Alien vs Ninja
AVN エイリアンVSニンジャ「AVN Eirian VS Ninja」
Release Date: July 23rd, 2011
Running Time: 81 mins.
Director: Seiji Chiba
Writer: Seiji Chiba (Screenplay),
Starring: Shuji Kshiwabara, Mika Hijii, Ben Hiura, Masanori Mimoto, Donpei Tsuchihira,
The title says it all really. Aliens fighting ninjas. Two of the most iconic draws in cult movie history duke it out in a battle that should be cinematic gold but in the hands of director Seiji Chiba it is boring.
The rumble takes place in Sengoku era Japan where the Iga Ninja clan are spying on feudal lords and debating whether to throw their lot in with Oda Nobunaga or Tokugawa Ieyasu. Yamata, a young and impetuous ninja who revels in the thrill of the fight, is less interested in the politics so when a meteorite crashes into a village and unleashes a trio of aliens he finds himself facing his ultimate test as he fights katana against claw, shuriken against snakelike tail, and fist against fang.
As part of Sushi Typhoon’s opening gambit in seducing western audiences with low-budget weird Japan B-movie schlock, Alien vs Ninja fits the bill with its mock-serious setting containing a silly series of battles between ninjas and aliens which sees the script sacrificed for the spectacle but was there enough of a budget to go around?
Just enough, is the answer. Budget limitations result in a small cast and unambitious script and the lack of money in other departments is also clearly seen on screen. This is a splatter film minus much of the splatter and fun physical effects of the other titles in the genre that I have reviewed and the action mostly happens in non-descript forests and caves which saves the production money on set/location costs. A couple of exterior shots of a castle and village serve to ground the narrative in a time period but since locations are under-populated in terms of the cast everything feels lifeless, a sense exacerbated by the look of the film which is unexceptional especially since it is shot on digital camera so the visuals come across as flat. The lack of a budget can also be heard in the soundtrack, a combination of techno and traditional Japanese instruments, which is pretty ghastly.
The art design and costumes are not all that exciting aside from the sleek and futuristic ninja body armour. The titular alien is a guy in a rubber suit which is played up for all of the cheap silliness that it can evoke. The alien looks and acts a lot like the Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) with its slick body, creeping movements, prehensile tale with which it stabs people with, and phallic protuberances that do just as much penetrating.
The plot and narrative are purposefully limited and characterisation is barebones at best but the lack of imagination in the alien is disappointing since the focus of the film is all about the fighting between aliens which are little more than knock-offs of the Xenomorph, and some cool-looking ninjas.
There are a variety of ninjas to be seen, all given visual traits to differentiate them: Nezumi the fat blonde cowardly comic-relief ninja, Jinnai the handsome slick-haired one, and Rin, a beautiful female ninja who serves as the source of some dated comedy that revolves around one pervy alien sexually harassing the one female ninja (and the only female character in the entire movie!). Much like the visuals, it is all unimaginative and unsurprising.
The focus is suitably on the fighting which puts the stress more on the performers and the action direction and at times the film comes to life.
The scenes which are orchestrated by the latest generation of low-budget action directors, Yuji Shimomura (Versus, The Warrior’s Way, The Princess Blade) and Kensuke Sonomura (Kunoichi: Ninja Girl, Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle, Nowhere Girl). They lace the film with battles that feature a variety of ninja weapons like katanas, flying chain-blades called shoge, spinning bombs, as well as guns amid lots of physical fights which are imaginative at times as various characters battle with different fighting techniques. I have never seen a ninja perform a suplex on an alien before and the one sexually harassed kick-ass ninja girl does beat the crap out of an alien (director Seiji Chiba doesn’t miss a trick in this battle, ensuring her duel with the alien comes across as dry-humping, every camera angle leering at her body) and send a blade into his man parts – a bit of justice, one might say.
To be fair, Seiji Chiba’s editing and direction is steady and the fights are coherent, just not that exciting. He uses CGI moderately, mostly during the fights, to show the aliens’ weird physical abilities and a fight high in the sky. The best parts of the film are the performers Shuji Kashiwabara as Yamata and Mika Hijii as ninja girl Rin. Both have continued to float in and out of action films, although Kashiwabara has worked on dramas like Who’s Camus Anyway (2005) and horror like The Locker (2004) and The Locker 2 (2004). I would like to see more of Mika Hiji who is wonderfully athletic and sexy.
Overall, this is a rather boring bad film on the same level as Big Tits Dragon. Despite the premise offering up a silly action adventure the film does not take off. The experience is dull because the special effects aren’t so special and the film is stunted by its limited budget when it comes to ambition. The aliens are silly and the action scenes are separated by stretches of dull dialogue and drama which is needless. This is not a bad film in the technical sense. Everything is competently shot and the action is easy to follow. If you have ever wondered what might have happened if the Xenomorph in Alien had come across katana wielding bad-ass ninjas then wonder no more and give this a try. Just lament the lack of a budget and hope for a better stab at the concept from some other team.