Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thunder Ninja Kids: Wonderful Mission

Directed by Charles Lee (a.k.a. Godfrey Ho)
90 minutes. Color.
DVD from Eden Entertainment

Godfrey Ho is either a mad genius or a total A-hole - I just can’t figure out which. Godfrey Ho was born Chi Keung Ho somewhere in Hong Kong in 1948. He started his film career as the assistant director to the brilliant Chang Cheh at the Shaw Brothers Studios under the name God Ho. He also managed to work alongside a young John Woo. It was during this time he met his future business partner Joseph Lai. The story goes that Joseph’s dad bought a failed production company called ASSO Asia Film in 1979 and then put his son in charge. Ho, being a total D, decided that he wanted the company, married Joseph’s sister and muscled his way into becoming a partner. It was there that he supposedly found a store room filled with finished and unfinished films from all over Asia. So what’s a guy like Ho supposed to do with all these half made movies? Well hire American actors, dress them like ninjas and finish the films of course! He would film various scenes, cut them into the films that he found and dub over all the audio to try and make a complete story for each one. The crazy thing is that he purportedly denies having done this. Godfrey Ho has 123 directing credits to his name on IMDB with his last movie being released in 2000 when he retired. My guess is that he ran out of unfinished movies in the store room. He did in fact fully direct a few for Shaw Bros but I would not trust any of the credited films after 1979. He also had a ridiculous amount of aliases since he had to fill in the credits for each movie. Some of the better ones are: Benny Ho, York Lam, Ed Woo, Felix Tong and my favorite Kurt Spielberg. In order to appeal to the overseas market he added Ninja to the title of almost every movie he released. Ninja Terminator, Bionic Ninja, Ninja Destroyer, Ninja Project Daredevils to name a few.

This all brings me to the Thunder Ninja Kids Series. This is a series of action adventure movies that are supposedly for kids but OH BOY, they are completely not for kids. As far as I can tell there are five movies in the series: Thunder Ninja Kids: Wonderful Mission, Thunder Ninja Kids in the Golden Adventure, Thunder Ninja Kids: The Hunt for the Devil Boxer, Thunder Ninja Kids: Little Kickboxer and Thunder Ninja Kids: Robo Kid. The order you watch them in does not matter in the slightest as none of them share the same characters, have the same setting or are even in the same historical time frame. Hell, the Thunder Ninja Kids are only in ONE of the movies yet the four others still have Thunder Ninja Kids in the goddamn title! I was able to find four out of the five Thunder Ninja Kids movies on ebay for super cheap, Robo Kid being the only one I can’t seem to find anywhere. I’m not even sure it exists. So let’s start off with what looks to be the first movie released: Wonderful Mission.

Thunder Ninja Kids
The first thing I noticed with Wonderful Mission is that the title in the movie is Thunder Kids 2: Wonderful Mission. Confused? So was I, but don’t fret, I have scoured the internet and I can’t find any trace of there being a Thunder Kids 1 (please refer back to the first sentence of this review). The movie’s plot is a bit jumbled to say the least; mostly due to the inclusion of the scenes filmed by Godfrey Ho. The movie starts off in ancient, rural China with a bunch of white guys, dressed as “ninjas” wearing padded helmets from the 80’s, who are practicing their sweet moves when their master tells them that an ancient golden Buddha has been stolen by a rival clan. There are two groups looking for the Buddha. One group led by “Cruel Killer” Keith (a rural Chinese name for sure) wants it cause he’s greedy. The other group is a black ninja clan (while they may look badass, they are definitely NOT ninjas) led by “Top Tech Ninja” Lee who wants it for spiritual reasons. Let’s just pause right here for a second. What the hell is a “Top Tech Ninja”? I’ve seen hundreds of ninja movies and I’ve never heard of a “Top Tech Ninja”. No wait, he’s probably really good at computers. Moving on. The white ninjas are tasked in retrieving this golden Buddha cause… I dunno… their master says so. While that is happening, the world’s most annoying child, named Danny,  wanders about and eventually bumps into the random groups of ninjas. He meets a Lord and his daughter, the Princess, and decides to squat at their place for a while. As it turns out the Lord is the one in possession of the Golden Buddha and all hell breaks loose. Also, Danny is friends with two kids that have super powers called the Thunder Ninja Kids. The Thunder Ninja Kids don’t seem to have ever met each other even though they both go by the name Thunder Ninja Kid and wear the same clothes, only one is black and the other is white. Honestly, not a whole lot makes sense in this movie due to the fact that Godfrey Ho spliced two movies together creating a video version of Frankenstein’s Monster. The climax of the film has the Thunder Ninja Kids and Danny teaming up to fight Lee and Keith. After that is done, the most random scene involving the white ninjas occurs and it is glorious. I don’t want to give away what happens but man is it abrupt and awesome.

These guys are totally ninjas
What’s fantastic about Ho is that he’s a pretty decent Martial Arts film director. The scenes that he clearly filmed are fast paced and well choreographed. It’s a shame he has no idea what a “plot” is or how “dialogue” works but HELL! Who the fuck cares when there are ninjas involved?! Another great thing about this flick is that you can tell that Ho decided AFTER the dubbing process that he wanted to market this movie towards kids even though the ninja scenes are violent, showing a bunch of stabbings and blood. Ho cut out all of the swear words from these scenes. Every time one of the ninjas is about to swear the audio drops out leaving dead silence. At first I thought it was just a problem with the poor quality of the film but NOPE! He straight up cut out all of the audio every time a ninja says “Fuck” (even though he wrote all of the dialogue).

This flick is ridiculous in every way, but it’s something to be experienced if you are interested in film as an artistic medium. Godfrey Ho’s movies are like a film collage that only sort of make sense. I’m not sure if there is anything quite like his movies out there. I don’t want to give him too much credit because his movies are terrible (in the best possible way) but, he is, to me, a bit of a pioneer in his own way. I don’t think there will ever be a director like him… mostly because no one is ever going to stumble upon a shit load of unfinished films in the back of a failed studio like he did. Wonderful Mission is a solid first (?) entry in the Thunder Ninja Kids series. It’s dumb and fun and to be honest I probably would not have had the patience to enjoy this as a kid but now as an adult I find it great.

Set Yourself Up:
  • Go to Amazon and buy some red Karate head gear, ninja swords and some white sheets to cut up and make into ninja costumes for you and your buddies.
  • Get jacked up on Mountain Dew and Doritos
  • Go outside and chop off all the little branches from the tree in the backyard, then take everything you don’t care about and chop that shit in half with your kickass ninja swords.

The DVD:
Eden Entertainment spared no expense on this thing. Literally, no expense was spent on this thing whatsoever. There isn’t even a menu for the disc. It just plays and when it’s done it ends. There isn’t even any trailers. It's available for around 5 bucks on eBay but if you don't want to spend that kind of cash it's free to watch on youtube.

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