DVD Review: Norwegian Ninja

Hi all…

First, let me say that I usually love parody and films that are over the top. When I saw Dead Snow last year, I was overjoyed. Nazis and zombies in the snow seemed a perfect fit, and Norweigian director Tommy Wirkola treated that combination with the humor it so richly deserved.

So when I saw a press release for Norwegian Ninja from the producers of Dead Snow, I hoped it might have the same energy and humor of the Nazi zombie movie. I was very wrong. And I won’t say that it was a bad film, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t at all what I expected.

Norwegian Ninja promotional shot, showing Jon ...
Image via Wikipedia

In 1984, Arne Treholt – a high-ranking Norwegian diplomat – was tried and convicted as a spy for the Soviet Union. This much appears to be true. Norwegian Ninja takes this premise and explores a bizarre “What if?” scenario that shows Treholt as a hero, not a traitor. And in this bizarre alternate universe he was the leader of a secret group of ninjas working for Norway’s King Olav. And to top it all off, there’s a secret CIA-led group running around the world performing terrorist acts and blaming them on the Soviets to encourage the eventual destruction of the USSR.

Though I found certain scenes funny, I’m honestly not sure how much of the film is meant to be amusing. Some parts hit me in the vein of the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me while others hit me like the old action movies of the 1970s like Death Wish with Charles Bronson. The use of ninja abilities (like appearing and disappearing in a cloud of smoke), feng shui (as a magical shield to keep unwanted visitors from their island) and enlightenment (shown by an absurd inner light glowing from the person’s head) were mixed with eastern philosophy, explosives, and a bizarre ideological battle between hidden para-military operations…

As icing on this strange cake, the whole film is tinted to make it look like it was made in the 1970s or 1980s, with the early washed out colors in every scene. There were multiple scenes that used obvious models (for the ninja island and their mountain hideaway), which might have been meant in homage to those 1970s action films but I just found them obvious and a bit jarring.

I can’t say I really enjoyed the film as a whole all that much, but I did enjoy certain scenes. The use of kite-suits as two ninja apprentices battled while climbing majestic mountains to gain the right to the title of “ninja” was amazing. Other than the scenes from Transformers: Dark of the Moon where squadrons of soldiers glided out of the sky, I’d not seen these suits used anywhere. But it was fun to see the final scenes in Norwegian Ninja as well as the raw footage in the extras to get a sense of the speed they were traveling at and how close they were to rugged mountain cliffs.

Included along with the film on the DVD are many special features. The three deleted scenes were definitely unnecessary and a bit verbose in spots, so I could see why they were cut. The bonus scenes include quite a bit of extra footage that didn’t make it into the film, including the kite-suits and footage of the explosions done. I actually preferred the clean footage to the tinted footage used in the film for most of these. Also included are six featurettes, featuring interviews with actor Mads Ousal (who plays Arne Treholt in the film), writer-director Thomas Capplen Malling, and producer Eric Vogel.

I anticipate that Norwegian Ninjas will become a cult classic to some people, especially if those folks like bizarre alternate histories. Perhaps if the writer-director Thomas Cappelen Malling had added a bit more obvious humor it would have stuck, but this film didn’t do anything for me. Maybe next time.

Instead, I recommend you take another look at Dead Snow. 🙂

This article first appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

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Upcoming Movie Schedule (April 2011 – August 2011)

Hey there…

Considering that Summer Movie season (yes, I know it’s just Spring) will be starting up soon, I wanted to make sure I had my calendar of movie releases ready to go…

I’ll mark these with an asterisk (*) system…

  • * = Renter
  • ** = Film to see with my family (possibly)
  • *** = Film to see with my wife
  • **** = Film to see no matter what

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

  • X-Men: First Class, June 3****
  • Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, June 10*
  • Super 8, June 10****
  • Green Lantern, June 17****
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins, June 17**
  • Cars 2, June 24****

July 2011

August 2011

I find it interesting that there are more movies in April than in June or July that I want to see… Why is that?

Question: Did I miss any that you’re looking forward to? If so, what are they and why should I see them?

–Fitz

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Trailer Time: Apollo 18 – April 22, 2011

If this trailer is any indication, Apollo 18 is one I’ll miss at the box office. It looks like a bad rehash of two great movies – Apollo 13 and Alien. And, funny enough, it makes trailers for the new Michael Bay film Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1, 2011) look really good. That scares me…

The official synopsis is:

Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972, was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

Check out more at the movie website – Apollo18Movie.net.

Question: Will *YOU* go see this film? Leave me a comment below and explain why!

–Fitz

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