Martial Arts Mania month continues and once again we will be delving into a 90s martial arts classic. Okay it’s not really a classic per se, but if you’re of a certain age, you remember this thing. This particular piece of cinema however, leads me to make a confession, I watched a lot of these movies. And I liked them. I was young! So young and stupid! I own all three original Ninja Turtles movies, two of them in a completely unironic fashion. I still take some enjoyment out of 3 Ninjas (that’s another article) but I’ve never, ever been more ashamed of liking something as a child than I am of this movie. In fact, it has only been as I’ve gotten older than I’ve been comfortable letting people know I did like it.
It was 1997, early summer. My dad was working that weekend, and I believe my sister was at a friend’s house, so my wonderful, amazing mother took me to the movies. My mom had always been good about letting me pick the movies we went to see together, and later on in my life she’d take me to see Sleepy Hollow even though I wasn’t 17 yet and no one wanted to see it but me. On this particular day, my 11 year brain still unabashedly enjoyed Power Rangers and while it was decidedly uncool at that time, I did not care. That year on Power Rangers the theme was cars, which I thought was bullshit, so I was primed for something like it. Not to mention Jurassic World wasn’t out. So what did I pick, when my mom told me we were going to the movies? I picked Warriors of Virtue.
Don’t worry, I apologized to my mom when I was 16 for that one. She accepted, she’s very gracious. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure, let’s go over what I was drinking in, in the downtown Cleveland movie theatre in 1997.
Kids like Ninja Turtles and Football Right?
Ryan Jeffers is a 13 year old boy in smalltown dullsville, middle of nowhere. He’d really like to play football like all the older kids he idolizes, for some reason. Ryan has a leg brace and can’t play so he’s forced to be the team’s waterboy, and the whole team is terrible to him. Why they’re incredibly shitty to the waterboy with a disability who loves football, I don’t know, but hopefully Ryan is spitting in their water. After school, Ryan likes to go hang out a Chinese restaurant owned by one of only a handful of asian characters in this martial arts movie. (Trust me, after this thing Doctor Strange will look great.) Anyway Ryan’s chinese friend, owns a chinese restaurant (obviously) in which he uses martial arts to cook his food (no really). After his kung-fu kung-pao demonstration he gives Ryan some of the kind of hackneyed asian mysticism that only Hollywood produces, and a big dumb MacGuffin in the form of a book.
Afterwards, Ryan and his friend meet up with a few football players and their girlfriends, who apparently morph into a biker gang at night. And by biker, I mean bicycles. They’ve decided that Ryan can join their gang if he passes an initiation. Trust me, I can hear your groaning across time and the internet. They take Ryan into a sewer and tell him he has to walk across a beam over a giant whirlpool of death to the other side. It’s at this point that I start to question if the bullies understand they will go to jail if the kid with the leg brace dies during their stupid “initiation”. Of course Ryan attempts to do it and falls into the giant whirlpool of death, which, unfortunately for us, is a portal to a world called Tao.
Tao, by the way, is a shoddily built soundstage made to look like a forest. Ryan doesn’t seem too concerned about him being in another dimension or anything, but he, of course, notices his leg works now. He is immediately set upon by a mob of the most obvious evil goons in cinema, who mysteriously get their asses kicked by…something. He’s then met by Elysia (Marley Shelton in a white dress) who whisks him off on some Cirque du Soleil wirework to a village. The village is home to Ancient One/Master Splinter rip off Master Chung, who leads a group of kung-fu wielding kangaroos with powers over the chinese elements. I promise I’m not on LSD, this is totally a real thing. Elysia explains to Ryan in a giant info dump that Tao is in danger because its Final Fantasy esque Life Springs are being drained by an evil mastermind named Komodo who uses the Life Springs to keep himself young. Doubly bad, the kangaroos’ leader Yun has gone into exile because he accidentally killed a guy. So Ryan has to unite the kangaroos and stop Komodo and bring balance to the blah blah blah blah blah. Look, if I describe the whole plot of this thing you’ll never watch it, just go put it on, there are things you need to see.
Does MD stand for Movie Doctor?
The first thing you’ll notice when you look up anything about Warriors of Virtue is an awful lot of ‘MD’s after all the producers names. This is because four doctor brothers decided one day that making a movie wasn’t so hard after all and they could totally do it. Predictably when someone out of the blue decides they can do this, the result is almost not really a movie, scenes just flit by at the speed of light; simple things are explained in exhaustive detail while important things are just left out of the plot entirely. It’s telling that the biggest problems in this movie have nothing to do with the fact that it’s a Ninja Turtles ripoff with kangaroos. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that said kangaroos are uncanny valley horrors. Even if one of them is played by Doug Jones. Yeah, Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth Doug Jones.
No one seems to be sure what the Warriors’ powers actually are. They have element powers, but only half of them ever actually use their elements. They each also have individual virtues which only are actually mentioned because one particular kangaroo, their leader Yun, sucks at his. The characters all around have no consistency whatsoever. The Warriors aren’t a team and as soon as their leader comes back all is forgiven. Elysia switches sides in a way that seems less like emotional turmoil and more like switching outfits. And as is usually the case, no one is given enough time, most of the movie and almost all of the characters are just a sort of sketch of a movie. To use an analogy the producers would understand, it’s like someone performing heart surgery using a chainsaw. You can do some of the things you need to do, but it isn’t going to be successful. It probably seems like I actively despise this movie..I do. Fortunately for me, and for you, we have a Bad Movie Hero, who saves the day more than anyone ever has.
“Does Purple suit me?”
Once again we have one our greatest bad movie villains. This time it’s Komodo the evil world destroying warlord played by Angus MacFadyen. Some of you might remember him as Robert the Bruce in Braveheart where he was perfectly admirable. So coming off a nice big movie what did he decide to do? He decided the play the most ridiculous villain ever. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Komodo is addicted to some mineral from the Life Springs, so MacFadyen decided to play him as a drug addict; or maybe he was going for some kind of Emperor Nero thing. Either way this performance is absolutely bananas. Normally with these villains I sit here and tell you how good a job this great actor did with the terrible script, how they really tried their hardest. That’s not true here, MacFadyen is clearly just chewing scenery he is giving the hammiest most over the top performance he can and it is glorious. I mean just look at him, see how utterly fabulous he is
When you see Komodo just laying on his hanging-flower-swing-bed, rubbing his temples and growling at any minion that speaks, “Do Not! Think! Thoughts!” You can’t help but want him to win. When you see him dressing down the minion who let Ryan get away, you’re so happy to see him pull the lever to send him into his ridiculous pit of doom. It’s no wonder his scenes wind up dominating most of the script, he’s more entertaining than anything else in the movie. There’s a reason Clarice and Cole have their own secret version of Warriors of Virtue where Komodo just loves pretty things and is sexually repressed. It makes his scenes way, way better. Speaking of, some genius cut all his scenes together, enjoy
After that all I can say is this, when we have a bad movie night with the Killer Moose we have a mascot, a mascot I was lovingly gifted by my fellow Killer Moose, and here he is, my very own Komodo action figure, and yes this is my actual one.
So do yourself a favor and watch Warriors of Virtue you’ll learn that just because you’re a doctor doesn’t mean you’re good at everything, and sometimes the worst performance ever, could be the best performance ever.