Let’s face it, when you have a title like Alien vs. Ninja you go into the theatre with your tongue firmly in cheek. Anyone Monday night at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival expecting something like Ridley Scott’s Alien or even the original Predator film would have been disappointed. Anyone looking for a fun, brainless ride in the vein of the Power Rangers would have gotten what they were looking for.
There really isn’t anything resembling any kind of real plot, but it’s not really expected for a movie of this type. Our main ninja stars are Yamata (Masanori Mimoto) and Rin (Mika Hijii), who lead a band of ninja warriors on patrol in the woods. A fiery meteorite crashes nearby and they are ordered to investigate it by their elderly leader. Pretty soon the ninjas are being attacked on all sides by aliens, who are not only trying to kill the ninjas, but also want to take some of them alive. They are then implanted with little pink gummi bear creatures in their throats, which turn them into walking zombies.
The audience at the Bloor Cinema was a wide mix of adult men and women, but the target audience of this film is obviously young boys. The dialogue is extremely wooden and painful to listen to at times. Rin, the sole female ninja, is portrayed as an equal to the others and actress Mika Hijii plays her role with class, but the film does fall into some lame sexism during a fight with one of the aliens. At one point, one of the aliens starts groping the girl and dry humping her in the air. Rather than being a funny moment, it just comes across as crass and playing to the lowest common denominator. I know this was played for laughs but there was something creepy about it, too. The other strange thing about the character depictions was how attractive the main cast is. Basically any of the ninjas that were attractive tended to survive and anyone unattractive were the ones getting picked off very quickly. Apparently, the more physically attractive you are, the greater your ninja skills!
Director Seiji Chiba does a great job in the action sequences, and the film is very intentionally funny in parts. The soundtrack is excellent and the fight scenes themselves are never predicable. When the action is between ninjas, as it is in the opening segment, it is excellent, but unfortunately just about all the action is fighting the silly-looking aliens. Alien vs. Ninja has really cool ninjas that have bad-ass outfits, trendy haircuts and they really deliver the moves. The aliens, on the other hand, are a total joke. Basically they look like a dinosaur lizard that would be fighting Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, or in the old Godzilla films. The problem with an alien design like this is that it works for the laughs, but you never really get caught up in the action of the film.
Overall the film was generally fun to watch and if you shut your brain off, you’d have a fairly good time. To be honest though, if I had rented this movie I would have likely shut it off after 20 minutes. But seeing it with the energy and laughter of the After Dark Film Festival crowd was worth hanging out for the full ride.