What They Say:
The fiercest ninjas of the Iga clan face their toughest enemies – and they aren’t from this planet! A fiery mass crashes in the forest and soon horrifyingly savage creatures reduce the warriors to tasty snacks. But these extraterrestrials have bitten off more than they can chew: swords and throwing stars may fail against unearthly goons, but ninja skills don’t stop at sharp stuff.
The feature contains both English and Japanese 5.1 tracks. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used but the English track was also heavily sampled during the writing of the review. Neither track is a particularly strong 5.1 track as the dialogue is primarily center speaker driven and while the other speakers help set the atmosphere the difference in strength of signal through the speakers means that the dialogue comes across at one volume level but the other speakers are rather soft at that level. Regardless of that the track is free from dropouts or distortions being noticed and the dialogue is clean and clear and what effects need to be conveyed are.
Originally created in 2010 the feature is presented in its 1:85.1 Anamorphic Widescreen ratio. The video isn’t particularly a high point to this release as it wasn’t intended to be a major motion picture type release but it shows it was filmed on a more modest budget. The result of this is a film that lacks the illusion of depth of most large budget films. The smaller budget also shows a bit in some of the obvious CGI scenes and in some scenes that were obviously filmed under the cover of afternoon using a night filter lens-which causes the scene to be much brighter than other scenes supposedly taking place at the same time but obviously either at night or a much later part of the day. The video itself contains grain, noise, some aliasing and a general softness to the image. Blacks are largely strong which is good considering the amount of them in this film.
The release comes in a single DVD clear eco-friendly case. The cover features the main four characters in their battle gear as Yamata has the largest image on the right side of the front as he holds his blade in a dramatic over-his-bicep-pointing-down pose. Jinnai is on the left side in a fighting stance with Rin is just above him with her blade pointing straight out at the observer and the final member of the team is practically invisible underneath Yamata’s arm with the stylized “AVN” and title under that. The picture also has the monster from the film on the top left standing on a rock outcropping with a lightning bolt behind him and the entire picture has a fairly heavy rain effect laid over it.
The back features the title written in a deep red as if in blood with a picture of a couple of the ninjas in the rain barely visible next to it on the right. Underneath that are four stills from the feature and the bottom left has an image of a battle scarred Yamata in a fighting stance with sword at the ready and the copy next to him. The inside of the case features a close up of Yamata on the left side of the case fairly bloodied while the right has a close up of the creature. The DVD uses the image from the front of the DVD cover on it and this release also includes a slip cover that mirrors the releases DVD cover art.
The main menu uses the image from the DVD cover while a heavy rock track plays in the background. The scene select screen uses a splash of blood against a very heavily raining image as a more traditional Japanese song done in a rock-orchestral way plays. Each of the scene choices are represented by small image squares. The audio select screen has the options in the upper right above an image of some of the ninjas from the film about to go into battle are present on the right to lower center and a slasher type track plays. The extra screen uses the image of Yamata from the back again against a splash of blood as an up-tempo techno/rock track plays. The selections are all highlighted in red when chosen and the menu moves quickly to change highlighted option and initiate selections chosen.
The extras on this release are an almost twenty minute making of documentary where the writer/director talks about the film and shows some of the making of scenes and an original trailer for the film. The extras are Japanese 2.0 only and the Making of extra is presented in 4:3 formatted version with black bars all around it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The feature is set during the warring states period in Japan’s history when the proper alliance can change the course of battle but allying with the losing side would mean death for all. During this period a village of unaligned shinobi is trying to decide which side to join and they have different parties out on missions. One of these parties is lead by Yamata, a young and very skilled ninja who is locked into the lower classes because of the circumstances of his birth. After a mission where his party attacks an enemy castle causing a large explosion and forcing Yamata to fight a small group of survivors he sees a meteorite pass close by overhead. Unseen by anyone on the ground it crashes in the forest where is splits open and a mysterious blur of a shape bursts out and disappears into the forest.
Yamata and party return to the village where they are told to report to the village chief. While the elder isn’t overly thrilled with the actions the party took and while he’d like to give Yamata’s team a rest he cannot. The village’s ninja teams are spread out across the land trying to scope out which side it would be most beneficial for them to join and so only Yamata’s team and one other that is just returning are available to investigate the fiery omen that fell from the sky. Yamata and his best friend Jinnai along with the older cowardly inventor in his team set out to meet up with a party lead by the female ninja Rin whom Yamata flirts.
As they are traveling toward the site of the impact they come across a strange three clawed mark on a tree that no one can explain. With nerves on edge they encounter a young man (Nishi) who has blood on him and seems to be in shellshock. A strange cry has them back on defense when suddenly one of the ninja with them is dragged unto the ground and a gusher of blood and organs erupts from there. Things start to get frantic as some more of the members are dragged into the ground and a blur can be seen in the trees which signals even those not pulled underground are not safe. Yamata manages to wound one of the creatures but the surviving ninja are forced to retreat and something horrific happens to one of the ninja who couldn’t escape but was left behind. Now the five surviving ninja will come face to face with these bringers of death and find they have to use every skill they have to survive-and even that may not be enough as the body count starts to rise.
Alien vs Ninja is a title that screams cheese just from the premise and is not ashamed to indulge in it. The piece only plays the most basic of tokens to being a historical piece as the ninja’s armor is the type of leather and armor that would not be out of place in a modern superhero picture. The monsters are also a bit on the cheesy rubber suit kind with some familiar movie alien aspects to them while the CGI is often a bit on the low end scale. The picture has a decent flow to it and some nice wirework though some of the influences for the movie go from not subtle to blatantly- though lovingly-ripped off. It isn’t a high budget film and it often shows as well one gets the occasional night filter recorded fight that clashes with the actual night filmed scenes but with a title like Alien vs Ninja one should go in expecting such things. The comparison in the copy to Army of Darkness didn’t help either as the main character lacks Bruce Campbell’s charisma and ability to chew up scenery which set expectations a tad higher than should have been set for this film.
Alien vs Ninja isn’t a title that is going to win any major awards from the Sci-Fi community and it also doesn’t come anywhere near Army of Darkness as the copy for the series implies but it still delivers a level of cheese that should almost be rated by the American Dairy Council. It is a goofy little bubblegum piece with some decent and creepy special effects gore work. Those looking for a serious work should know better from the title alone but those who enjoy some over the top monster scenes will find this picture to be time they probably won’t regret having spent unless they are lactose intolerant.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Alien vs Ninja Making Of, Original Trailer
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: C+
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: FUNimation
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.