Enter The Warriors Gate (2016)
Jack is the ultimate gamer, but the next level is about to get real.
The original planned movie didn't arrive on time due to a mishap in sending it out on time. Instead, I found another movie - yet again something easily available on Netflix at the time of writing this. This one holds all sorts of surprises I didn't anticipate because I didn't read anything beyond the title and box-blurb equivalent. I mean, sure, there's tons of these "gamer gets pulled into a situation that makes things real" movies out there, but that doesn't stop most of them from at the least being cheesy fun. So, tune your set to dairy and let's see if it gives us what we anticipate.
If you've properly tuned your expectations to Small Soldiers or Jumanji, than you will probably have fun with this one. It's obviously pretty well aimed at that "family movie" bracket, although the language could be a barrier for some and others might be a bit more firm in their stance on violence - even if there isn't really anything to it that's explicit. You've got your romance branch, the mystical side of things, and of course that story about finding the courage to stand up for yourself and how it makes everything right in life. If you are going to nitpick it (meaning you didn't tune your expectations properly), than you probably will have much less fun here.
Costume work is a nice swath here, and I really enjoy that. Sure, we have some modern attire thrown in here, but the opening video game scene has some nice mixes of knight and barbarian and samurai ninjas. Further in, we get a more classical Chinese armor on top of more barbarian attire to go with all the swords and the likes of the "back in time" setting change. Although I wouldn't go as far as to call it all super history-accurate or anything like that, it all looks quite well on screen, and adds just the right amount of fantasy flair to make the entire thing feel more like a game (even though at that point it's not a game). The settings also have some pretty alright character to them all considering they aren't anything you wouldn't expect to see.
The actors do a pretty good job here, and the movie makes the interesting choice of primarily having all the characters speaking English outside of a few moments where Mandarin gets thrown around. Logically, the Mandarin makes sense given the setting of China after the shift (and I only call it Mandarin because that's what the subtitles tell me they are speaking in), and I can appreciate not having to read most the movie so I can focus my attention elsewhere while watching it. Line delivery is decent, although as expected there's plenty of cringe-worthy dialogue lines or interactions when it comes to the game side of things.
Some of the surprises I alluded to before aren't so much in the plot - which is rather straight forward especially for this type of movie - but rather people involved. The 5th Element guy himself (Besson) is attached to this thing, as well as Dave Bautista (who I only recognized when he started talking) playing the main villain. It's actually a little amusing to see the head villain feeling more like he came from Russia or Germany or something to lead his hordes of Chinese Barbarians, but it's hard to argue that the man can't play a good barbarian - even when they sound so well versed.
The audio is pretty well balanced, and the soundtrack is rather upbeat even if it's not necessarily something I personally am going to be fighting to get out of my head. It well suits the movie at the very least. There's also a bit of emphasis here and there on dancing - probably at least in part due to the similarities of martial arts and it's flowing motions. The other part is probably something to do with the levity it brings to the movie, being used here and there as a bit of a gag. There are some jokes in here, and it's a spread bar as to how well they work - although again if you've seen this type of movie you won't be all that shocked by most the jokes that come up or when they come up for that matter.
If I had to pick out the biggest flaw of this movie, it's probably just that it isn't really all that much we haven't seen before. Although we have a kick-butt princess, she does in fact get captured and end up serving as the mcguffin for a stint, we have a kid who has to learn courage and does so through his mystical adventure, and you have the happy endings. The costumes are pretty good, the effects are pretty middle ground - some look far better than others - and the audio is handled well enough. It's very much lacking in things to really set it above and beyond the typical movie of this type.
Overall, it's not bad. It's something you could conceivably watch with the family (albeit some parents may want to double check the language and violence situation to see if it's appropriate for their family). It's biggest crime as a movie is being relatively mediocre amongst it's similar movies, and that isn't exactly a game breaker. It's a fun romp through a cheesy story with some martial arts fights and the lengths it takes to get a kid to learn to just be brave with some jokes slapped in and some fun costumes.