“Commando Ninja” on YouTube – The best “G.I. Joe” Movie is not a G.I. Joe Movie at all (Review)
Imagine the love child of Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, we’ll call him Wilbur, marrying the love child of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck. Now imagine Larry Hama (1980’s version) writing a comic for a John McTiernan movie based on G.I. Joe. This movie stars the love child of Wilbur and Chuck, Reignbow, while being produced by Sam Firstenberg. Getting an image? Wait! There’s more…
Blend all of those ingredients with copious amounts of 1980’s, oiled-up-shaved-chest-manly testosterone and 300 gallons of horse steroids. Welcome to Commando Ninja, a YouTube movie and prelude comic funded on Kickstarter in Spring, 2018. Personally, I believe it to be a modern incarnation of a Mel Brooks-style genre parody married to the 1980’s movie Commando starring Arnold.
When watching the movie itself, commit yourself to the full 68 minutes of viewing. We’re all familiar with the “You’ve got to see this!” recommendation, which sometimes takes away precious minutes of your life. This is NOT one of those. You will have a great time even if your previous experience with expectations tells you otherwise. I’m extremely confident in my recommendation to all based on previous “Thank you!” reviews from close friends. The best summary is out of the United Kingdom, “It’s unbelievably f(….) brilliant.”
In the spirit of Mel Brooks and the 1980’s R-rated action genre, Commando Ninja is indeed a solid R. Don’t share it with children unless you want them reliving scenes while you are teaching Sunday School. “He said what and then did that?” You have been warned, so don’t blame me… or this site’s editor. (The Splintering‘s esteemed founder and editor, Blake, has no involvement in or opinion of the movie. It’s all Bobby Sharps, baby!)*
Benjamin Combes, “a French video editor and indie film maker from the South of France,” is the proud creator of the project. Combes currently works on videos for Relic Entertainment on the popular Age of Empires video game franchise. He previously spent 10 years working in the video games industry at Ubisoft Entertainment, “making trailers for…brands like Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy, [and] more recently, Mario.” During those 10 years, he started doing “indie short films with his friend, and became a YouTube(r)…working with Machinima Santa Monica on a Minecraft Live Action web-series, and [on] Half-Life fan films.” In 2018 he decided to take a break to “fulfill his…[d]ream…(to) produce an 80’s action hero comedy movie.”
Around 2012 the idea began to take shape. The “ambition” started after the release of the Kung Fury movie in 2015. Finally with the casting Eric Carlesi, the lead actor, production began leading to the 2018 Kickstarter project.
The Production is described by Combes as, “There [really isn’t] any script. At the beginning, we wanted to do only the trailer.” While filming, they realized, “Hey, what if we just shot an entire scene? Just in case.” Suddenly, a movie appeared as editing pulled the project together. Combes now admits “Writing IS the most important part of a movie” even though it took a back seat this time. The experience taught him “a lot about” film-making. Just as “all film-makers say (Spielberg, Scorsese among them), if you want to learn how to do a movie, do a movie!”
Combes’ “best friend” Baptiste Lecas filled roles like assistant director, special effects, location scouting, brainstorming, and sounding board. Sharing the burden helped with “ideas like having the dinosaurs, the jokes, (and) the references… making a project like that alone is very very hard and can be depressing, so it’s always good to have someone to share your ideas and have feedback.”
Commando Ninja proudly uses real effects eschewing green screens and CGI. Combes admits “it was my concept for the movie! I wanted to do it (practical effects) WITH the 80’s means. But at the end, I must admit we had to Cheat, A LOT! (E)specially for Guns. For the sequel we will try to go 100% without computer VFX, because we met a great pyrotechnics guy :D.”
The movie really nails the feel of going to see action movies in the 1980’s. Combes was inspired by several action movie greats for the feel. “Basically, Commando Ninja is (i)nspiration mixed together to make a movie! So of course, all those 80’s directors, my favorite(s) should be Jim Cameron, John McTiernan, Sam Firstbenberg, Steven Spielberg, George Miller, Paul Verhoeven…. among hundreds” of others.
“On the indie side, I was VERY inspired by David Sandberg, Kung Fury director, and the RKSS team, Turbo Kid directors. My favorite movie ever should be Apocalypse Now by F(rancis) F(ord) Coppola (but) my favorite director… Let’s say Spielberg for his magic, Verhoeven for his crudeness, McTiernan for his manly-ness, and Cameron for his vision, (it’s) impossible to choose (one).” The movie is the best G.I. Joe flick to date, even though it has no direct connections. Larry Hama should be flattered by the way his Snake Eyes in Vietnam back story is adapted in comic and film by Combes. Unsurprisingly he knows Joes from his youth. “My big brother had G.I. Joes(.) I had Ninja Turtles and later Action Man! I was creating board game battles with my plastic green soldiers versus tan soldiers.”
Combes really appreciates the response of fans to the project. “Seeing the money going up (on Kickstarter), the people following us in our dream, (the) Kung Fury director sharing it, being congratulated by (the) American Ninja director, and the movie premiere (viewing) in our home town with a full theater” are all great moments for him. The premiere being “one of the best day(s) ever.”
As for the future, “The Commando Ninjas will be back! (We’re) working on a VERY ambitious sequel. We also want to make it by ourselves (using) Kickstarter (for fundraising).”
Combes, if given the choice to direct any of the large movie franchises, has two “dreams. Either direct a Predator movie set during the Vietnam War, or a Rambo prequel set in ‘Nam… Sly, if you (h)ear me…😎” Anyone with a direct line to Ya Boi Zack or Chuck Dixon reading?
As for Combes, professionally he’s on to Age of Empires 4 at Relic Entertainment. Personally he will “see if (he) stay(s) in North America or move(s) back to France (to) launch the Kickstarter campaign for Commando Ninja 2.” To learn more about Benjamin Combes, check his website here.
If you haven’t tried the movie yet it’s available for free on demand on YouTube, Commando Ninja movie. I’ve even seen it on demand on an independent Roku channel also no charge. Let’s face facts – Hollywood is incapable of making a great movie based on the Joes. The concept offends every sensibility for the elite. The only true chance at enjoying any live action G.I. Joe fare comes from independent creators. My hearty thanks to the Commando Ninja team for capturing this for us.
*Disclosure: The author of this post participated in and financially supported the fundraising campaign for this project.