Commando + Ninjas = Commando Ninja (2018)
If you were to ask me who was the first action hero I wanted to be when I was a kid, I’d know the answer in a heartbeat: Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe. Between his all-black action figure and the Marvel comic book run of the 80s (the TV show barely used him, strongly favoring Duke instead), he was the guy who encapsulated all that being an action hero was to me. And, two words associated with him were purely epic: “commando” and “ninja”.
As one of the “original” (I use that word in quotes because the G.I. Joe toy line of the 80s was in itself a reboot on the 1960s line) G.I. Joe soldiers, his character description was listed simply as “Commando.” It was his job to infiltrate enemy territory and complete his mission — but do so in as clandestine manner as possible. He could accomplish such a feat because he was trained by the Arashikage clan in Japan, i.e., he was an American ninja.
But when push came to shove, and circumstances dictated that he use his trusted Uzi or katana sword, no number of enemy combatants were safe from his wrath.
Throw in the facts that A) he couldn’t speak because his vocal cords were damaged when he saved Scarlett (the unit’s incredibly attractive redhead intelligence agent) from flaming helicopter wreckage, and B) he wore a mask to keep his identity a secret at all times, and you had the perfect action hero to a young me.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for an independent film from Ben Combes called Commando Ninja. Based on the trailer below and my undying affinity for Snake-Eyes and all that he stands for, I knew I had to get in touch with Ben to learn more about the project.
UAMC Interview: ‘Commando Ninja’ Creator
John Acquavita: Ever since I heard of your Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been salivating to watch this movie. I’ll try to help promote it in any way I can, and I think this is a good start. So, how did you come up with the idea for Commando Ninja?
Ben Combes: First, thank you very much for salivating over our movie! I’m an independent filmmaker and a lover of 80s action hero movies. I first dreamt of making my own movie five years ago, set in the 80s. When I saw the success of Kung Fury and the 80s revival wave, I thought it was now or never. At first, I hit a stumbling block because I couldn’t find the perfect “American hero,” but when I met Eric Carlesi, we immediately started the project.
JA: What films influenced you for the project?
BC: The project is more than influenced; it’s a tribute to my favorite 80s action movies, and you’ll be able to recognize each of them in different scenes. The main influences are:
- American Ninja
- Rambo: First Blood Part II
- 3 Ninjas
- Mad Max
Of course, there are a lot more…
Funding an Ultimate Action Movie
JA: What are your funding goals for the project? Ideally, how much would you like to raise?
BC: Our funding goal is $30,000. If we raise that, we’ll be able to properly finish the movie. The good news is that the movie is already half-way finished. This money is intended to shoot the most expensive scenes, do the post-production and create the physical rewards.
JA: Kickstarter is rife with projects that never get off the ground. What incentives can people look forward to receiving if they decide to fund your film?
BC: First, with this movie, people will receive a love letter to their favorite 80s action movies, full of nostalgia: action, muscles, crude language, humor, violence — without limitations.
Of course, there will be rewards: a Blu-ray with behind-the-scenes footage and commentaries, T-shirts, posters, and if we get more money than expected, action figures!
JA: Is this your first major film funded through Kickstarter? If not, can you tell us a little about the previous one(s)?
BC: Yes, it is! I don’t know if “major film” would be the correct term, as our project is a 45-minute short film, independently self-produced.
JA: The trailer for Commando Ninja is beyond epic! When are you hoping to release the film?
BC: Thank you! We hope to be able to release it before this summer.
JA: In the event the film is well received by the audience (which I highly suspect it will, based solely on the trailer), will you consider filming a sequel?
BC: This is a major question. You have to realize that the film (due to various economic and personal reasons) is only the first part of the story. Our idea is to tell the other part in a top-down shooter video game. Producing a 45-minute independent action movie was already a huge challenge! But of course, if the movie succeeds beyond expectations, and we are solicited, we will think about that!
Capturing 80s Action Movie Nostalgia
JA: Any final words you’d like to say about the project?
BC: While I was making this project, I re-watched again all my favorite action movies starring the likes of: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Seagal, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, and Dudikoff. I watched them all again and thought, “My god, this is the thirtieth time I’ve watched this movie and I can’t get tired of it. How is that possible? What are the details in those movies that make them tireless to watch?” As a lot of people hate those movies, but I think this is all about growing up with them and growing up with real heroes, not super heroes. I hope my project, at this independent movie level, will be able to bring you the nostalgia and the envy to plunge you back into 80s action movies.
(And kill Communists).
Part Tony Manero, part Rocky Balboa, John Acquavita is a N.Y.-area transplant currently living in Ohio. He uses his “particular set of skills” to contribute to various websites covering 1980s-era action movies.
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