Ninja Angkasa

Dept. of Education and Evisceration


Browsing Amazon Prime is a little bit like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Imagine my surprise when, on a recent rummage, I came across a retro b-movie style poster and the title “Ninja Angkasa” (“Space Ninjas” in Malay).

With a title like that I had to take a closer look.

“The Last Thing I Want to Do Is Hurt You, but It’s Still on My List”

Ninja Angkasa was shot in Cempaka School Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, with a mostly Malaysian cast, even though writer/director Scott McQuaid hails from Essex. Reviewing local movies can be a bit of a double edged sword, if not quite a massive Buster Sword, like the one in the movie. On the one hand anyone who manages the herculean feat of pulling together the resources, people, and time to make a film and get it released, in any form, should be praised. On the other, many small filmmakers do themselves, and their audience, no favours by overreaching, when their ambitions far exceed their talent (or budget). It never feels good slamming small filmmakers, except when it is hideously produced self serving trash like Amazing Titanman or Mahaguru.

Thankfully Ninja Angkasa doesn’t sink anywhere near that level of drivel, but it’s not quite a B-movie gem either.

Shurikens and Skateboards

At a “high school somewhere in Asia” a  group of particularly unrepentant students find themselves in a fight for survival, rather than the planned special detention, when their school is attacked by Space Ninjas!  A test for a larger invasion, not only do the students need to survive but “the planet’s fate also might also lie in their hands!” They may not be The Breakfast Club but can this brain, athlete, “sk8r gurl”, princess, and Japanese exchange student (???) save themselves, and maybe even the planet?

It’s a great set up for a movie, especially a low budget B-movie, with plenty of avenues for cheap thrills. Unfortunately, Ninja Angkasa keeps bumping up against the restrictions of low budget film-making rather than using them to their advantage.


Despite some impressive martial arts prowess by Bryan Tiang, who plays all the Space Ninjas, he’s let down by editing that hinders his moves, rather than enhancing them. While long, uninterrupted shots of Bryan spinning a blade on a chain around his head look great, it’s far less impressive when he just stands there for long periods of time, waiting for the rest of the cast to rattle off their dialogue. They don’t escape unscathed either. Editing which could have covered up any, shall we say, less than stellar action chops with heavy cutting, instead shines a light on any skills and lack thereof.

“Trapped in a School With Space Ninja Assassins, It’s Less Than Ideal”

Oddly it doesn’t help even when so many scenes are mired in darkness. The students are at a special late night detention (how else could the crew get so much use out of the school location), and while their scenes can be hard to make out, the ninjas are all too clear, robbing them on any sense of menace.

It’s not all bad though. The script does have some zingers although it is let down by the stilted delivery, which seems mostly due to the majority of the dialogue having been rerecorded. This isn’t always the filmmakers fault but it sucks the energy out of most scenes and loses any chemistry between the cast.

The Ninja Angkasa themselves are barely even MacGuffins. They literally appear and disappear when the script requires them to, actually teleporting in and out of scenes, with a nonsense weakness (they can only see you when you breathe) just to allow our protagonists a fighting chance. Thanks to their habit of lingering too long on screen, and exiting most scenes right when they should be administering a killing blow for no reason whatsoever, they produce zero tension.

Choosing a B-movie action horror comedy as your first film creates a lot of hurdles for the filmmakers to to clear. The jokes have to land, the tone has to be just right, and the gore has to be messy.

“Well You Know What They Say, Wait for the Third Act”

It’s not simply enough to have Space Ninjas. They have to represent something. If you think this is too highbrow a critique then don’t create one of your characters in the mould of Jamie Kennedy’s Randy from Scream. Constantly commenting on how events should play out based upon genre expectations. If you hang a lampshade on the tropes you’re playing with by literally having a character say “it sounds like a plot from a bad B-movie,” then you have to do something more than just letting those tropes play out as usual.

When the script does come up with good ideas, it often fails to capitalize on them. For God’s sake, one character’s skateboard its smashed in two, resulting in “skateboard nunchuks” which are used once then thrown away!!! You could build an entire movie around that alone!


It is wildly, unreservedly unfair to compare Ninja Angkasa to The Vast of Night, another recent low budget sci-fi movie on Prime Video, but I’m going to do it anyway. While I’m sure there’s an astronomical gap between the “low budgets” of both films, there are lessons that can be learned from Andrew Patterson’s approach.

Don’t use expensive CG when there are cheaper options available, like hiding in the free shadows, which you have buckets of, thanks to shooting at night. Hide your antagonists for as long as possible. Remember you barely saw the Alien in Alien, or the shark in Jaws. Sometimes all you need to build tension are two people talking in a room.

Great Starbuck’s Ghost!

One thing Scott McQuaid should be congratulated on, is his casting ability. Or his amazing connections. The young Malaysian cast are certainly game for whatever he throws at them, but not only did he manage to get Brian Narelle, the space surfing Lieutenant Doolittle from John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s Dark Star, but he managed to get Faceman himself, Dirk Benedict, to star in his first film role, since Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team from 2010.

Narelle plays friendly “mad professor” at the school, with a hobby of cloning celebrities (and his cat) and a habit of delivering great 4th wall breaking lines. He’s probably one of the best things in the film, even if he is part of the extended set up for a groan-worthy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern joke.

Benedict stars in what amounts to an extended cameo as Jack “Don’t Call Me” Strange, host of Stanger than Fiction the Unsolved Mysteries style show that bookends the action at the school.

Making your first full length film can be can be difficult, sure, but there’s no need to make it more difficult for yourself, or the audience. Ninja Angkasa has some neat ideas but they are smothered under lackluster editing, unnecessary effects, and some really lame jokes. Sometimes less can be more.

Ninja Angkasa/Space Ninjas
91 minutes
Director: Scott McQuaid
Writer: Scott McQuaid
Cast: Yi Jane, Amirul Afiq Bin Amri, Mia Sara Shauki, Cassandra Foo Wern Yen, Damien Zachary, Brian Narelle, Dirk Benedict, and Razif Hashim.

Ninja Angkasa/Space Ninjas is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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