Tuesday Top Ten: Reasons why DOA: Dead or Alive Was Rated Highly


It’s that time again, friends—time for another Tuesday Top Ten! Each week we go through the top ten somethings-or-others even vaguely related to video games. This week, we’re going through the top ten reasons DOA: Dead or Alive name number one way back in our top ten list of movies based on video game franchises.

As we discussed in that top ten list, the game series is an interesting study in contradictions. On the one hand, the franchise can be said to be exemplary of certain less than respectful stereotypes and game elements. On the other hand, the games themselves are just incredibly freaking good. The combat comfortably incorporates combos without making the player have to memorize twenty-seven button-presses (with only a few admitted exceptions), but it’s accessible without letting the player get away with pressing one button to win.

For all of those reasons, the franchise is insanely popular, so much so that it was no surprise at all that a movie was made based on it. The games were over-the-top, even silly, yet fun at every turn—and the movie was no different.

You can see each introduction to the women here, which might be worth a watch since I’ll be referencing it often.

10. Simple Fun
That doesn’t seem to be worth an entry, I know. And to be sure, such a sentiment which will be expressed quite often elsewhere on this list—but it’s a surprisingly important aspect. It’s simply a movie that allows even someone who instinctually tries to probe deeper into films and such to just—enjoy it. It provides enough depth to make for a good backdrop, but enough simple fun to make it worth pulling out and watching, as we’ll see as we continue down the list.

09. The Plot
Oh, the plot. In dry text, it almost seems serious—but it really couldn’t be any further from seriousness. Fighters are lured to an island to partake in a winner-take-all combat tournament, which is in actuality a secret attempt to inject “nanobots” into the fighters, so their fighting styles could be recorded and dissected. The purpose of that was so any fighting style could be adapted to and defeated.

The method of this adaptation—sunglasses. Special sunglasses worn that would basically make the wearer a martial arts master. Even in this description, it doesn’t give justice to the sheer ludicrousness of it all—but it was oddly charming. It was a perfect example of the movie not taking itself seriously.

Oh, and the method to defeat the wearer of the sunglasses? Knocking them off. Seriously. All this technology, and no one thought to attach a strap to the contraption.

08. The Opening Fake-Out
The first minute or so of the movie is a complete fake-out, as you can see in the above clip (Ayane’s introduction is also the first few minutes of the movie). It’s very serious, looking like it’s attempting to ape some of the classic Japanese Samurai movies. Ayane and Kasumi face off, swords at each other’s throats; Ayane wants to leave to find a missing comrade, but Kasumi doesn’t want her to.

Then, just over a minute in—the movie tosses seriousness right out the window with a mad, gleeful cackle. The viewer is faked out, fans of the series especially, with that seeming promise of a “serious study” of the setting—until the movie suddenly takes a sharp left at Albuquerque and never looks back. The viewer is dragged into a world as silly and over-the-top as the franchise that inspired it.

07. Christie
As anyone who reads this blog for any length of time surely knows, while I’m not exactly adverse to the female form in video games, I don’t exactly have high regard for female characters whose sole reason for existence in a video game is to be the simpering, pitiful princess in need of rescuing by the big, muscle-y men. It comes as no surprise, then, that it was Christie who got me into the franchise in the first place.

I still remember it—I was looking at the back of one of the cases, noting the, ah, heavily-stereotyped women, and Christie caught my eye. Spiky hair (a generally-masculine trait in Japanese games), a “touch me and die” scowl on her face; my friend noticed and said something to the effect of, “Oh, Christie. She’s kind of a [expletive]. You’d love her.” And he was right, of course.

Even as displayed in the pre-fight comments in the games, it was plain she had a no-nonsense attitude, where if she ever needed rescuing it was a part of some grand plan of hers—and the movie actually showed that quite clearly. Yes, she was well aware of her “assets”, and how best to use them—but using them was a ploy, to gain the upper hand, and nothing more. As can be seen in the above clip, her introduction captured that spirit quite well.

06. The Fight Scenes
Yes, each and every one was chock-full of “Hollywood martial arts”, where there’s no real discernible analogue to real-world combat styles (which is pretty much omni-present in Western movies, with few exceptions), but even so they captured the feel of the game.

Take this fight scene with Helena. It starts with her name on the screen in a style lifted from the games, with plenty of interesting maneuvers that are more than just “kick-kick-block-punch-twirl-flip-kick”—and the best part is the end. The voice-over announcing, “K.O.! Helena wins!” as there’s a slow-motion pan around her.

Then there’s this fight scene between Tina and her father, Bass (preceded most humorously by this scene). It’s funny as heck, and as the rest of the fights, fit in quite well with the game franchise.

05. Xtreme Beach Volleyball Homage
Granted, this particular title only ramped up certain other stereotypical elements, but like the core series, the other focus of the game was darn good. The volleyball was fun, and could be as in-depth as the player wanted it to be.

It was a fun game, and the homage on its own was nice—but the way it was done was even better. They made it fit the rest of the movie, more or less. It wasn’t a seamless fit, of course, but it wasn’t a bright, flashing, neon sign pointing to the game, either.

04. The Cast
It seems easy, perhaps, at first glance to make a movie that leaves seriousness behind but is still fun and entertaining. Well—that’s not quite true. Look at something like the Street Fighter movie—Raul Julia was the only thing that made that movie worth watching, and it didn’t take itself any more seriously than DOA does.

A large portion of the reason Street Fighter didn’t “work” while DOA: Dead or Alive did was the cast. Each girl was portrayed quite well, though some actresses were a better “fit” than others and, as mentioned below, Zack was darn near perfectly portrayed. No matter what else can be said, the main cast committed to the roles enough to make them—well, one would be hard-pressed to say “believable”, but definitely enjoyable.

03. Zack
What a goofy son of a gun. That’s almost all that can be said for him, really. He’s just—goofy, but in a hilariously good way. You just can’t help but laugh at most of his appearances in the games, as—in Xtreme Beach Volleyball, for example—he tries and fails to “get” Christie, if you know what we mean.

Brian J. White made the perfect Zack, oddly enough. For all of his goofiness, it’s easy to imagine that it takes a special actor to pull off the wacko that is the green-mohawked man, but White managed it quite well—which is actually surprising, given his other roles. It’s surprising, but a great surprise. Not only did White pull off a difficult character, but it showed that the actor has quite a good range.

02. The Girls’ Introductions
As shown in the video linked above, each girl gets their own introduction—a display of their fighting and personalities, ending with a bladed—eh—something-or-another weapon-like-thing embedding itself into something nearby, which is basically an invitation to a super-secret fighting tournament.

Each introduction is short but perfect for the girl in question, though the best part is the end, when still images of the girl are lined up in the screen, then their name and fighting style are displayed—humorously reminiscent of the game franchise.

01. Lack of Pretension
As has been said numerous times already, and hopefully proven, the movie just doesn’t take itself seriously. It might not be at first easy to see why such a thing is important enough to take the number-one slot.

Many film-makers try to keep their movies “tone” similar to the source, for better or for worse, and no matter the source. In this case, keeping to the general tone of the video games was the best decision the film-makers could make. The games are silly in their seriousness, just like the movie, but that is a hard balance to strike. Too much “fake sincerity” and you end up with narm. Too little and you end up with a modern-day version of the Keystone Kops.

It is, again, a hard balance to find, one not easily achieved by many film-makers, but DOA: Dead or Alive managed to find that balance, and thus deliver two hours of sheer fun.

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