CAPSULE: ALIEN VS. NINJA (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Seiji Chiba

FEATURING: Mansinori Mimoto, Mika Hijii, Donpei Tsuchihira, Shuji Kashiwabara

PLOT: Aliens land in feudal Japan, and a band of ninjas must defeat them.

Still from Alien vs. Ninja

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s a lightweight action movie with some b-movie absurdity; a fun and frivolous flick for an evening’s entertainment, but not approaching the level of weirdness required for Listing.

COMMENTS:  Inventive swordplay and thrilling (if ridiculous) action choreography narrowly defeat cheap CGI and corny rubber alien suits in Alien vs. Ninja, reaffirming our faith in humanity over technology.  In the prologue that begins the film, CGI ninjas leap from a towering pagoda, launching themselves at ridiculous speeds and flying hundreds of feet in the air; the effect doesn’t look superhuman so much as amateurishly fake.  By contrast, in the first action scene ninja freak Yamata slices up a dozen opponents, whirling about and deploying four different blades, tossing one into the air and using another to sling it into its target when it falls; both scenes are impossible, but the second one is an exciting and convincing illusion.  The ninja effects generally beat the alien effects; the extraterrestrials, while imaginatively designed (they have extra orifices hiding some nasty little tricks), are obviously played by a man in a rubber suit, and their immobile facial features seem way behind the times.  They look like they came from a planet where life evolved along the lines of a 1980s or 1990s Roger Corman movie, which could be a plus or a minus depending on your tastes in cheesy monsters.  There is some of the expected gore—a head squashed in an explosion of blood, and so on—but this actioner doesn’t follow the splatterpunk ethos, where showers of blood and organs are the “money shots” and main reason for the flick to exist.  The plot is serviceable: it’s a formula action flick, but a few minor points may catch you by surprise, and tributes to the classic Alien movies supply some additional interest.  The four main ninja characters are only briefly sketched, but that’s just fine, since the movie drags whenever they take a stab at fleshing them out.  The cowardly older ninja, played for broad comic relief by a mugging Donpei Tsuchihira, can’t get off the screen fast enough for most Westerners’ tastes.  Although it’s the action scenes, directed by Yûji Shimomura, that elevate Alien vs. Ninja from pure junk to acceptable entertainment, it’s the few flourishes of typically Japanese absurd humor that make it of tangential interest to weirdophiles.  It’s ludicrous that one ninja can deflect a throwing star hurled by another one in mid-flight or that a man could land on his feet unharmed after plummeting to earth from above the treetops, but what’s weird is that when ninjas are turned into zombies by alien parasites, the only language they can use are curse words—in contemporary English.  Even stranger is the one-on-one melee between sexy Mika Hijii (in skintight black latex ninja-wear with specially molded boob armor, yum) and an alien who seems to have cross-species mating more on his mind than victory in combat.  This battle is the funniest, most memorable and most bizarre of Alien vs. Ninja‘s set pieces; fortunately, Mika has “mighty strength” to help protect her from horny, handsy space monsters.  Mildly weird, with good action sequences and some silly chuckles, Ninja vs. Alien is not just a solid choice if you want to see martial arts masters duke it out ninjato to tentacle with beings from another planet—it’s your only choice.

Alien vs. Ninja is the first offering from Sushi Typhoon, a new B-movie subsidiary of venerable Nikkatsu studios (best known around these parts for their battle to get weird director Seijun Suzuki blacklisted after he delivered the sublime but “incomprehensible” Branded to Kill).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…dull to start, but goofy good fun once guys in rubber suits start tangling with a foxy ninja baby and her hunky male comrades-in-arms.”–Richard Kuipers, Variety (contemporaneous)

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