Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ninja Apocalypse (2014)

It’s years after another end of the world. The part of post-apocalyptica we are concerned with is populated by various multi-racial clans of magical ninjas. Grandmaster Fumitaka (the inevitable – not that I’m complaining, mind you - Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) calls the leaders of all clans to his underground bunker to unite them as one against a threat we will never hear from again.

Alas, Fumitaka is shurikened to death right during the public cheer for his big reunification speech. Various freakish witnesses quickly pin the blame on Cage (Christian Oliver), the leader of the Lost Clan, who, as our designated hero, is of course totally innocent. He, his brother Surge (Les Brandt), and clan members Sky (Isaac C. Singleton Jr.), Mar (Tara Macken) and Trillion (Kaiwi Lyman), will have to fight their way back to the surface, conquering regular ninjas, animalistic dragon admiring ninjas, fire-throwing ninjas, sex ninjas, and some rather unexpected zombies in the process. Perhaps they’ll even find out who really killed Fumitaka (apart from the budget’s inability to hire Tagawa for very long).

Oh, come on, internets, of course post-apocalyptic super-powered ninjas are a silly idea, but you of all people should be able to appreciate the fact they are also an awesome idea, even before they meet the zombies. Director Lloyd Lee Barnett clearly doesn’t care if his film’s set-up makes sense but he does just as clearly care about making the resulting film as fun as possible, leading his cast of unknowns and stunt workers through fights enhanced by some very neat effects. Barnett’s copious experience on the visual effects field is a clear plus for these effects, resulting in a lot of convincing looking and simply yet cool designed energy explosions and many a blue glowing sword.

The whole ninja magic part of the film is highly video game influenced, with people talking about how much energy they still have left for the day, though the Barnett fortunately eschews trying to imitate game-y camera styles. For my tastes, the camera often frames the action slightly too close, but Barnett still seems more interested in letting his audience see the neat stunt work his actors do than obfuscating any failings. These failings are more in the non-physical parts of the acting anyway, though there’s really little that’s horrible or too annoying – everyone still does a decent job, and I at least don’t go into this kind of martial arts bonanza expecting The Method.

What Ninja Apocalypse is first and foremost is a very fun series of fight scenes that for once uses contemporary low budget cinema’s beloved grey, cramped corridors with a degree of creativity, squeezing a surprising amount of diverse action scenes out of the surroundings, which is all I ask of a film of its type, really. That the film also has a few scenes in rather breathtaking looking natural locations is an added bonus, leaving little to be desired in this regard.

Adding to the fun is the film’s continuous flow of mildly idiotic yet excellent ideas, from the playmate style poison sex ninjas (it’s tradition in Japan too, without the playmate part) to the unexplained zombies, or the just as unexplained fact that the moon in the film’s post-apocalyptica is quite a bit closer to Earth, looks rather ragged, and has lost parts that now seem to be hanging in their own close orbit (which also happens to be a rather impressive looking effect). It’s quite impossible for me to argue with a film that puts these things on screen with this much enthusiasm and competence, and it’s just as impossible for me not to recommend it highly to everyone with a taste for the kind of low budget action/martial arts cinema that isn’t afraid to be silly without feeling the need to be ironic, and that puts so many fun ideas on screen it’s impossible to not be entertained.

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