Ninjas. Ninjas! NINJAAAAAAS!!!!

Posted: April 28, 2010 in Action Movies, crotchety ranting, Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , ,

I must be getting old. Somehow, a movie called Ninja Assassin, which is about a Ninja Assassin (whose name is Raizo but I don’t care, he was Ninja Assassin to me) fights other Ninja Assassins, and they Ninja Fight literally every five minutes and there are GALLONS of blood spewed in many colorful patterns – kind of bored me.

And what is it with the kids today with their pants and their hair and the boom boxes and sexting and GET OFF MY LAAAAWWWNNN – wait, sorry, different getting-old rant.

Anyway, let’s see if I can break down the viewing experience of Ninja Assassin, in case my saying “Ninjas fight other ninjas” was too vague of a plot outline for you:

Opening scene: NINJA FIGHT!
Flashback – Ninja Assassin as a young boy, being trained by a mysterious ninja clan.
Boring Not-Interpol scene where they very quickly hop on board with a “Maybe there’s some kind of clan of ninja assassins out there?” theory.
Flashback – Ninja Assassin as a young boy, being trained by a mysterious ninja clan some more.
Boring Not-Interpol scene where Not-Interpol researcher chats with a widow of a ninja assassinee.
Flashback – Ninja Assassin as a less young boy, being trained but now starting to have some doubts.
NINJA FIGHT!
Ninja Assassin and Not-Interpol researcher team up.
NINJA FIGHT!
Ninja Assassin gets captured by Not-Interpol.
NINJA FIGHT!
Flashback – Ninja Assassin watches his quasi-girlfriend-ninja-trainee killed by his quasi-ninja brother.
QUIET MOMENT! – sorry, quiet moment – where Ninja Assassin heals up from his ninjuries (sorry)
NINJA CHASE SCENE!
NINJA FIGHT!
NINJA FIGHT WITH NOT-INTERPOL AGENTS SHOOTING UP THE PLACE!
NINJA FIGHT ON FIRE!
The end…or is it? No, wait, yeah, It is.
END CREDITS NINJA SWORD-SWISH SPECIAL FX! THROWING STARS! WOOOSH!
Boring end credits where craft services gets to take a bow.

(Also, the ninjas have magical healing and super-speed teleport powers, but that’s not a plot point like the ones listed above, so don’t worry about that.)

(Also, also: “I was born with my heart on the wrong side” is a plot point for TWO characters. I get that realism isn’t what the movie’s shooting for, but…c’mon.)

Now, here’s what’s amazing: Apparently, the script, as written, was not up to the Wachowski Bros.’ high standards, so they brought in their good friend J. Michael Straczynski for a complete rewrite, which he did in a marathon 53 hours.

Says Straczynski: “I turned it in and Warner Brothers loved it, that’s the first time they had no notes. I was like, I should do this more often!”

On the one hand, if you watch the movie, you can agree – this looks like something that was written in about 53 mostly-sleepless hours. On the other hand – if this is what they needed Straczynski for…what the HELL did the first draft look like?

(Perhaps they needed him for the literally three moments of levity that give the impression that someone actually wrote this, such as when Ninja Assassin, tied up and expecting ninjas to burst in any moment, urges Not-Interpol agent to hurry up with her crappy untying skills, by calmly urging, “I don’t mean to sound critical, but…” It’s a rare line that isn’t expository or simply shouts of “YAAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!!!” and so it kind of stands out. So…way to earn your pay, JMS!)

I’ve said many a time that you can learn just as much about writing from watching a bad movie as you can a good one. The lesson here is one Joss Whedon extols a lot: give the audience what they need, not what they think they want.

The Wachowskis obviously thought the audience wanted non-stop, straight-up Ninja Fightin’ – and before spending 100 minutes with this movie, I might have agreed. I have, after all, spent some time with movies that promise Ninja Fightin’ but woefully under-deliver (that half-hour of Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li I caught on HBO while doing laundry, for instance), and thought: “There needs to be a shitload more ninja-fightin’ going on here if they want my attention.”

But when you subtract the Not-Interpol scenes, there’s like 85 minutes of nonstop blood-spilling sword fights in here, but unfortunately it only takes five minutes to get a little bit bored with ninja sword fights and wonder if there’s something else they could try.

Ninja sword fights, it turns out, are like the Trey Anastasio guitar solos of movies.

I guess what I’m saying is, this movie needed more pirates and zombies. There’s no way I would’ve gotten bored with THAT, right?

(Hollywood: Please don’t call my bluff with this.)

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Comments
  1. V.I.P. Referee says:

    “magical healing and super-speed teleport powers”

    …it seems like that stuff would’ve required more attention. And the motivations and personal relationships between characters, too. But, you know, everything’s a secret with ninjas.

  2. Carl says:

    Did you ever see the episode of Samurai Jack where Jack battles the android Ninja and overcomes him by hiding in the sunlight? I’d have watched 85 minutes of THAT. Perhaps more time-traveling Samurai are what’s needed.

    By the way, I have MONUMENTALLY IMPORTANT things to say about acting and spirituality, the legitimate commercial possibilities of a superhero-styled membership gym, and what is and is not art. But you’ll never hear any of it because I’m so FRICK busy, its everything I can do not to have an aneurysm as it is. Address letters of disappointment in this regard to the department of theater at Temple.

  3. braak says:

    Carl, I find it hard to believe you have anything important to say about anything.

    I should be busy, also, except instead I just have terrible anxiety about my play.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    @Carl: Because I like being a reasonable counterpoint to Braak, I will say I can’t WAIT until you have the time to share your many, surely interesting thoughts with us.

    Particularly if you want to espouse them on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or every other Friday. Because I could use a break here and there.

  5. cschack says:

    Watching Ninja Assassin (you can’t spell “assassin” without “ass” – twice!) last week, I wondered the same thing as I did after watching GI Joe – couldn’t the directer at least have told the actor playing the younger version of Rain’s character to speak a in slightly more accented English, just so the difference wasn’t quite as obvious? More importantly, I wondered why I got suckered into watching either movie, as I really do know better.

  6. Ninja Assasin is cheey in my opinion, the action sequence could have been much better ::

  7. Brett says:

    I came across your webpage on google and check a lot of the early blogposts. Preserve up the superb operate. Seeking to reading through more within you at a later time!.

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