Saturday, December 08, 2007

Video Game Movie Review: DOA: Dead or Alive

DOA: Dead or Alive actually came out over a year ago in Australia. It took almost a year to have a limited release in the United States, and pretty much tanked. It made $260 thousand in 505 screens its opening weekend and moved out of most of those screens very quickly. According to IMDB it wasonly at 6 screens two weeks later. So, it probably shouldn't have been released in the US after all. For comparison, Bloodrayne made 1.5 million its opening weekend in 985 screens.

Was the movie really that bad? Was it worse than Bloodrayne (which if you read my earlier post was quite terrible)? Hells no. Was it any good? No, not really. Unless you enjoy cheesy movies (which I do). Then, it might be good for a laugh. Firstly, one problem is Dead or Alive isn't the most popular video game series, so the movie might not have mainstream appeal. Although, if I say the game with the "boob physics", it's more recognized for than than the actual name of the game. Since other games have probably copied their procedural boob bounce model, it's specifically the game where you can use the "age" value in the options menu to adjust how much bounce there is. 99 years old is a good age, right? I think if real 99 year olds saw that much bounce, they might have a heart attack, but I don't there are any that have played the game. Perhaps they wouldn't need viagra then? Maybe the problem is that old women are all wrinkly not attractive at all, and that's why old men have erectile dysfunction. Perhaps I can talk about old mens' penis problems some other time. I need to focus on the task at hand – reviewing DOA: Dead or Alive! (Yes, the actual movie is called DOA: Dead or Alive. I think Dead or Alive by itself was already used.)

The Dead or Alive series has a story (I think), but after playing several of the games, I am unable to figure out what it is. It's only told in the instruction manual and minute long pre-rendered scenes when you beat the game, but the cinematics are more about showing off the most CG skin the ESRB will allow than they are plot exposition. So, the movie could be true to the video game story. I'm not really sure. I read some stuff about the plot on Wikipedia, but it was pretty dull, so I'm just going to go off the small amount of stuff I've picked up from the games and my brief perusal of everyone's favorite online source of misinformation.
The movie focuses on the characters of Tina, Christie and Kasumi. If they were your favorite fighters, (no one plays DOA for the guys) then you may enjoy the movie. A little. If you like Hitomi or Koroko, they aren't even in the film. Lei Fang is in approximately 30 seconds of it. Helena who was a dignified opera singer in the games (and my favorite character) is instead a ditzy tween who spends most of her time in a bikini and roller blading. Ayane who is a ninja, and hails from Japan is played by a honkie... (If you aren't hip to the lingo that means a white person) I thought this was an interesting casting choice. A white woman playing a Japanese woman... Hmmm.... Seems like a stretch for Natassia Malthe of Bloodrayne 2 fame, but considering the original Ayane didn't have much personality anyway, I guess she did alright. In the game, she was the half sister of Kasumi because Kasumi's father's brother raped her mother. They didn't seem to be related in the film because Ayane was in love with Kasumi's brother Hayate (her half brother in the video game). If they were, it would have made the film more interesting. Anyone reading see Lonestar?

Kasumi was played by Devon Aoki, who is half Japanese and not attractive at all, but I guess she is the only person fractionally Japanese in Hollywood, so any time there is a part for a Japanese woman, she gets a call. (It seems Ken Watanabe is the only Japanese guy in Hollywood, but at least he's Japanese and can act) Her acting was appalling, but on the bright side, her deadpan performance did make me snicker from time to time. They should have cast Zhang Ziyi who is Chinese but at least looks the part more and is incredibly talented actress. I didn't think she could act until I saw her in 2046, and she blew me away with an absolutely amazing performance. Hmmm... Then again, with acting chops like that, doing this crapfest would probably be beneath her. Well, she could at least kick ass like in Crouching Tiger or Flying Daggers. I guess for cheesy movies you need bad acting, so perhaps I'd ruin the film by recasting it. The only person who really “fit” in the movie was Jamie Pressely. She played Tina and seemed to recognize the film for what it was and really seemed to enjoy laying on the cheese. Unfortunately, she had a grating southern drawl that grew rather annoying as the movie went on, which sucked. I hope that's not her natural voice. I don't recall her sounding like that in other movies, but I don't really recall what other movies she was in...

The plot was somewhat similar to the games although there were a few changes. Firstly, it starts out with a lengthy introduction to each of the three main characters. Kasumi is a princess of some crazy ninja city in the middle of a boxed canyon. Perhaps she lives in Blood Gulch? She does have a CG palace, which looks nice and fake. She jumps 14 feet over a giant gate that apparently opens up to a sheer rock wall, and she has a portable hang gliding kit, which seems odd because it seemed like an old fashioned ninja village. Apparently not. That or ships to palaces in boxed canyons on top of sheer rock walls bordering a large body of water. Maybe they do. I don't live in Japan, so I wouldn't know. Anyway, this all seems perfectly plausible except for what happened next. A magical throwing star sought her out while hang gliding out of the forbidden temple. It told her that she was invited to the DOA tournament. It didn't tell her instructions or anything, but she managed to get there. These problems were solved by an omnipotent camera cut and a very liberal suspension of disbelief.

Tina was introduced in a less ridiculous but perhaps less entertaining way. She was a pro wrestler but frustrated because people didn't think she could fight for real. Comforted by having a private yacht and a dude to drive it for her, she ended up fighting off pirates trying to exploit the lawlessness of international waters. After warding them off, she received another flying star inviting her to the competition. Apparently, the stars have super GPS trackers or something as well as some sort of perpetual motion propulsion system because her boat was in the middle of the South Pacific.

Christie murderous tendencies have been downplayed and now she's more thief than assassin. In her introduction, her partner/lover turned her in to the cops, so she wouldn't get away with the money they stole in order to get her to attend the DOA tournament with him, so they can steal even more money. Seems like it'd be easier just to ask if she'd like to steal more money. What's 1 million when you can have 100 million? No apparently, she needed the elaborate ruse. She's very willing to forgive someone who could have condemned her to a life behind bars for the rest of her days. Maybe the guy is really good in the sack?

After THOSE introductions, how can the movie not be solid gold? They found creative ways to work in the theme and spirit of the video game – T & A. They had a bikini clad volleyball game true to the source material as well as frequent close ups on the T & A regions. They had a duel in the rain in wet skimpy clothes. It would seem that they knew their audience despite the poor success of the film.

Although the characters were quite similar and the general theme stayed the same, the general story arc made a bit less sense than the DOA video games. Yeah, DOATEC is some super evil corporation doing evil research, but instead of cloning the combatants or creating the ultimate fighter they want to create the ultimate... sunglasses. I wish I were making that up, I really do. In fact I wish I could come up with things that stupid because I think this blog would be way funnier if I wrote stories about organizing fight tournaments to make high tech sunglasses, but instead I just complain about the game industry! Although, perhaps I'm doing something right because I think this blog gets more hits than people who saw the movie. Well, at any rate, they collected data about all the fighters by implanting them with nano-technology, which provided them with HUD for the video feeds when they monitored the fights. They actually found a way to work in power bars! BRILLIANT! I wish I could be a Hollywood screenwriter. If I ever had writer's block, I could either come up with a random string of technobabble to resolve any situation or just use nanotechnology. Anyway, these ultimate sunglasses were being sold to terrorists all over the world because they used the fighter's nanotech collected data to allow the wearer to predict the weaknesses of rival fighters in hand to hand combat. Now, I can't see how Osama Bin Laden being the world's greatest martial artist would have any value at all to his terrorist group, but maybe I lack the imagination of today's Hollywood writers. Perhaps that's why my touching screenplay about a 12 year old girl dying of leukemia who's parents die in a car crash that teaches an alcoholic nurse the value of life was not optioned. Maybe now that the brilliant writers of this movie are striking, it's my chance!

Although perhaps the humor inherent in the ridiculous plot was unintentional, they seemed to purposefully go for humor in the relationship between Helena and one of the scientists in charge of nano-monitoring/sunglass technology. They had him imagine talking with Helena, Helena constantly forgetting his name and other silly stuff. I actually got a kick out of this intentional humor too. It's no “Big Lebowski” but was funny. Not as funny as the super kung fu sunglasses, but amusing nonetheless.

In general, I wasn't really bored during this film, which is pretty high praise for a video game adaptation and more than can be said for Bloodrayne 2. Normally, there's plenty of slow and boring parts as they try to flesh out a 5 line summary of a game into an hour and a half motion picture epic. So, would I recommend this film? I guess it depends on if delight in cheesy movies like myself. If so, you'll probably be entertained. Could your time be better spent elsewhere? Most likely! As I mentioned above, 2046 is absolutely brilliant, and I bet you haven't seen it! The Big Lebowski gets better every time you see it, and I've seen it well over 20 times to prove it! But, if you are looking for extremely cheesy fun and planning on making some popcorn and inviting friends over, I think you'll have a good time. Here's the total turd review (keep in mind less turds is better):

Production values: 4.0 – Not too bad here. Much better than an Uwe Boll film. Not a super CG fest like blockbusters these days, but that may be a good thing.

Story: 7.0 – The story was actually ridiculous. This isn't necessarily bad because it made the movie quite amusing.

Action: 3.0 – There was a reasonable amount of fighting - at least enough to keep me entertained. The action wasn't as amazing as “Live Free or Die Hard”, but the story was even stupider to make up for it.

Faithfulness to the video game source: 2.0 – It was darn close. There were boobs, butts, bathing suits and some crazy ass scheme by the evil DOATEC corporation. The companion they added to Christie was annoying. However, the companion they added to Helena was amusing. But as far as video game movies go, this is one of the closest. That's kind of sad actually.

Laughs: 2.0 – I got a kick out of it. (Less turds means funnier) Not the funniest movie ever, but the sheer ludicrousness of the story made me laugh.

Total turds: 3.0 – I can sort of recommend this. I enjoyed it. It was crap, but not unbearable Uwe Boll crap. It's more akin to popcorn movie summer blockbuster crap. The story is no worse than any Steven Sommers blockbuster and the acting is on par. (Did you see Van Helsing? Dracula's brides had the worst overacting I've seen outside of community theater!) Sure, there's not as much CG, but I think this movie did a good job of embracing the campy-ness, and so I enjoyed it.

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