Reconsidering My Cinematic Childhood: 3 Ninjas (1992)

Due to time, I am starting a new segment on the blog, what follows will be a bit of an explanation/diatribe of sorts.  In the case of this post it will still fall within the kung fu marathon:

As I become more familiar with my use and presence on Letterboxd, I am decided that making really quirky lists is proving to be a great way of wasting my seemingly minimal amount of free time, but since it requires little effort and far less dedication that writing out a blog post, I justify the act in that it is still allowing me to consider film, even if in a wildly joking manner.  For example, I have a running list of films in titled "movies that make the 80's look like the coolest and grossest place to live simultaneously" which considers a breadth of movies from the era that are wildly over-the-top, but highly engaging, including wonderfully terrible movies like Miami Connection and more well-established classics that are still kind of awful, such as Top Gun.  Another list has come to my mind as a result of this kung fu marathon, when I watched 3 Ninjas.  The title for this Letterboxd list will be something along the lines of "movies from my childhood that have not aged well," because 3 Ninjas is certainly a prime example of this dilemma.  My brother and I used to repeatedly watch this film and hope to obtain the, what we thought at the time were, kabuki masks worn by the brothers.  Revisiting it for this marathon, made it rather apparent that it not only failed to maintain even the slightest degree of nostalgia that I have obtained for movies that are far from perfect, a work like Space Jam being perhaps the best example.  3 Ninjas cannot even maintain the aforementioned nostalgia factor because the movie is both very dated and indeed not even well made.  It is clearly a work that was rushed through production, evident through sporadic editing and filming that make the presence of stunt doubles so blatant and a narrative with the flimsiest of character arcs and an understanding of fashion that extends to about a solid three months of 1992.

This segment will involve me attempting to reflect on what I might have picked up on as a child that would have made me adore this movie and then I will juxtapose it with the reality, or new opinion I might have formed with a more matured cultural palette, as well as a much broader awareness of the art of cinema, both in function and theory.  First, I seem to recall being really fond of the films presence of the Japanese grandfather, played by Victor Wong.  Something about his sagely presence seemed hip and desirable.  Now, I realize how exploitative the figure was, as well as how stereotypical the figure proved to be, particularly in contrast to the whiteness of the kids around him.  In fact, assuming that he was supposed to be their grandfather, the possibility of the three children having any amount of Asian heritage seems genetically unlikely, thus leading to another point of reconsideration as I look back on this film.  When I was younger, I am certain that some of my joy in this film came from its brevity.  Clocking in at under an hour and thirty minutes, the film is paced at a frantic speed, jumping between scenes inexplicably and incorporating characters, none of which seem to go anywhere.  I am aware that this could have been a result of the producers demanding the filmmaker cut away scenes to make it watchable, for children, like myself at the time, whose attention spans would have popped off by the hour thirty marker.  Yet, what they chose to keep makes as little sense at what is clearly missing, as though whoever did get tasked with editing was doing so out of spite.  For the third consideration, I will get a bit Freudian and admit that one of the elements that might have drawn me to the film was the tenuous relationship between the father and sons, of absence and indifference.  Thematically it is something that still strikes a cord with me when executed brilliantly, as is the case with Puffy Chair, or to a lesser degree in The Great Santini.  Here, however, it is just done with little concern for the psychological effects or the nature of such a distancing relationship on a family structure.  Like the rest of the film it is dealt with hastily and unconvincingly.

As you can tell by this revisitation, I am less than thrilled about this film.  While I do not foresee this being a super frequent variant on the regular blog postings, it is something that I hope to try here and there.  Inclusions in the future are likely to be films like Small Soldiers, Gordy and A Walk to Remember, which I reacted to with great enjoyment at a younger, pre-cinephile age that might not hold up with a more critical lens.  However, on this quest, I do hope to occasionally find a work that has become even more profound with age, unfortunately, that was not the case with 3 Ninjas.

No comments:

Post a Comment