As a kid, one of the first movie franchises outside of the Disney Empire that I remember watching religiously as a kid was the 3 Ninjas saga. For those of you who don’t know about the original film, “3 Ninjas” was released during a time where America was taken by a literal ninja storm of Japanese influence (Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Saban and 4Kids Entertainment followed suit (VR Troopers, Superhuman Samurai Cyber Squad, Big Bad Beetleborgs, etc). To this day we Americans have been unable to escape the tried-and-true Asian invasion (Samurai Jack, Ninja Warrior, Shaolin Showdown, Ninja-tagline ad nauseam).
For the record of Hollywood greed, this engine was not immune to sequels either, and 3 Ninjas had three (Kick Back, Knuckle Up, and High Noon at Mega Mountain).
Of course as a kid I would think this was the most awesome stuff to watch. Kids my age were kicking ass, and as one as naïve as a child, I was immune to the type of humor that the adult in me would find ham-fisted and cheesy.
In addition, the old, wise Oriental sage stereotype is in full force. Victor Wong had to have realized at some point that he was being used as the old Asian master guy that many actors from Southeast Asia/Japan seem to be utilized for. Jackie Chan always seems to find himself in stunt roles. Chun-Yow Fat expressed discontentment for always playing the sage-like monk, and regretted the typecast that “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” placed for him on an international level. Pat Norita will forever be remembered first for his roles in “The Karate Kid” and “Happy Days” second.
However, for all its flaws…given that everything is being remade now, if I were to see a movie franchise revitalized, I’d see this one, and here’s why:
1. While others might try and place ninja kids as far into 2011 as possible and beyond (much like how the Karate Kid re-make allowed Jaden Smith to do a crazy backflip-kick instead of Danny LaRusso’s crane stance for the final point), I’d argue that using everyday items as weapons was what gave the original 3 Ninjas film appeal in the first place. Also, the plot was simple, but deep enough for growth. For example, seeing Snyder as a more developed villain as well as featuring more facets of his dojo/network would’ve made him much more fearsome. Would it take away from the “family-movie” status it had? Yes, but if Nickelodeon can play The Fifth Element uncut, we can have our dark ninja movie.
2. The plot for “3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up” was amazing. The three brothers were placed in a situation with both racial and environmental elements: the land needed to be saved from a toxic waste baron, and the dumping itself threatened the land of a Native American tribe to the point of death. Some kind of underdog, grassroots movement masquerading as a ninja movie put this sequel well ahead of its time, and featuring noted actors like Jack Napier, Vincent Schiavelli, as well as the original kids from the first movie. If Disney has taught us anything, it’s that badasses like The Rock and Vin Diesel can be brought to their knees with “family-friendly” comedy. But again, why not inject some of their worlds into the G-rated mix, and watch it boil?
Then again, maybe the plot was slightly old; Captain Planet had long since came and went. You be the judge.
3. An untapped cinema market in the realm of re-makes is making movies darker than they were before (with the exception of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” franchise). To this day I debate myself endlessly over who was a better Joker: Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger. Injecting the real-life, hard-copy stuff of the late 80s/early 90s with the modern desensitization of the present, and a little CGI, and this film has potential.
4. Chuck Norris was an American ninja, of sorts. Yes, I’m aware he was a martial artist, but a good number of people I know like to blend karate with ninjas, in their minds. To say that fanboys would watch this revamped movie in droves could be an understatement. Hell, give Mr. Norris a role like Hulk Hogan got in High Noon.
If you survived all my fanboyism, here’s the point I’m trying to make:
Let’s remove the camp from family films of old. Or better yet, revitalize some interesting ideas and make them darker. It would seem that remakes are the wave of the future (the only original movie of recent years I can think of is Scott Pilgrim; NOTHING was original about Avatar), so if we’re gonna do them, let’s make them better so that we’re not complaining about the fact that Hollywood is remaking films AND making them suck.