Double Dragon was one of several films adapted from videogames that appeared around the same time, along with Super Mario Bros. (1993), Street Fighter (1994) and Mortal Kombat (1995). This is something that has grown into its own subgenre since with increasingly popular subsequent entries such as Wing Commander (1999), Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (2001), Resident Evil (2002), House of the Dead (2003), Alone in the Dark (2005), BloodRayne (2005), Doom (2005), DOA: Dead or Alive (2006), Silent Hill (2006), Hitman (2007), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007), Postal (2007), Far Cry (2008), Max Payne (2008), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Tekken (2010), Angry Birds (2016), Assassins Creed (2016), Warcraft (2016) and Rampage (2018). Most of these were relatively successful. Not however Double Dragon, which languished on the shelves for two years before being dumped to video, which is never a good sign for a film.
Double Dragon emerges as highly disappointing. What makes it doubly so is that there has clearly been care put into some parts of it. The film has a reasonable budget, while effort has clearly been put into the visual effects and sets to create some elaborate visions of a semi-destroyed future LA. There are also some impressive effects with Robert Patrick turning into a two-dimensional shadow being.
It is just that the rest of Double Dragon never seems sure of its intended audience. On one level, the production values and story are aimed at the hybrid science-fiction/action movie set. On the other hand, the film seems to assume that pre-teens are the sole consumers of videogames and the action is constantly pitched down at their level. Certainly, there are times that former music video director James Yukich makes the action engagingly energetic the fight at the boat-house but at other times it proves amazingly silly and juvenile one such moment being an attack on the lead villains quarters by a gang of skateboarding pre-teens. The film ends up as an uncertain hybrid that falls uneasily between two camps. Many direct-to-video action directors would weep to be able to work with the production values that the film has on hand but surely none of the action audience would waste their time with the films juvenile antics.
The films other unfortunate mistake is in its handling of the videogames basic premise. The two brothers are played as a couple of dorks that barely have enough between them to nail two short planks together. One of these is Scott Wolf who subsequently became a teen sex symbol on tvs Party of Five (1994-2000), although Double Dragon came along a little too soon to capitalize on that. Aside from the annoyance of the characters, the films mistake here is the set-up. The games audience want to see the two brothers kick ass the way they do in the game. However, for the entire film, right up until the climactic battle, the two brothers are impotent, a couple of losers who can never work out how to get their artefact of power working. One understands the need of a film that has clear hopes of making it to a series to set up its mythology but it seems ridiculous having to wait until any theoretical second film before getting to the real action.
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