i’ve never seen a ™ in a credits splash screen before.

not a lot of meat on this bone so this might be a shorter review (ed note: hello, i am bea from the future, editing this and this was a lie). in modern day viewings, “warriors of virtue” suffers from a very specific problem: it is almost entirely indistinguishable from every live action children’s film made from 1985-2005. this genre of movie is what i like to call “bad”: a precocious child (usually one who is weaker or in a weirdly prominent couple of cases, disabled) meets (a) creature(s) and goes on an adventure to get a thing and defeat the final boss. there are mini-bosses and dungeons. it is like the hero’s journey but marred by the existence of the typically hideous creature accompanying the child. “mac and me” is one of these. “warriors of virtue” is obviously one of these. you couldn’t swing a dead cat in the 90s without hitting one of these.

bad enough to go in the zine? sure. i wasn’t blown away by it, but i think people who are just starting to dip their toes into bad movies will feel like they’re getting their psyche sandblasted. it’s a good entry point, but i don’t think it retains the same power it had when it made that movie critic hurl in 1997. here’s a list of things it is to give you an idea of what you’re in for: isekai, a flamboyant but only somewhat charismatic villain, old wise chinese guy, extremely poorly crafted and unsettling anthropomorphized kangaroos, insensitive to outright insulting portrayal of the disabled, the martyrdom of the child protagonist.

i’m hoping to ease you guys into this as we delve into the rich (?) and enchanting (??) world of tao. like entering a hot bath. i’ll try to relay the emotional journey you take watching this bizarre little project cobbled together by four physician non film-maker brothers. with that in mind, the movie feels like a fake movie you would see on a tv show: it copies the beats and shape of a real movie yet is so artificial and clinically crafted that each and every scene feels deliberate instead of “an experience”. it’s so calculated and so obviously created from The 90s Kids Movie Template that the artificiality’s potency is enough to set off all kinds of warning alarms in your head. it activates the lizard part of your brain that recognizes that something is not quite right. 

our hero is a young boy with a disability that affects his mobility in one leg. this is…absolutely the most missed mark in an attempt to portray disability on screen i’ve seen that didn’t also feel actively malicious. it’s just very obviously stupid and blatantly insensitive, and kind of a worrying belief to portray if this came from the doctors themselves. we’ll cover it as we hit the relevant story beats, but this is important to keep in mind as we move on. it was honestly the most upsetting part of a film with man-kangaroo hybrids. it’s not like balls to the wall wild but it makes you put your hands on your hips and go “hey knock that off!”.

our plucky little lad, who is supposed to be going to school, makes a pit stop at a chinese restaurant that’s open at like 8am (bad sign, you want a place that’s open from lunch to 5am. thats the good shit). here, his epic chef friend is doing teppanyaki-esque moves in a closed kitchen where the only people who can see him are his coworkers. one of which is a kung-fu kick to turn on the sink. very unnecessary and dangerous.

bro stop

in a scene that is edited very strangely, with lots of soft dissolves that in normal filmmaking would imply that significant amounts of time are passing, they wander around this brown brick kitchen (which is suddenly and mysteriously empty) as they discuss how cool it would be to be a martial arts warrior (very cool).

ah, but alas. our hero is not a cool kung-fu guy. he is a loser white kid who is the water boy of the football team. i’m not really sure why he does this. it’s obvious he hates it, the team openly harasses him and watching the other kids do football leaves him embittered because his leg excludes him from school sports. so, ryan? is his name ryan? ryan of course is a football tactical genius who is also SUPER nice about helping his bullies win the football game so he can get mad about how it was HIS play that won them the game. maybe he should just not help his bullies and say “fuck this football shit” and get really into collecting knives or something. he probably won’t, because he has a very encouraging and nice friend who gasses him up like a king.

at the behest of the bully’s (i just noticed he has huge 90s cool boy earrings) inexplicably super nice girlfriend, ryan is invited to hang out with them that evening. he goes home where he takes out all his frustration of the day out on his poor mom. in a pure white boy moment, he tells her that her cooking is shit, he wants his dad back, and when his mom offers to order take-out, he bitches about that too. don’t worry, she gets her revenge by serving him a pile of dog shit in the first place. she must have anticipated this.

bon appetit

ryan returns to the chinese restaurant to cheer himself up (? i dont know why he went back). his epic chef friend who lives above the restaurant tells him a metaphor about letting people complete their own journeys in life that ryan barely understands and uses once again to depreciate himself over his leg. don’t worry, our cool ass friend has a magic ancient chinese book of tao that will give you wisdom or whatever. but ryan dismisses it by telling his friend that his job is lame and leaves. wtf lol.

ryan and his less epic friend show up at a water treatment plant to hang with the bullies. kids are stupid. no one goes to a water treatment plant for fun. you go there to be killed. rookie ass mistake. in fact, his bully convinces him, in a rite of initiation, to try to cross a VERY narrow pipe over a terrifyingly strong looking open whirlpool of water. why isn’t there a cover on this thing. ryan is knocked into the vortex by a pipe that just hurls out water once in a while. its like a pipe connected to a single person’s toilet or sink or something. anyway ryan dies. movie over.

just kidding. he gets isekai’d to a magical fantasy world by falling into a big toilet. like he does seem to die in the real world at this point in the movie. he’s fucking dead.

fromsoft platforming

he falls into a fucking swamp. honestly not a bad looking set!! it’s hard to say anything about the technical quality of this movie because it’s stunningly competent (the budget for this movie is HUGE! $36 mil huge!) . the forest he wakes up in is tropical and dense with huge rubbery hanging vines from gnarled trees and a boggy environment that he’s about to run around in freely. because…because…

his leg is “fixed”. this is not a movie aimed at uplifting and empowering disabled kids by depicting them on the big screen in a heart-pounding adventure. as it turns out, you can’t have a big adventure when you’re different. only “normal” people who are “just like everyone else” (ryan’s words, not mine) get to have adventures. in the movie, it’s presented as a moment of triumph for ryan in what i can only assume (all my disabilities are under my skin and in my head, so i highly encourage any bad movie seekers to give me their thoughts on this) was an ill-advised attempt to both demonstrate that something magical has happened (unnecessary, he fell to his death and woke up in dagobah) and to. i don’t know. “fix” the protagonist in the eyes of the writer(s)?

i’m bothered by this. naturally not every movie featuring disability needs to revolve around it or be a purely positive portrayal of it (many movies in fact try to tackle the complicated subject of how one relates to their own body), but why does this one have it at all? the answer is: it only exists here so that it can be “cured” and symbolically free him from his inhibitions. ryan’s leg is the only thing preventing him from being “a leader” instead of “a follower”. it is an issue that is raised and discarded, suggesting that ryan’s legitimate only problem is not his adversarial relationship with his own body but his body itself.

this shit suck. thank you for allowing me all that build up for the first 20 minutes of the movie so you can understand how hard this pistol-whipped me when it happened.

then- oh no! OH SHIT!

crap i already used my fromsoft joke

dudes! dudes are after you! just when all hope is lost and ryan really looks like he’s about to get turned into pastes by some medieval knights, the most obvious and cliche thing happens next: a kangaroo jumps out of the swamp water and beats the ever loving shit out of these knights. these kangaroos are our titular warriors of virtue. why kangaroos? don’t know. there was apparently a sequel where they retconned the kangaroos into humans. a wise choice perhaps for a wide audience but the kangaroos are the only thing this movie has going for it that sets it apart from bog-standard kids fare. 

and they look like this:

so, like, not great. this the first view we get of them and it’s so foreboding.

ryan runs away and then is immediately ganked by who other than michael j anderson, noted loon. he starts strangling the shit out of this kid until a knife thrown by a mysterious pretty girl interrupts the fight. she’s looking for a newcomer….everyone is looking for a newcomer, as it turns out. the girl, elysia, grabs ryan by his shirt and then rockets upward with her fist extended like superman. absolutely insane to behold actually. (ed note: i just realized she never does this again in the movie)

but now…the villain…the dreadfully fabulous and eccentric komodo. his lackeys include two bald guys and not-maleficent (the best one). there’s like 5 bald guys in komodo’s court. there’s something in the water here, which might have been what alos gave komodo his ~telekinetic powers~. komodo actually kind of rules. he has these incredibly goofy monologues and angus macfadyen is playing him at maximum ham. “what’s the point of power” he muses, “if you don’t abuse people?”. if i had ultimate power i would use it to force the baskin robbins people into giving me free scoops so like i get it.

komodo gets his hands on ryan’s backpack and with it, his dope ass book about tao he got from epic chef. they say it “t-ow” by the way. not “d-ow”. i had to look this up to make sure i wasn’t going nuts. meanwhile, ryan is asking the normal questions you would when you wake up in a new place: where am i? was that book i lost important? was it a vital piece of the puzzle that would allow us to save this world i’ve been flung into? answers: you’re in tao, yes its the manuscript of legend, and yes nice going moron. ryan gets the skinny on the situation: komodo is draining some magic………….lumps. for the mineral inside. the mineral makes him strong and live longer, but the mineral also supports all life on earth (tao, whatever). there’s only one magic lump left so the battle is on to protect the lump.

exhibit a: the lump

we enter the village of the lump which is another impressive set piece with some goofy looking animal people mixed in with the regular people. they’re all shockingly alien looking; there’s been no attempts to try and make these “cute”. they’re very freaky looking and i kind of like it. like, look at this guy:

i like him. i trust him.

the village is freaking out because 1 of the 5 warriors of virtue is awol. no one is happy to see ryan the newcomer of legend except for wise master chung. we see the rooz (that’s the species name) from afar and the suit actors are honestly doing some CRAZY shit in these awful bulky things they crushed them into. one of these rooz is doug jones! we also finally see one of their faces from a reasonable distance.

you won’t like this so brace yourself.

yuck! no good! skin texture is very very unfortunate. looking very klingon here. the lips are an insane choice.

elysia lets ryan in on more lore: one rooz (? is that the plural or the species name?), yun, is missing because he broke the warrior’s creed not to kill. it’s obvious from the way elysia reacts to ryan’s bonkers and insensitive “SO WHAT” that the person yun killed was her aforementioned dead brother- yo holy shit not-maleficent is wearing a SPIDER WEB CAPE. anyway, yun the rooz saves ryan from some evil dudes again (yes, it WAS him the first time saving ryan, making this 2 wins for yun after a big off screen L) and re-unites with the rooz. very short lived separation in the scheme of the movie. no one had to convince him, really, or help him overcome his trauma. he’s back and ready to punch people non-fatally.

we get a scene with komodo where he like, free associates some evil thoughts while swinging in a hammock as a monkey man sing/screams at him. excellent, dude. but what’s this…? ELYSIA IS WORKING FOR KOMODO!!??! i actually didn’t see this one coming because it’s revealed like halfway through a movie where the adventure is literally just getting started. its been an hour!!! dude her perm is whack lol look at this:

oh no lol

she’s got weird sexual tension with komodo in this scene, which means i guess i don’t know how old she is. she’s either too old to be ryan’s love interest or way too young for komodo. i’m glad the adventure is beginning so i can stop typing for a while.

ryan wakes up from a nightmare and checks his leg to make sure its still working. i lean back in my chair and make a pained noise like a dying sheep.

michael j anderson returns and tries to talk ryan into some kind of scheme and tricks ryan into getting owned and kidnapped along with all of the warriors of virtue. elysia is extremely evil now; she and komodo are making the most insane “YOO HOO~!” noises together while strutting around the room like a pair of roosters. ryan is saved by master chung so he’s safe for now but the warriors are straight fucked. just kidding, they escape from the deadly spinning blade trap without harm. meanwhile ryan is picking his fucking nose and eating dandelions while learning about kung-fu from master chung. the warriors are fucking DYING ryan.

no time for ryan to get his shit together. its time for the star wars moment: old man versus bad guy; komodo is here to KILL. the fight choreography in this is driving me insane on my second watch. it’s all in slow motion, but not REAL slow motion, the kind that’s for showing detail and near scrapes or impressive maneuvers. it’s skipping every other frame i think. it’s the entire fight and it feels like i’m playing a videogame while my latency is fucked. naturally the old, wise leader everyone was depending on is no more after he gets his face slashed by komodo…we must forge our own path in life now…..etc…

i can’t believe i forgot to show you komodo. you know this guy ruined someone’s brain chemistry at an early age.  he’s a sephiroth type!

ryan can’t help because, get this, his leg is stuck in a hole and he’s USELESS. really makes you think. he’s so useless he gets kidnapped and then get his heart broken by elysia who reveals how evil she is (but shes actually nice or whatever). he is forced by komodo to read the magical manuscript since the newcomer is the only one who can read the pages…but it’s empty to ryan as well. so ryan uses his presumed last seconds on earth to ruin komodo’s vibe.

not bad but this is a kid’s movie so points deducted

elysia is killed by not-maleficent in front of ryan who completely and rightfully freaks out. ryan escapes but has a total emotional meltdown realizing he’s going to see people die for real. so he takes it out on michael j anderson by totally and brutally reading him the riot act about what a fucked up little dude he is. ryan returns to help the rooz and komodo makes a “the warriors” reference. the one you were thinking of. that one. it’s time for the FINAL battle. [checks the time left on this movie] uh oh.

komodo summons shadow clones of himself to fight the rooz, indicating he has reached his second phase and his health meter is halfway down. his hair looks SO soft. like compared to the rooz, who look like they might leave a film on your hand after your pet them, komodo looks so silky. just an observation. i don’t care about this not-slow-motion-yes-slow-motion fight scene.

ryan receives the wisdom of the book when he’s at his most desperate, revealing that komodo’s powers have been lessened by his desire and willingness to kill. you know, in hindsight, if ryan had a gun, this whole thing would have been easy. instead ryan has to trick komodo into using up all his magic juice on blowing this 10 year old to smithereens. after this, the warriors are able to “purify his spirit” and turn him into a nice boy again.

lol

the world is saved! except ryan is fucking dying for real. like this kid straight up dies on screen. he fucking dies!

don’t worry he wakes up in the real world again right before he takes his fateful plunge. but this time he decides not to jump in the swirling hole of instant death. everyone leaves the bully to “get owned” by water in a non-fatal way. ryan apologizes to his mom for being a little dick before and then settles in to tell his fucking dog about his adventure. his dog.

movie over. what did we learn? uhhhh discriminatory attitudes toward the disabled mostly. also you can shoot a 10 year old with a laser beam and it isn’t immediately fatal.

both equally valuable pieces of knowledge (?).

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