Alien vs. Ninja Blu-ray Review
Alien vs. Ninja comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation with a 1080i resolution, encoded utilising the
AVCcodec and framed within a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is locked to Region A.
Given the budget and resolution it appears clearly this was made using a digital medium. The result is pretty clear and with reasonable delineation. Plus points are the better-than-expected shadow detail and punchiness of reds. However the reds arguably only appear in any way vivid because the whole colour scheme otherwise is desaturated to the Nth degree. To say it can be somewhat monochromatic would be underplaying it – squint even slightly and it will appear black and white.
Still, with this seemingly an artistic choice it is hard to begrudge such an issue. What is less forgivable is the manner in which the colours stray. Low light actually appears to be better handled than medium light sources as skin tones waver, though always fall towards the wan, and the bleach blonde hair of one character bounces from peroxide to gingerish all too easily. Blacks are underwhelming, the sharpening and EE used to alleviate the flatness and integrate some of the CG can be heavy handed and generally the image is flat, lacking dynamism and downright lifeless. That fine detail disappears into muddiness, noise creeps in and close lines show the telltale shimmer is merely the final nail in the coffin. There are a few redeeming factors – some close ups in bright sunshine bring out more detail and motion, even when hyper-stylised, doesn’t show signs of serious dragging, but the plus points fight a losing battle against a sub-par picture that does little particularly well.
There are two audio options – Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I focussed on the original language track.
Like the film, the soundtrack isn’t designed to highlight subtle orchestration. The throwaway dialogue isn’t treated to a great showing by the centre channel but it is perfunctory, perhaps lacking roundedness to voices that should indicate a certain depth and timbre but it shies away from tinniness as well. The pumping electro-pop score feels tight and sharp, with a healthy amount of width from the fronts, but the implementation of it indicates a few problems with maintaining consistent levels. Some scenes pound and others merely tick along – a disappointing outcome as it offers a lot to the experience when it kicks in with gusto.
The main benefit of hearing these tracks in surround sound is the use of the rear channels. They aren’t honed for delicacy or finesse, they are merely there to throw as many sounds at you as possible and keep your head spinning. The effects are generic, all nigh on identical swishes of swords and whooshes of throwing stars, but the outcome sought after is reached – they all combine to swirl in your ears and create a whirlwind of cacophonous combat noises. Some pans and discrete noises are better than others, and none really reach any great heights, but given the subject material simply having a reasonable lossless track with no obvious flaws should more than suffice.
Alien vs. Ninja – Making of – 19:32
A reasonable little twenty minute making of where we get to hear from director Seiji Chiba as he lets us in on what inspired his vision for the film, as well as the action director detailing some of the effects used and how they achieved them. There is a healthy amount of on-set footage interlaced with the interview clips which will no doubt please fans.
Original Trailer – 3:07
A selection of eight titles from Funimation soon to be released on Blu-ray.
Alien vs. Ninja is a ham-fest full of oddball characters and laughter-effusing splatter. Heads pop, limbs catapult, guts flop about and torsos are wrenched, all in a suitably lo-fi manner. This effluence of claret, entrails and 2D characters will wash over you in a torrid torrent whether you like it or not, those who go with the flow may gain some enjoyment, but the rest may end up wishing they’d never dipped their toes in the water.
The Region A locked disc from Funimation fares reasonably to hold together the sometimes befuddling picture and sound design brought about by a miserly budget and some odd artistic choices. The audio fares better of the two given that it can throw enough at the listener to cover up any lack of subtlety and subsequent inadequacies, but both stay at around the level one would expect from such a feature.
To prepare someone not versed in Japanese splatter cinema for the experience by labelling it “cult” or “niche” is akin to suggesting the residents of Atlantis consider damp-proofing. Alien vs. Ninja is a ridiculous ride through guts and giggles, usually intertwining the two and making no apologies for it. Absurd, yet in an unfathomable way, strangely compelling.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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