seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

Movie Review: Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li

Summary of the summary: Decent but uninspired martial-arts/hero's journey flick; terrible Street Fighter adaptation. Average score: Two stars out of 5.

One would generally think, when making a movie that uses the title of, and talks up its connection with, a video game, one would try to use elements of the game (or its spinoffs) which would appeal to its basic audience, while naturally trying to add stuff that would broaden the audience as well.

This idea seems to seldom penetrate the skulls of people doing these adaptations. It has failed to penetrate now for the SECOND time as a Western crew tries to adapt Street Fighter once more as a live-action big screen event.

Let's start with the main villain. In America, he's called M. Bison or just Bison; in Japan, he's Vega-Sama. In either case, he looks like my icon above: he's Frickin' Huge (though not as large as some of the other fighters, he's built like a wall), GRAY skinned, and has pupilless, glowing eyes. He is a SUPERLATIVE "Street Fighter" of the super-ki variety, who in addition has special psychic powers including short-range teleportation. The combination makes him virtually unstoppable. The above shot is taken from the Japanese Street Fighter II: The Movie, which was a good adaptation; a bit simplistic in plot, but with what I consider one of the best "final fight" scenes in any anime.

In Legend of Chun-Li, Bison looks like this.

The heroine is slightly better, but only slightly. Kristin Kreuk, who plays Chun-Li, does have some Chinese ancestry, so she's at least not purely Caucasian, but as Kathleen points out, the perfectly lovely little Chinese girls they use to play YOUNG Chun-Li would have had to have had serious facelifts at 11 to make themselves look like Kreuk later on. Kreuk's build is also much too slender for Chun-Li, who was always pretty beefy (though pretty), and this makes her ability to deliver and take punishment harder to swallow.

But overall, the real weakness of the movie is simply in the unwillingness of the filmmakers to Do A Street Fighter Movie. It is SLIGHTLY less far from its roots than the abominable Jean Claude Van Damme film, but not by much. The few demonstrations of true super martial-arts are not explained in the movie; the only indication of how odd they are the makers try to convey through expression, but if one assumes you're NOT just playing to the fanboys, then there needs to be some explanation of what's going on, and preferably a clear sequence showing how you learn to be one of these super-warriors instead of just a really good martial artist.

On the other hand, if you are playing to the fanboys, well, play to the bloody fanboys. Give us all the video-game characters you can stuff into it, make them LOOK like their video counterparts, and let them go at it with all the over-the-top, stylized, call-the-name-of-my-super-attack action you can fit in 2 hours.

One, and only one, of the original characters from the videogames looks and acts like his original: the American "Balrog", Japanese "M. Bison", a huge black ex-boxer who enjoys hurting people too much to keep it clean. (From which you can see why Capcom in the early 90s decided to change the names around, rather than risk being sued by a certain boxer named M. Tyson)

It's really terribly disappointing; we are more than capable of producing these kind of movies to accord exactly with the fan expectations, and other movies (e.g., Bulletproof Monk, Forbidden Kingdom) have shown we can produce perfectly enjoyable and well-acted martial arts movies with a little advice and the right casting. Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-li manages neither of these, rising only to the level of pedestrian martial art film even in a generic sense.

The saddest thing about this kind of thing is that the adaptations have already been DONE, both seriously and comedically. The filmmakers wouldn't need to be particularly inventive, they could simply hire someone to switch around plot elements and file the serial numbers off. Hong Kong did a movie NOT called Street Fighter (but rather, IIRC, "Timecops") which introduced ludicrous future technology to basically turn the characters into the main Street Fighter characters (with a dash of a couple others, like Dragonball). Heck, Jackie Chan made a much better Chun-Li (yes, I know how scary that sounds) in a momentary dream/hallucination sequence in the movie "City Hunter". And of course the Japanese animated movie provides you with all the essentials of characters and plot to do a decent job, if for some reason you feel you can't waste your time actually reading the video-game background.

Ah well, I've watched worse.
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