Keywords: SF, ninja
Actor: Mika Hijii, Ben Hiura, Shuji Kashiwabara, Masanori Mimoto, Yuki Ogoe, Donpei Tsuchihira
Format: 80 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592503/
Website category: Japanese SF
Review date: 27 September 2011
It's sillier than I'd expected. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it became so for me when the ninja girl stabbed an alien in the groin, stuck up her middle finger and pulled a stupid face at the camera.
It's yet more wilfully trashy Japanese schlock. You knew that from the title, of course. Such films are in no way a new phenomenon, but what's different about the current wave of them is that they're selling internationally and doing terrible things to the reputation of Japanese cinema. There's a ton of them... Tokyo Gore Police, RoboGeisha, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl and so on. Just when you think they've plumbed the depths, they get worse. Noboru Iguchi's latest is called Zombie Ass and he doesn't mean donkeys.
Anyway, this one marks the debut of Nikkatsu's new Sushi Typhoon label and was made for a company called Revolver, which is based in London and Los Angeles. I'd also heard that it's one of the best of its recent peers, which is horrifyingly plausible. It's not a good film, but it's energetic, it has surprisingly imaginative fight scenes and it manages to make its cheesiness seem fun rather than annoying.
The film's titles tell you everything you need to know. "AVN" appear in big letters, only to get peppered with shuriken and chopped in half. This was my favourite bit of the movie. The action begins and we find ourselves in a wood, which at first looks quite atmospheric but as the movie continues starts to look increasingly like the budget-saving option it is. We meet ninja. This won't be surprising unless you thought you were watching Gone With The Wind, but something about them suggests that historical accuracy might be being tweaked. Maybe it's the fact that:
1. One of them's female and wearing super-boob armour.
2. Another has dyed his hair caramel-colour and is wearing an earring. Incidentally we're not meant to be drawing inferences from this regarding his sexuality. In Japan this is normal. He's a macho tough guy in a ninja film and don't you dare suggest that he sings in a band.
3. They have goofy CGI ninja super-powers.
The plot is... heh heh, the pl... no, sorry, I can't say it. The "plot" goes as follows. Ninja are badass, except for the annoying chubby one with dyed blonde hair who's the equivalent of the fat prankster in a Friday the 13th sequel. You want him to die and he will. He'd have been comic relief if he'd been funny. Anyway, our ninja hang out for 23 minutes, occasionally chatting to a homosexual yakuza and otherwise not doing much. They have a sword fight at the beginning of the film, but it's the kind of fight in which someone can get their throat slashed open and not bleed.
Eventually you'll be starting to wonder when the aliens will show up, whereupon they do and the filmmakers unleash all their imaginative kill effects. This continues for another hour. The end.
This is every bit as daft as you're imagining. However the flip side of that is that it's light and almost fluffy, despite the rain of body parts. It's plot-light, but it doesn't drag. I never got bored and the film always had plenty of momentum to carry it on to the next bit of silliness. Furthermore the actors can act to the required level, which means they can grunt, grimace, goof off and look cool with a sword. This is a particularly neat trick from Mika Hijii, given that she's wearing heavy eyeliner and her costume is all but screaming "look at my boobs". Nonetheless she fits in with the men and looks less silly than Caramel Hair Boy.
Of course Fat Prankster Ninja is annoying, but he's meant to be. Look at his death scene, which is nearly as goofy as Hijii's middle finger moment. Overall there's a likeable level of overacting going on here, with cheese that's ripe but not inedible.
As for the aliens, they're pretty good. Imagine one of H.R.Giger's Aliens, but changed enough to avoid legal action and built for about a thousandth of the budget as a tokusatsu rubber suit. That's not a simile, by the way, but a description of what's on the screen. The main differences are their pterodactyl heads and smooth, almost dolphin-like faces. The similarities though are... well, everything, really. They're as violent and agile as Aliens, albeit more cartoonish. They have similar tails. They normally show a similar level of intelligence (i.e. none) and even appear to have a similarly weird reproductive system, although it's sillier. Furthermore they have some nifty moves and are capable of out-cooling the ninja, which is impressive since ninja with CGI superpowers are very cool indeed. I hate to say it, but they are.
Mind you, I don't remember H.R.Giger's Aliens ever wanting to grope Sigourney Weaver's boobs, or picking up a katana for a sword fight while electric guitars play on the soundtrack. These ones also have daft-looking babies.
This is in no way a sophisticated film. I wouldn't really recommend it, but it's an amiable piece of nonsense with impressive fight scenes. The action choreography is by Yuji Shimomura (Versus, Shinobi, Death Trance) and Kensuke Sonomura (The Machine Girl, Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle) and they're taking advantage of the general silliness to come up with stuff I'd never seen before. Fight scenes are overrated, generally speaking, but these ones are both entertaining and imaginative. Furthermore they don't have enough money to use CGI for any shot that's not ridiculous, so for the most part what you're seeing here is real people going at each other. It kept me watching, at least, and I'm not an action junkie.
The tone is broad, but not quite parody. Instead it finds a larger-than-life tone that goes over the top in all departments and makes palatable the "man in rubber suit" aliens and stupid comedy bits. It's quite clever in the precise ways it's being dumb, although I also don't think it's anything special. Throwaway, but watchable.