Weird Watch: ‘Warriors of Virtue’

Drew Dietsch

Part of the joy of being a fan is finding odd and obscure gems that you end up falling in love with. For every Batman, there is a Meteor Man. For every Harry Potter, there is a Wizards. Here at Fandom, we like to go hunting for some offbeat and off-the-wall films and television shows that might just become your own secret treasures.Strap yourself in and expect the unexpected, because this week’s Weird Watch is the 1997 Chinese-American fantasy film Warriors of Virtue. (Last time: Nightcrawler)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was such a huge cultural hit that its bizarre concept of anthropomorphized heroes became standard practice throughout the late ’80s and into the ’90s. There are more ripoffs than you would believe, but one of the most outlandish imitators came at the very end of the trend’s popularity. Warriors of Virtue was a Chinese-produced action film intended for the States. Let’s see if we can get through the premise without your brain imploding.

Ryan Jeffers, a young kid with a leg brace who dreams of playing football, falls into a giant sewer drain that’s actually a vortex to the mystical land of Tao. He meets the Warriors of Virtue, Tao’s legendary protectors and masters of various elemental powers. Oh, and they are kangaroo people. Because… yeah.

Lai, one of the Warriors of Virtue

It’s tough to know where to start with Warriors of Virtue. Should I focus on the incredibly plastic looking sets? The nightmarish design of the kangaroo karate masters? How about director Ronny Yu‘s decision to film huge swaths of the movie in a blurry framerate that isn’t quite slow-motion? That effect actually made one critic vomit during a screening.

No, if there’s one facet of Warriors of Virtue that deserves your attention, it’s the film’s antagonist Komodo, played by Angus Macfadyen. Komodo is an unhinged delight. Macfadyen makes Eddie Redmayne’s performance in Jupiter Ascending look positively restrained. Every moment that Komodo is on screen is a treasure. Some brave soul actually compiled all of Komodo’s scenes. Gaze into the hammy abyss:

What really hammers home the weirdness of Warriors of Virtue is its disinterest in explaining what is going on. The adventure centers around a mystical book that Komodo wants to obtain, but how this book works is never quite clear. There are tons of mystical quotations and airy prophecies that add up to nothing. It’s also clear that a lot of the movie was excised in favor of a brisker pace. Nowhere is that clearer than in the film’s ending. Oh man, the film’s ending.

In the middle of the fight with Komodo, the Warriors remember that they have “the medallions.” Apparently, all the Warriors of Virtue wear magical medallions around their necks. These medallions are never mentioned until the end of the film, and they are the key to defeating Komodo. The Warriors join the medallions together which creates some kind of portal that turns Komodo into lava and… look, this ending has sent some people into hysterics. It needs to be seen to be believed.

Warriors of Virtue is one of those films that feels like it was made by aliens. There’s nothing to latch onto emotionally but the particulars are so unique that they feel true to themselves. It’s a movie that almost seems like it was based on some expansive novel. A bigger world is always lurking around the edges but never turning into anything substantial. Still, the bonkers performance from Angus Macfadyen and the absurdity of the film’s climax make this unmissable.

But skip the sequel. They took out the kangaroo people.

Read more in our regular Weird Watch series here.

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