5 Things to Notice About Kung Fury
If you use social media at all, you may have heard of Kung Fury, a little short film released last week that has developed quite the following after a successful Kickstarter campaign and months of anticipation. But just what is it about this project that has action movie fans and 80s kids so excited?
1. Seriously Ridiculous – Evil sentient arcade machines. Time-traveling Vikings with uzis. Dinosaurs that shoot lasers. Kung fu Adolph Hitler. The level of ridiculousness in Kung Fury is high. Within a half hour run time, the film throws all this and more at us yet somehow it never becomes overwhelming. On paper, the plot sounds like random nonsense, but the specificity with which it lampoons the 80s and the seriousness with which it lays out all these elements is a what sets Kung Fury apart from being silly to being something fun and amazing. By all intents and purposes, Kung Fury is a mish-mash of 80s tropes and ideas set to a synthwave soundtrack with only a basic storyline that doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense when you think about it. However, it does make sense within the context of what’s presented, which is all you can really ask from a good 80s movie, isn’t it?
From the origin of Kung Fury’s powers via simultaneous lightning bolt and cobra bite to Hackerman “hacking away” bullet wounds to save him, the viewer is asked to simply go along for the ride. Yes, these are ridiculous, silly ideas that are completely implausible, but they work because they are so specific to a genre and time period. Kung Fury excels in combining the machismo and geekery that the 80s were known for and at no point does it ever even hazard a winking glance toward the camera. While it’s fine for the audience to know this is some silly shit, the trick is that the hero should never know that he lives in a ridiculous world. For him, this is how the world is.
2. Borrowing is So Much Easier Than Remaking – We live in a time of remakes and reboots and Kung Fury presents an excellent example of an alternative. While it’s true that people do love the familiar and remaking say, Escape From New York or recasting Indiana Jones may sound like a good, lucrative idea, those movies frankly already exist. What Kung Fury does instead is take a lot of familiar ideas and visuals that people remember from 80s action movies and creates an entirely different product from them. This should be put into practice far more. Instead of making a Knight Rider movie, why not have a movie wherein the main character drives a talking car? Instead of rehashing The Terminator, why not just make a new movie about a cyborg killing machine from the future? But I digress…
3. The Tracking!!! – Oh lord, the tracking. I loved it. Tracking is the 80s/90s VHS equivalent of the jumping and misalignment from 70s projectors that directors like Quentin Tarantino are so fond of. If you watched movies on VHS tapes growing up, you know about tracking. And also, the warped audio that you could get after repeatedly watching one of those tapes. Again, the specificity of the look and sound of the tracking problems was delightfully spot-on.
4. Style – One of my biggest complaints about action movies today is the lack of color and visual composition. A movie can be dark and gritty in tone but still visually colorful, I swear! It’s part of why movies like Dredd and Mad Max: Fury Road are so engaging. Not only is there cool action stuff going on but the worlds look so much richer and fuller because you can actually see details and the effort that went into building the sets, wardrobes, and props. Kung Fury is a bit more on the broad side but everything still hits right on, from the leather jackets and red Converse shoes to the Powerglove and clunky 80s technology. Of course, something always goes wrong with 80s technology and that’s part of what makes it so fun. Back then, machines in movies were completely unreliable and could lead to things like injecting yourself into your own computer game, creating Kelly Brock in hot pants, or getting sent to the gotdammed Viking Age.
5. Music – You simply can’t have a proper homage to the 80s without music. There is no 80s without music and the addition of Mitch Murder to the Kung Fury project cemented it as a true 80s love letter (same for scoring David Hasselhoff for the music video). At some point, Hollywood decided that the soundtrack for tough guys should be gangster rap and hip hop, but while those have their place too, there is such a depth of emotion that those genres don’t quite hit. If you listen to the smooth tunes in Kung Fury though, you’ll notice that each track has a different feel to it, representing a different emotion. There’s smooth 80s jazz for the sensual opening, driving synth chords and riffs for the fights, and triumphant keyboard crescendos for the end. There are even a few metal shout outs during the Viking scenes so keep an ear out. Barbarianna even has her own little theme song.
Kung Fury has become a pop culture leviathan that has gotten rave reviews from its screenings at the Cannes Film Festival and has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube as of June 1st, 2015. It was released just four days ago. It wasn’t a remake. It wasn’t a reboot. It didn’t adapt an existing property. Instead, writer/director David Sandberg went into our old collective toyboxes and created a film using all of our favorite action figures. It’s silly and it’s ridiculous but it’s a very specific tone of ridiculous, and Kung Fury owns every awesome second of it.