The premise of Kung Fury is the stuff nonsensical B-movies and particularly elaborate fever dreams are made of. A Miami cop is struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra, which events give him magical kung fu powers that he uses to fight (in no particular order) a sentient arcade machine, the Norse god Thor, and Adolf Hitler.
The 30-minute movie was crowd-funded to the tune of $630,000 on Kickstarter, played at the Cannes Director's Fortnight, and has been distributed on YouTube, where it’s earned 11 million views in five days. David Hasselhoff performed its theme song. Considering its small budget, Kung Fury is a feat of technical genius, even though its imagery cynically appeals to its audience's nostalgia. As a one-off, it’s a hilarious trifle. But in the crowdfunded future, will all movies look like this?
There's a reason Kung Fury was such a Kickstarter phenomenon, after all. When it debuted on the crowdfunding website in December 2013, it came with a five-minute sizzle reel of the special effects Swedish director/star David Sandberg had cooked up with his own money. "It's an action comedy about a super kung-fu cop in Miami in the 1980s who decides to travel back in time in order to kill Adolf Hitler," Sandberg declared, somewhat matter-of-factly, to the 17,000-odd people who spent their money to help him achieve his vision. Shot entirely in front of a green screen, Kung Fury represents the leaps and bounds visual effects have made in the 11 years since the release of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a Hollywood action blockbuster starring Jude Law and Angelina Jolie that was filmed in a similar matter—but cost $70 million to make.
Kung Fury doesn't quite have the sheen of Sky Captain or similar Hollywood green-screen epics like Sin City or 300. But it's not far off. Considering the film was shot at Sandberg's offices in Stockholm, piece by piece, with actors and extras doing their individual work before being composited into the computer-generated backgrounds of the film, Kung Fury is quite a jaw-dropping achievement. Sandberg wears his inspiration on his sleeve—seemingly every cheesy 80s action movie gets a nod, from the street gangs of Robocop to the dark Patrick Swayze heroics of Road House to the extended Nintendo ad campaign The Wizard.