Vintage Shelf Video Game Movies Are Bad But Double Dragon Is a

first_img Do you remember Dragon Flyz? I do. Kind of. I remember Dragon Flyz toys, for sure. I definitely had two and definitely got at least one stuck in a tree once. Dragon Flyz were these toys that consisted of two parts: an armored action figure with these rotating “wings” on their necks and a dragon that featured a pull string and a launch pad. You put the figure on the launch pad and pull the string and they start spinning and eventually their wings carry them off of the dragon and they fly around for a bit and then crash. Good stuff.I loved Dragon Flyz growing up even though I didn’t quite know what they were or the context of the toys. I think I always assumed there must have been a TV show (there was) but I never actually saw it. I just knew what Dragon Flyz were through the kind of cultural osmosis you can only get at daycare as a kid.Double Dragon was one of those things. I remember my friend Marshall showing up to play one day with a plastic replica of the medallion from the… game? Movie? I honestly don’t remember which he explained it as. I just knew that Double Dragon was a thing where two brothers in cool costumes did karate and I guess fought for/to find this cool necklace that probably had powers? I was like, 7 years old, I didn’t need anything more than that to know I liked it. I have vague recollections of eventually seeing the movie at a sleepover alongside the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie but that’s it.When you experience pop culture as a kid your perception of it is often tied so much more to concept and mood than content itself. Anybody who has revisited X-Men: The Animated Series can tell you that. As such, revisiting something you loved in childhood as an adult is disappointing more often than not. You remember the colors, the theme songs, the flash of it all but forget about shoddy animation, incomprehensible storytelling, or laughable dialogue. Generally if it isn’t Batman: The Animated Series (big ups to the icon Bruce Timm) some memories are better left unvisited.Still, a few months ago I saw that MVD Entertainment was releasing a Blu-ray restoration of the film Double Dragon and found myself… curious. Despite not remembering much of anything about Double Dragon (I only just recently remembered there was also a cartoon), I remembered what that movie felt like when I saw it. And I’m not particularly precious about that memory so I figured hey, why not see if the actuality lives up to the nostalgia?I should probably clarify first that Double Dragon isn’t a good movie in the conventional sense. But let’s also be fair: there are no good video game movies. Remember that time they made a movie out of Rampage and it featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fighting giant monsters and somehow was still kinda dull? If a video game movie features The Rock fighting giant monsters and can’t manage to be interesting the whole enterprise might be cursed. Double Dragon isn’t a The Room-esque “So Bad It’s Good” situation but it also isn’t “So Good, It’s Good.” Ultimately, neither matters. Quality isn’t the point of watching Double Dragon in 2019.What is the point is seeing if this thing you loved for reasons both nebulous and specific as a kid lives up to those memories — or seeing if those memories are based on falsehoods, if you only loved this thing because of what you and your friend’s imaginations turned it into on the playground.In that respect, Double Dragon is a success in every way. Facets of filmmaking that matter to assessing a film’s quality as an adult may fall flat but everything you remember about it as a kid is still there. The bright colors, the crazy costumes, and the dope karate fights? Those hold up, as does the chemistry between our protagonists, the Lee Brothers. The production design draws heavily from the Mad Max movies and The Warriors, painting a vibrant picture of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles in the far-off, futuristic year of uh… 2007. It’s tough to call that setting a fault but having lived through it, oh man, I wish the real 2007 had been half as cool as the one in Double Dragon.Mark Dacascos, Alyssa Milano, and Scott Wolf in ‘Double Dragon.’ (Photo Credit: Imperial Entertainment)That production design, from the sets to the costuming to the design of the bizarre mutant biker Bo Abobo, lends greatly to what I found myself appreciating most about the film with my slightly more mature perspective. Frequently when video games are adapted to film the writers and directors will take the story of the game, a story crafted with the specific intent of being told through the medium of the game, and warp it into a more film-friendly narrative. It’s not that Double Dragon fully subverts this, but watching it now it’s clear that director James Yukich made a conscious effort to structure the film like a video game. The action set pieces that make up the bulk of the film are structured not only around the Lee Brothers fighting, but fighting in a very video game-specific way. There will be an army of henchmen and a boss of sorts at the end.Each set piece tends to revolve around the brothers attempting to move from point A to point B or achieving some MacGuffin, often a piece of the mystical amulet most of the film’s drama revolves around. The scenes that link these set pieces often function in the same way that cutscenes do in gaming. And hey, this movie came out in 1994 so maybe I’m giving Yukich a lot of credit here (I have no idea when cutscenes became prominent in video games). But it’s still hard to not notice when watching the film today.Video game movies are mostly bad. Nostalgia often clouds your memory of what you loved as a kid and revisiting those books, movies, and TV shows can often lead to disappointment. That Double Dragon defies this is reason enough to recommend it. It’s got karate and a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi dystopia and some incredibly 90-ass haircuts, and a cursed medallion. It’s even got Alyssa Milano as a rebel gang leader. It’s a good time. Sometimes that’s all you need.Vintage Shelf on offers recommendations inspired by long-beloved and long-forgotten classics of cinema. Twice a month, we’ll take a look at some of those movies and see how they hold up and what they mean today.More on Shelf: Rock and Roll Fable ‘Streets of Fire’ Is Everything We Want in a MovieVintage Shelf: ‘Cobra’ Is Morally Repugnant and Entirely Awesome Vintage Shelf: Spike Lee Brings the Heat in ‘Do The Right Thing…Vintage Shelf: ‘Election’ and the Joy of Hating a Character Stay on targetlast_img read more