Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- Hawkeye, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Ultron character posters

It took Marvel long enough to release higher-res images of these posters, but it's taken even longer for me to get these posts out, so I guess I can't complain. Let's look at what's supposed to pass for Hawkeye in these movies:

As usual, we've got an unnecessarily cluttered outfit (the head of Marvel's costume department must be a huge fan of '90s superhero comics). Would it really be so bad if he wore something that actually looked like a vest that someone might wear in real life? You can see a half-hearted attempt to incorporate the purple from the comics without alienating non-comics readers that think purple is 'gay.'

I swear, he's not gay.

The pose here strikes me as particularly lazy. I'm not sure why they decided these posters should be action scenes without any action. It's not like anyone would want a poster of a superhero fighting something. It would have been so easy to find an effective action pose for any of these characters, but especially so when you have a prop like a bow to play with. It's true that Jeremy Renner's acting ability only goes so far, but I'm sure they could have done better than a bored, slightly confused look offscreen, like he's trying to solve a simple algebra equation.

At least Captain America is showing even the slighted amount of emotion in these posters. You even get a sense of his uprightness and determination in this one. It's not enough to make a good poster, but at this point I have to take what I can get.

On the other hand, we get a better look at whatever the hell is happening on his costume, and it's not good. Cap's comic costume is an uncomplicated design that works both conceptually and visually.

If they were looking for something more subdued, the first thing to do would be not going with a character called freaking 'Captain America.' Failing that, they could have at least stuck with the costume from The Winter SoldierI have my own complaints about that one, but at least it was better than the new one.

Next up is the Scarlet Witch, doin' one of her spells:

The first thing I notice here is the lack of attacking robots. Instead, we've just got two standing on the building in the back looking around in confusion. They must have been recharging their batteries when everyone else went off to the fighting.

But back to Scarlett. Er, Wanda. Well, she's standing there, which honestly is more of a decent pose than any of these others. She's using her power, doing the Marvel magic finger thing. She's kind of wearing red, I guess. And they got the whole 'gypsy' thing across, thankfully without some of those giant hoop earrings that I'm tempted to rip out of girls' ears whenever I see them (seriously, don't wear those, they do not look good). I wonder what they're going to do about her when she shows up again after this. Is she always going to wear the same clothes? The comics' Scarlet Witch has a great costume, but I don't see it making sense in these movies.

I've been waiting for a goofy Quicksilver poster, and yeah, it's goofy, but I still can't help being disappointed. It's just another boring image with the truncated figure taking up most of the frame. Pietro looks like a huge douche, which is accurate to the comics I guess. His outfit was never that great in the comics, but this looks like some kind of Under Armour shirt that would end up sitting on the rack because nobody would want a shirt with such crappy visual design. I don't like how they've portrayed his speed so far in the trailers, and this poster doesn't change that. Quicksilver isn't the Flash, his speed is usually less exaggerated, but I doubt the movie will match that. On the plus side (if there is one), this is the only poster that features at least some sense of action, with Pietro running away from the robots flying after him. Still crappy.

Our final poster is of our Big Bad, Ultron himself:

Is it another crappy poster? Kind of, yeah, but at least we can see what we're looking at better than we can on any of the others. Forbush forbid that we see his entire body in the frame though. As for his design, he basically looks like the comics' Ultron, except for being made out of CGI instead of adamantium. However, the movies again opted for excessive and unnecessary clutter all over. While his comics body did tend to be a little generic, his head/face design is iconic for a reason:

Because it's awesome.

Is the new head/face better than the old? Well, it gets you facial emotiveness I guess. But personally, I think it's a big step down. It reminds me of the way these movies always have the hero take his mask/helmet off so you can see their face, even if it makes no sense in context. Hell, these posters keep doing the same thing with Iron Man. I this case, I think it could have been really interesting to have a villain who's face was just a blank, emotionless mockery of a human face. Anyone talking to him would have no idea of what he was thinking or what his reaction to things was. If someone was trying to talk him out of his plans, they (and the audience) would be left wondering if their words were getting through, at least until Ultron responded (probably with an energy blast). 

Either way, I don't find the movie's Ultron design interesting in the slightest, but at this point I shouldn't be surprised.

I'll let you play The Matching Game on your own. At this point I feel like I know all those duplicating little background robots on a personal level.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Daredevil Season 1 review (spoiler free!)

Daredevil is the first of what will be at least five Marvel shows being produced by Netflix, all set in the same shared universe as the Marvel Studios movies, as well as their other shows, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. The show follows attorney Matt Murdock, who was blinded as a child in an accident involving radioactive waste that increased the sharpness of his remaining senses to superhuman levels. Murdock and his law partner Franklin 'Foggy' Nelson struggle to establish their firm while trying to expose Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin of the New York underworld.

Daredevil adheres fairly closely to its source material, with pretty much all the cast members being well chosen for their characters. Charlie Cox makes a great Matt Murdock, convincingly portraying both his blindness and his enhanced senses, and Elden Hanson provides a perfect level of comic relief as Foggy Nelson. Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page feels a bit less concretely conceived, but doesn't do a bad job. Even the actors that don't resemble their comic counterparts as closely, specifically Vondie Curtis-Hall as reporter Ben Urich and Bob Gunton as Leland Owlsley, surprised me with how well their characters worked in the show.

Scott Glenn as Stick became my favorite character almost as soon as he appeared. His abrasive demeanor and borderline-abusive treatment of Matt immediately altered the entire dynamic of the show and gave a very different feel to his episode. I hope he returns in future seasons.

My only complaint character-wise is that, in an attempt to make him more sympathetic, Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk, while still well cast, doesn't quite manage to feel like the big villain he is made out to be. He seems to be the head crime lord by default, without actually doing anything to warrant that position, and his speeches about trying to help the city don't make a lot of sense.

Although the focus is on the fight against Fisk, it shifts at times to other adversaries, which tend to be more interesting. In particular, I liked the episodes focusing on the Japanese side of things, which did a perfect job of playing with the supernatural elements associated with those comics without ever bringing in anything overtly supernatural. Once the story narrows everything down to Fisk toward the end, it feels a bit underwhelming compared to what came before.

There are lots of references to both the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the comics, scattered throughout the series, but thankfully they are handled in a way that keeps them from feeling out of place or distracting. In fact, outside of the show being set in the aftermath of the destruction of New York at the end of Avengers, viewers unfamiliar with the comics or other movies would probably think most of them were just part of the show.

The entire show keeps a serious and realistic tone that fits the story it tells, but the story sometimes feels like it lacks the forward momentum it thinks it has. There are lots of subplots with different characters that don't always go somewhere, but overall things work fairly well.

Things I liked about Daredevil:

The cast is great.

The exploration of Matt Murdock's background and character was very effective.

The tone is perfect.

The show sticks to the comics and doesn't shy away from the more violent aspects of the storyline.

The discussion of the morality of different characters' actions. I can't help wishing there was more of that. Characters would sometimes bring up interesting points that would be forgotten by the end of the scene. It's hard to complain about though, I'm just glad it was there at all.

The biggest and best surprise for me was that there is almost no CGI in the entire show.

Things I didn't like about Daredevil:

The constant push to get Daredevil into his red costume. We already know it's going to happen (they made it the cover image), we don't need every single character to tell him that his black costume is "dumb" or whatever (personally, I preferred the black). It gets worse than that, but I won't spoil it.

There is one particular scene where Matt needs to move across the rooftops quickly, but he keeps executing pointless flips and flashy moves as he goes. It comes out of nowhere and doesn't fit in with his character or the situation. Out of the entire show, this one scene was the only one that really bothered me. It was painful.

Fisk felt like just another criminal to be taken down, not the big ringleader he was supposed to be. 

The conclusion of the whole Fisk storyline was a bit anticlimactic. After how long it took to get there, it felt like it needed something more.

Occasional questionable dialog. Especially at the very end of the last episode. Way to blow things at the very end.

One aspect I'm torn on is the fight scenes. I appreciated the fact that they were almost certainly the most realistic fight scenes in a superhero movie or show so far, and the homage to the Oldboy hallway fight in episode two was great. But, in typical modern style, most of the others are shot with the camera too close to clearly see what is going on. It's not as bad as in a Christopher Nolan movie, but it could easily be better.

All in all, the first season of Daredevil is a very promising start for Marvel's Netflix series that also works well as a self-contained story. It definitely starts out stronger than it finishes, with its highest points somewhere in the middle, but the characters and tone are almost perfect. This is about as good a Daredevil show as could be hoped for, and the willingness to approach things from a darker angle appropriate to the character helps elevate it from the movies that try to please everyone.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- Nick Fury, Thor, and Black Widow character posters

Marvel must be as impatient as their fanboys, because we already have three new posters for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron to discuss. 

First up is Nick Fury:

Samuel L. Jackson's lack of presence just oozes out of the frame here. I remember how excited I was at the idea of Sam Jackson playing Nick Fury back when the first Iron Man came out, but in most of these movies he feels like he's phoning everything in. Unless it turns out that those Furys were really LMDs, Jackson needs to step up his game. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an improvement, but this poster makes it look like things are going back to the way they were before. At least he has an excuse for not reacting to the robots in this poster, seeing as how they're about to literally blindside him. (Are blind jokes okay? You know what, I don't care, these posters are asking for it)

None of the posters so far have had great lighting, but this new Thor one is particularly strange. Those shadows on his arm don't feel right. It's like not even diffused light gets under the part of his armor extending past his shoulder, but at the same time, the shadow isn't very dark. It gives me the same feeling I get when I try to see that dress as blue and black. What really bugs me about things like this is that somebody got paid to make it look like that.

At least the people on these posters have looked like actual people so far, but then that just serves to make the backgrounds look that much more fake. This poster reminds me of the obvious green screen shots in the throne room toward the end of Thor: The Dark World.

The fact that this Black Widow poster is easily the best of these so far is sad. It's better than the others because the camera is pulled back a bit, allowing us to actually see what we're looking at, and because her upright posture paralleling the building behind her gives the image at least some sense of composition (accidental, I'm sure). Apart from that and the distracting strangeness of the lone robot standing on the rooftop on the left, it's still a pretty forgettable image.

Okay, let's get to the fun part.

The Matching Game

First, let's look at the robots:

What a mess. I can't be sure about some of those smaller ones on the Black Widow poster, so there might be even more that match. And this is not even comparing them to the earlier posters. Maybe I'll compare all of them once they're all released.

We're not done with the matching game just yet though:

It's hard to tell, but the these buildings from the Thor and Black Widow posters are the same one.

Taking things even farther, the same building appears on the Nick Fury poster--twice!

Sorry for drawing on your face, Samuel L. Jackson. Please don't kill me.

That building on the right edge is also in the same spot on the Black Widow poster. I'm assuming it's part of the same original image as the tall building.

At first, I thought building in the middle with the crumbling corner was also on the Hulk poster, but it appears to have been a case of mistaken identity:

However, this burning police car from the Thor poster--

--does make a cameo appearance in the Black Widow poster, albeit with different flames:

This other car from the Black Widow poster--

--turns up on the Nick Fury poster.

I'm surprised I haven't been able to match any of the flames or smoke/dust clouds yet, but we probably still have several posters to go.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- Hulk character poster

Time to take a look at the Green Goliath's Avengers: Age of Ultron poster:

I'd always hoped for a poster of the Hulk's armpit to hang on my wall. Maybe if we're lucky the next one will be the back of Nick Fury's left ear.

I hate the fact that CGI creations like this are the accepted standard in movies now. I remember being surprised at how unimpressive the Hulk looked in the first Avengers, but apparently I shouldn't expect anything more. I know this is just a poster, but I doubt the movie will look any better.

Being that practically half the image is the Hulk's furry pectoral alone, there's not much to discuss here, so let's get straight to

The Matching Game

On the plus side, none of the robots on this poster match each other. We do still have one matching the previous two posters though:

The robot above the Hulk's shoulder is a flipped version of the robot we've seen twice before.

Not too bad with this poster then, right? Not so fast. Take a look at this:

The Hulk himself is the same one from before. At first I thought, "At least they toned down the phantom backlighting on the bottom of his arm." Then I noticed the light hitting his side, which looks like it should be blocked by either his arm or his latissimus dorsi, the muscle stretching from beneath his arm to behind his back. Somebody got paid to put that unnecessary flourish that just makes the poster look more fake.

As disappointing as these posters have been so far, I'm actually more disappointed that none of them have been bad enough to make me laugh yet. I'm holding out for a Quicksilver one, I think that would do the trick, but we'll have to wait and see.

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- Iron Man character poster

Looks like we're getting individual posters for the major characters in Avengers: Age of Ultron. First up is Iron Man:

Careful observation reveals that Iron Man, demonstrating his formidable intellect, has yet again elected not to wear his helmet in the middle of battle. To be fair, he still doesn't look very concerned about those robots, so maybe they aren't as big a threat as they appeared to be in the trailer. Or maybe Robert Downey, Jr.'s ego is just too big to fit under the helmet anymore.

And what's with the spray-painted Avengers logo at the bottom? It doesn't fit the aesthetic of the movie on any level--they're fighting robots, not inner city hoodlums.

Another uninspired poster from Marvel Studios, but at least it's not overly painful to look at, like the first poster for the movie was. Plus, it gives us another chance to play:

The Matching Game

Even with there only being seven robots on this new poster, there are several that match each other:

Note to Marvel: Adding glowing eyes to some robots does not magically make me not notice that they are still the same robots.

Not only that--all but one of them match robots from the original poster:

At this rate, I expect this Avengers poster to look like a crazy rainbow by the time all the character posters come out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster review

Today, Marvel released a poster for the upcoming film Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you've seen the posters for their earlier movies, you know what to expect, but for everyone else, I advise you to shield your eyes in case of Photoshop overload (click for larger size):

Some would say that ten characters, plus a bunch of attacking robots (at least I think they're attacking; the Avengers seem to be more concerned about other things) is too much for one poster. I would disagree and say it just takes someone with some design sense to make it work. Apparently they don't have anyone like that on staff at Marvel, a company that employs hundreds of people whose job it is to to make effective images of superheroes, including, for example, Avengers comic covers.

Once you get past the poster's terrible overall composition, your eyes move to the individual characters, each of which seems to have their own source of backlighting, even if they are standing right in front of another character. Let's analyze them more closely.

Right up front we have Captain America:

I find it interesting how much Cap has taken the spotlight away from Iron Man, both in the poster and in the general public's eye. It helps to have your most recent solo movies not be total crap, I guess. Cap seems far less concerned about whatever everyone else is looking at, even with the ground apparently exploding right in front of him. I guess he's used to that kind of stuff by now. Why no mask though? Who keeps making these new costumes for him anyway? Why does he even need a costume? Personally, I don't like the weird stuff going on around the star on his chest, or the Avengers logo on his shoulder, but I guess the unnecessary clutter fits with the theme of the poster.

Thor's new costume isn't much better, but then all of his costumes in the movies have been pretty bad so far. They can't seem to find a pattern for his chest piece that doesn't look like an ugly jumble of random shapes. The other thing I notice about him is that the arm holding up his hammer looks kind of weird. It might be just me, but I think they tried to lower his arm to keep it from getting too close to the names across the top of the poster. They should have been focusing on bigger issues.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, for example. Why are they standing sideways on a wall? Sure, Wanda has magic powers (at least in the comics, the movies have been afraid of using magic so far), and I guess Pietro could run up the wall with his super speed, but with everything else going on in this poster, raising more questions is the last thing they should be doing here. Guess they had to shove 'em in somewhere. Also, we have yet to see a picture of Quicksilver that does not look ridiculous. What is that pose? Is he trying to crack his back? Granted, everyone felt the same way about Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past and changed their minds when they saw the movie, but I remain skeptical for now.

Next up, we have Iron Man. Cap without a mask I can deal with, but why does Iron Man not have his helmet on? Especially seeing as how he's about to blow a hole through Cap's shoulder, he really should at least keep it on to use the suit's targeting systems.

Visually, the color scheme of the ribs on his suit doesn't work with his placement either. The background is grey/brown and he is standing in front of a dark-suited Black Widow. The grey parts of his suit combine with those elements to confuse his form and needlessly make an already cluttered image even more muddled. It doesn't help that one of the few areas without backlighting on the entire poster is that part of his suit.

The Hulk, on the other hand, is the biggest victim of exaggerated backlighting here. Where is all this light coming from?

The Black Widow has some weird new stuff going on with her suit. Makes sense, I guess, she needs something to elevate her from just another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to a full-fledged Avenger.

What about Hawkeye, though? He still just looks like some idiot with a bow (I say this as someone who names the comics' Hawkeye as one of their favorite Avengers).

Samuel L. Jackson just looks bored. I guess after being in so many of these movies, he already knew how the poster was going to turn out. There's something strange going on between Fury's shoulder and Hawkeye's quiver too, like they're fighting for which one gets to be in front. Another example of crappy image design. 

Then there's the fact that the three of them are strangely shrunken and out of proportion with everyone else. I think the problem is actually that Stark is too big, but maybe they're just teasing us for Ant-Man. In a world where we have five-second teasers for thirty-second teasers, that's not too hard to believe.

I also want to point out that Robert Downey Jr.'s name appears before the title at the bottom, as it did on the posters for the first Avengers

I'm surprised his ego isn't listed separately.

Now let's play my favorite game when it comes to modern movie posters: 

The Matching Game 

This is where you try to find the same piece of imagery repeated multiple times on the same poster. Often, it will be altered slightly, but it's usually pretty easy to find copies.

While it's a bit harder to play this game with such a low resolution image (this is all Marvel has put out so far), here is what I found on this poster:

That's at least six elements that repeat themselves, all within the same third of the poster. I even found this piece of debris next to Cap's shield that matches a piece next to Nick Fury. I flipped, rotated, and blurred it just to make sure:

With a higher-res image, I can only expect even more copy-and-paste-ing to be revealed.

Posters used to be used to entice people to see a movie, but I can't imagine someone who didn't already know about this movie wanting to see it based on this poster. In particular, the posters for comic book movies like this feel like a huge missed opportunity to do something interesting. Imagine what someone like Drew Struzan could have done with this. Or how about a poster replicating a comic cover? So many possible options, and this is what they came up with.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bloodsport (1988)

Van Damme got blood in my cheese.

If the Cannon logo right at the beginning isn't enough to give it away, Bloodsport is very much an '80s American martial arts movie. In one of his earliest film roles, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Frank Dux (pronounced "dukes"), an American soldier who deserts his post to fight in the Kumite, an illegal, full-contact martial arts tournament. It's supposed to be super-secret, but everyone he comes across seems to know about it.

The first fifteen minutes or so, filled with abysmally bad acting and dialog--holy crap, is it bad--give the impression of a much worse movie than Bloodsport thankfully turns out to be. Van Damme goes AWOL when his superiors find out he wants to go to Hong Kong to fight in the Kumite. 

Why would he have told them what he was going there for? He was already going on leave, he could have just made something up. It makes no sense. And the fact that Van Damme is the closest thing to a good actor in this scene is depressing.

While he visits the house of a Japanese couple, we go to a flashback of three kids breaking into the same house years earlier to steal stuff, and the acting gets even worse. I know I exaggerate a lot, but these might actually be the worst child actors I have ever seen. Two of them leave when they hear someone coming (they were talking so loud that they probably would have managed to get caught even if no one was home). The third hoodlum is--you guessed it--young Frank. Actually, he looks nothing like Van Damme, so I wasn't sure it was supposed to be him until he talked (and even then, I had to strain to maintain my suspension of disbelief--young Frank sounds more like a New Yorker with a speech impediment than Van Damme).

Maybe they judged his similarity to Van Damme on his acting ability, or lack of. (That's mean, Van Damme's actually not bad in this movie.)

A Japanese man and his young son come into the room, and find Frank holding a katana that the other kids had dropped instead of just running off with it when they were already holding it. Stupid ass kids can't even rob a place correctly. The son immediately runs over and kicks Frank in the stomach, but the father takes a different approach. He tells Frank, "You cannot get katana sword by stealing. It is very special sword. You must earn it." Frank tells him he wasn't going to steal it and the man swings the sword and cuts off the front of his baseball cap.

That black thing is the front of his cap falling off.

When Frank doesn't flinch, the Japanese man tells him he has fighting spirit and that he won't call the cops if they make a deal. Cut to the Japanese man, Tanaka, convincing Frank's parents to allow him to study "martial science" so he can help train his son. 

Suspension of disbelief now broken in half. This kid just snuck into the house to rob you, old man, and couldn't even do it right--you don't want your son hanging around with him! The son doesn't even like him--he calls Frank "round eyes." But then we get a goofy, thoroughly unconvincing scene of Frank defending the son from bullies, so of course they become "like brothers."

Flash back to the present, where Tanaka's son is dead, and Tanaka tells Frank a sob story about how he lost his first family in WWII and now he can't pass on his legacy to a son (boo hoo). Frank tells him to continue training him so he can carry on the legacy. Cue training montage, including Van Damme doing the splits, catching fish with his hands, and fighting blindfolded. I wonder if he'll have to use any of those skills later on in the movie? (SPOILER: Yes, he will.)

For a movie with no real character depth, Bloodsport sure lays on some thick backstory, but it's finally time for Frank to head to Hong Kong. Thankfully, we don't get scenes of Frank packing his luggage, getting on a plane, wandering around Hong Kong, etc. Instead, we just cut to Frank on a bus in Hong Kong, where he meets a big, redneck American guy named Ray Jackson drinking a beer and crudely hitting on an Asian chick who is clearly not interested. A little later he challenges Frank to a karate video game match, which Frank wins. Everything seems set up for an antagonistic rivalry between the two, but in the one sort-of surprise in this movie, they quickly become best friends.

Frank and Ray are escorted by a squirrely Chinese guy named Lin to the Kumite. Lin has some pretty funny lines, and the actor knows how to deliver them. The guys signing everyone up for the Kumite want Frank to prove he is a student of Tanaka by demonstrating the 'Dim Mak' death touch, which he does by telling them to select a brick:

Bolo Yeung isn't impressed:

That's right, Bolo is in this movie too. He plays Chong Li, the previous year's victor, infamous for his brutality. He only has a handful of lines and still gets dubbed for some reason. And to all the people claiming Bolo was fifty years old in this movie: Bolo Yeung was born Some Other Name in 1946. Bloodsport came out in 1988. Let me do the math for you: It don't add up.

Frank and Ray come across a female reporter trying to gain information for a story on the Kumite while some other entrants are harassing her. They cannot fight because they will be disqualified from the Kumite. Frank offers them a bet--if he can grab a coin out of the one guy's hand before he can close it, they will go away. If not, they can have the girl. Frank thinks back to catching the fish and snatches the coin, leaving a different one behind.

What if he had failed? What if instead of catching fish like Frank, the other guy trained by trying to keep people from snatching fish out of his hand? You sure are confident in your abilities, Frank.

Even though Frank could have gotten her raped, flirting ensues between Frank and the reporter, and eventually they bang. Not a surprise. What is a surprise for a movie of this type and era, is that the only nudity in the movie is Van Damme's butt. It's still kind of painful the way the 'romance' is shoved in, but at least it doesn't take up too much of the movie.

By the way, in the butt shot you can clearly see the exact point where they said "action." It starts out with Van Damme standing next to a counter with his underwear half off before he pulls them up, but he stands there for a second like he's waiting to do it. I point it out because it's funny that they had him stand there waiting for the shot just so they could have a glimpse of his ass in the movie only to edit it so unconvincingly. Why not have him just lower his underwear and pull them back up, then edit the shot to start with him pulling them up? Or just edit out that half second in the first place? Maybe they did focus tests and people said there wasn't enough ass in the movie so they actually stuck that half second back in. That's why I hate focus groups. People think they know what's best for the movie, but all they really want are more ass shots. But enough about Van Damme's butt.

Forest Whitaker of all people is also in Hong Kong along with some old guy, looking for Frank so they can bring him back to the U.S. Their reason: The Army cannot risk him being injured because they have put so much of their resources into him. They never explain or clarify this to any extant. It's such a lazy and extraneous plot element, I don't even know why it's in the movie. Surely the tournament offered enough action and story. The only thing of value it adds to the movie is the scene where Van Damme outruns them in the streets, taunting them all the way.

Back in the Kumite, which the reporter sneaks into on her own (talking into her '80s tape recorder right in front of everyone), we see lots of fights between people from different backgrounds, with different fighting styles. It's really cool in theory, but only kind of cool in execution. First of all, a lot of the fighters don't have any personality to them. There are actually a lot that do, but for the other fights, it would help if we cared who won. But the real problem is that none of the fights in this movie are remotely convincing. Almost every single move is super-telegraphed, and the opponents will just stand there waiting to be hit (next time you're doubting yourself, just remember: if your reaction time is under two full seconds, you could have made it at least to the final four in the deadliest, most illegal fighting tournament in the world). There are even times that a fighter will get hit and fall in the wrong direction so that their bloody face can pass in front of the camera. Take a look:


Then there are the superfluous rolls that fighters execute at random times to no strategic benefit. There's even a guy that fights with a monkey style that involves him scurrying around on the ground in such a way that he has to tilt his head way back to even see his opponent. It didn't make sense while I was watching it, so it was no surprise to find out that he isn't using any real-life fighting style. The only reason he lasts as long as he does is because his opponents keep throwing punches at normal head level when he is about two feet below that. It's like watching two people who have never touched a video game before going up against each other in a Tekken or Street Fighter. Actually, that still sounds too legit, let's say Bloody Roar II. And the fact that so many of the hits are obviously not connecting even at normal speed is made worse by the fact that so many shots are in slow motion.

At least Bolo's Chong Li makes for a good villain. Of course, Ray is the first to go up against him, and of course he gets destroyed. Movies always gotta be giving the lead a personal stake against the villain. Ray doesn't die though, he just ends up in the hospital. 

Long story short, Frank eventually goes up against Chong Li. The movie would have been a lot better if Chong Li was an honest fighter instead of a one-dimensional villain, but during the fight he throws a powder into Frank's eyes. I don't know how it's supposed to work though, because his eyes are still open the whole time. When we see things from his perspective, it's blurred but you can still make out what you're looking at. Van Damme overacts, stumbling all around and making faces all the while. 

Oh, and yelling.

It's been a while since he directly called on his training from earlier in the movie, so he finally calms down and remembers that he knows how to fight blindfolded.

As a side note, it's funny the way the reporter and the two guys who were after Frank, all of whom tried to keep him from entering the tournament, are cheering him on from the sidelines, even while he's fighting blind. They act excited and happy, like they are at a real sporting event and not witnessing a potential fight to the death.

If Frank could see, I'm sure he'd regret not letting the reporter get raped.

Frank of course wins the match, forcing Chong Li to say ka-goda.

Frank gets a sword as reward for his troubles, along with a cash prize of...wait, no, that's it. Just a sword.

He goes with reporter girl to give Ray the news in the hospital. And then this exchange occurs:

It's never too late to introduce a gay subplot, apparently.

Van Damme then leans over and kisses him. That's not even a joke, he really kisses him. Not on the lips, maybe, but still.


Forest Whitaker and Old Man are waiting for Frank at the plane to take him back, complaining that he isn't showing. Then he pops out of the plane and says, "Hey." (He says other things too, "You coming or what?" etc.) Then reporter girl shows up. I thought she was going to go with Frank, but I guess she already got what she needed for her story. Bitch.

Before the credits, we get some info on the real Frank W. Dux, the inspiration for the movie, who supposedly "fought 329 matches" and "retired undefeated as the World Heavy Weight Full Contact Kumite Champion."

Not only that: 

Impressive, huh? Well, not so much when you do a little research and find out that he is basically the only person who talks about the Kumite and has exactly zero proof to back up any of his claims. Not only is he full of shit, he's pretty full of himself too: 

The Kumite may not exist, but Bloodsport does, and despite it's numerous flaws, it remains an enjoyable movie. Van Damme isn't bad, except maybe when he decides to imitate Bruce Lee and make goofy faces and yell:

These are the actual captions from the movie.

He also does the splits about 125 times in this movie:

Van Damme pushes his body to the limit. Meanwhile, Ray practices being a fat buffoon who drinks beer, while also trying to figure out how to use a bed.

The reporter is boring and Forest Whitaker and Old Man don't do anything, but Donald Gibb turns in an energetic performance as Ray Jackson. Ray is a gruff moron with no fighting ability whatsoever, and he still manages to be likable. He's also hugely overconfident.

Seconds later:

Bolo is Bolo.

'Nuff said.

One other thing to mention: The music. Not the score, but the songs in the movie. 

It's pure '80s cheeze, goofy power ballads about honor and friendship and shit. Then there's the ending song that just seems to repeat "Kumite" over and over again. That one might get stuck in your head.

Fans of American action movies from the '80s will have probably seen Bloodsport already, but even if you prefer to stick to 'good' martial arts movies, you should give this one a shot. It's not good, true, but enough of it works to make it an entertaining viewing.

I'll leave you with a shot of Van Damme doing the splits while making a face and yelling, right after having punched a guy in the balls.