Arrghh! Blimey! Shiver me Timbers! Yo Ho Ho! These were the phrases being bandied around as I congregated for the premier of Ninjas vs. Pirates at the 2007 MegaCon Indie Film Expo. The crowded area was swarming with Pirates, stinking of Rum and churlish overconfidence, and surprisingly bereft of Ninjas. Did this mean that somehow the Pirates had won? I checked the shadows for glimpses of hidden Ninjas, but they were too good for my layman's eye. Or maybe they all had to work or something...
Ninjas vs. Pirates is definitely a film that embraces genre. That is why it was a great fit for a venue like MegaCon. In an event where a large percentage of the crowd is dressed up in some type of costume or another, a group of rowdy Pirates can fit right in. Pirates are a hot commodity right now in film and comics (read Sea of Red by Image and Pirate Tales by Boom Studios) and Ninjas have always been timeless.
The real reason you should buy and watch this film is that it epitomizes grass-roots Florida Filmmakers in action. The production value in the project is amazing considering that Director John Theisen (Interlude Films, IndieFilm Jam) shot this on MiniDV in two days for $4000. The stunts and battle sequences, choreographed by Joop Kanata, are excellent. There were many years of Martial Arts experience among the actors and some of them were performers from the local Cirque du Soleil show at Disney. The soundtrack, composed by Brandon Haydon, is high energy and appropriate for the subject matter.
The film starts out with a group of rambunctious Pirates hot for Ninja blood. We cut to an innocuous Florida warehouse where the rival group of Ninjas are having their monthly meeting. To their chagrin, they are spied out by a trained parrot (one of the funniest bits of the film, even if the parrot wasn't too cooperative in the filming) and they disappear into the shadows with puffs of smoke. What happens next is the biggest knock-down drag-out Battle Royale you've seen lately, complete with flips, falls, backstabbing, as many styles of martial arts as you can think of, and yes even a pewter tankard to the grill. The gore is campy and funny and the stunts and battle sequences really shine. What's even better is Theisen sets the ending up so that either faction can claim victory (Go Ninjas!). Talk about walking away satisfied, my team won!
The heavyweight star power is brought to the project by the vocal virtuosity of Michael Winslow. Legendary for his comic roles in Police Academy and Spaceballs as "that sound effect guy," Winslow's participation doesn't disappoint. He overdubs the voices of all of the characters and adds some of his signature specialty: Sound Effects.
The sound at the screening (played over the OCCC's subpar house system) wasn't the best, but it is really clearer on the DVD. Just another reason to buy this film and support Florida Film!
Another reason for you to buy this movie is the Behind the scenes documentary. Director John Theisen, DP Steven Shea, and Fight/Stunt Choreographer Joop Katana are all interviewed, plus you get to see Michael Winslow recording the dialogue track in the studio.
You can buy Ninjas vs Pirates through Interlude Films website at http://www.interludefilms.com/start.html. Check it out for a Rock'em Sock'em good time!
Neil Norman is a freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Central Florida. Neil also works on independent film productions.