Many years later, director Sam Firstenberg’s “Ninja III” is an out of left field mix of horror, action, and ninjas, all of which were very popular in the eighties. I was never quite sure what happened to “Ninja” one or two, but when I was a kid, “Ninja III” was a bonafide favorite of mine that I’d indulge in every time it was on network television. Thankfully I’m not alone as “Ninja III” has become a cult classic that stands alone, much like “Troll 2.” There’s just something fascinating about a young woman and aerobics enthusiast being possessed by the ghost of a ninja, who begins to seek revenge on his past foes.
Whether you love or hate “Batman Ninja,” you have to admit DC is at least going for something completely different and radical this time around. With a different crew and approach toward the mythology, “Batman Ninja” is a unique time traveling tale that finds Batman at his most godlike, worshipped as a near invincible warrior in Feudal Japan. Beautifully directed by Junpei Mizusaki, “Batman Ninja” puts the entire aesthetic of the DC character in to some of the wildest anime filters, and it works most of the time. Some concepts land with a thud, but when “Batman Ninja” soars, it’s quite spectacular.
The first time I ever saw “Mortal Kombat” was in 1992 when I stopped by a grocery store on the way to school and saw a pair of guys battling one another on the arcade cabinet. Though “Street Fighter 2” was huge, “Mortal Kombat” made its own waves by realistic character models and some of the most vicious video game violence ever conceived in its era. So came the 1995 movie where not even then was there this much babbling about supernatural forces, and tournaments. “The Journey Begins” works overtime to build a mythology from this simple video game, and fails big time. It feels like someone at Threshold Studios were alerted about the upcoming movie and only had about two weeks to build a respectable animated tie-in.
“Home Alone” begat “3 Ninjas,” which begat cheap, kiddie, straight to video, action fare like “Double Blast.” Mixing the appeal of the adventure movie with kids fighting crime, both of which were oddly prevalent in the decade, “Double Blast” is the epitome of the poorly constructed cash ins that littered video stores. The movie is so bad that often times you can see the pair of heroes burst in to laughter as they engage in martial arts with the film’s comedic henchmen. Jimmy and Lisa are an adventurous brother and sister who love to get in to adventures involving ninjas and martial arts. When their dad, a professional kick boxer and widower named Greg goes out for the day to compete in a tournament, rather than take them along, the pair of kids ultimately gets in to big trouble back in town.
If you were like me in 1992, a nine year old with a love for ninjas, then “3 Ninjas” was one of the most kick ass movies of the decade. I worshiped Bruce Lee, and watched “American Ninja” constantly, so John Turtletaub’s film hit all the right notes with a young lad such as myself. “3 Ninjas” is the product of a time where every single studio sought to cash in on the success of “Home Alone” by offering their own unique twists on the genre. This time rather than Kevin McAllister being a devious little boy with Jigsaw-like talents for making traps, the studio provides us with tween protagonists of varying ages that are also practicing ninjas. As a whole “3 Ninjas” isn’t a lot like “Home Alone,” save for mid-way when the movie’s narrative literally halts to present us with its own truncated version of “Home Alone.”
By 1993, Robocop had turned from a Christ allegory with a vicious blood streak to a bonafide kids’ mascot who was appearing on lunch boxes and Saturday morning cartoons. Thus was the weird period of the eighties and nineties where even folks like Conan, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and heck, even Freddy Krueger became kiddie fodder. The official final go around for Robocop is a tame and pretty dull 1993 film that director Fred Dekker is saddled with, that takes Robocop in to more family friendly territory right down to having a spunky child sidekick. Not much has happened for Robocop and Detroit since the first two films, as the city is still very much under the death grip of crime, while OCP still controls every going on. Dekker has a lot of catching up to do and sadly doesn’t deliver much in the way of a great sequel, as “Robocop 3” essentially repeats a lot of the same beats from the first two films.
When last we saw Sean Davidson, he was a martial arts competitor thrust in to a plot involving a secret organization engineering a huge virus. Now he’s in the military as a top secret enforcer—for some reason. I guess Curtis Jackson had some connections and hooked Sean up over the course of a year? David Bradley is back as pseudo-American Ninja Sean, a man who is by no means a ninja. But he can recognized types of ninjas, so that counts. I think. Thankfully, Michael Dudikoff returns as Joe Armstrong, the original American Ninja who is now a peace corps officer and has turned down all efforts to be turned in to a covert military officer.
It’s out with Michael Dudikoff and in with David Bradley. After a rumored spat on set with Steve James and the director for “Blood Hunt,” David Bradley was brought on as the new American Ninja. His name is Sean Davidson and he’s not so much an American Ninja, as he is a kung fu fighter who fights ninjas a lot in “Blood Hunt.” Despite Bradley’s best efforts to steal the movie as the new charismatic hero, “Blood Hunt” is boring, confusing, and unnecessarily convoluted. I had such a hard time following the plot, and David Bradley doesn’t quite stack up to Dudikoff. Bradley’s character is a hodge podge of action clichés with a tragic back story that is never quite realized well in the film. He shambles through the movie getting in to battles with ninjas while Steve James returns doing his best to inject some fun in the movie.