Back upon 'Super Mario Bros' release, despite how anyone may have felt about it, the window was now opening up for a whole new sub-genre of film - the video game movie. The second in line for this treatment was 1994's 'Double Dragon' - a movie I remember liking at the time of its release, once again quite ignorant to the film's actual quality. I was a sucker, and sure enough, that title pulled me in because I LOVED the 'Double Dragon' games (except '3', that was awful).
For kids today who may be a little more unfamiliar with the title (although it's probably popular enough that you've at least heard of it), 'Double Dragon' was a classic arcade beat-'em-up side-scroller game, eventually adapted into an NES game, with several titles to follow. The premise was focused on two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee. They fight their way through some tough city streets, in pursuit of a girl named Marion, who is kidnapped by a gang known as the "Black Warriors" (a name that may be a little dated by today's standards). It was simple enough; four levels, four bosses, and the idea of rescuing the girl who gets punched in the gut and taken away in the beginning (yeah, things are dated). Potential controversy aside though, these were very satisfying to play with a second player - in the same room, if you can believe that.
Eventually, a crossover with 'Battletoads' was done in '93, and that's most likely what the film is riding the coattails of. It was a name still fresh in our little minds at the time, so when a movie was released, most of us were pretty excited about it. But then we all saw it, and most simply asked "what the hell did I just watch?" (except me, because once again, the title was all I ignorantly cared about). The biggest problem with making 'Double Dragon' into a movie is that there's really nothing to that game. Girl gets kidnapped, two brothers go through the grungy city streets to rescue her and that's about it. For this to become a movie, things were pretty much to be made up, and the result is pretty damn ridiculous.
The film opens with some background, telling us of the king of Shang-sa, located somewhere in ancient China. Before being taken by an army of shadow warriors, he sacrifices himself in order to create a medallion that holds two ultimate powers over body and soul. The medallion is split in half, and divided between the king's sons. Then we hop into the future where a crime lord named Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick, now a far cry from a T-1000) holds the half that has power over the soul. He orders his henchmen to retrieve the other half, which leads them to Satori (Julia Nickson), the legal guardian of the Lee brothers, Billy (Scott Wolf) and Jimmy (Mark Dacascos).
Soon, the brothers find themselves protecting the other half of the medallion, with a little assistance from the Power Core; a group of graffiti punks lead by Alyssa Milano. So it's safe to say they took some liberties with this title. It may have worked for a few like me at the time, but 'Double Dragon' is definitely one of those video game movie titles people don't remember all too well. Video game movies have a tendency to be somewhat memorable, even if they're terrible. This is something that has just simply aged horribly, it's entirely forgettable (even with a few big names for the time) and I'm not altogether sure it understand its target audience.
This was a movie based on the world's most famous side-scrolling beat-em-up of the era, and it was rated PG-13, lending itself to a bit more violence. But the final result pretty much targets the youth of the time. I mean, for crying out loud, there's a torture scene here involving feeding a big thug spinach that he just doesn't like the taste of. 'Temple of Doom' helped usher in the PG-13 rating, and it has someone ripping out someone's beating heart and dumping him alive into a pit of fire. Maybe that's an extreme example, but the point is, something like 'Double Dragon' should have been a hell of a lot cooler than this Saturday morning cartoon of a movie. I was more forgiving at the time, but at this point, things are just plain painful to watch. It was swept under the rug by audiences everywhere, and that's where it should probably stay.