“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a series that focuses on movies that either have a bad critical reputation, bombed in the box office or serve as guilty pleasures. It will largely focus on genre movies, though I will venture outside of that area.
A notable reality is that whilst some now considers video games art, they have never been able to successfully translate to the big screen. Something like the “Resident Evil” series might be popular with some, but to say they are faithful adaptations of the games would be incorrect. Rather, they are actually “Resident Evil” fan fiction that somehow became a movie franchise. One could argue that it’s hard to translate the medium, but most will tell you that it’s the fact that studios don’t understand the games or their audience.
One of the earliest attempts at making a video game movie was 1994’s “Street Fighter.” Directed by Steven E. de Souza (a producer, writer and director whose credits include “Commando”, “The Running Man” and to a lesser extent “Beverly Hills Cop III” and “Judge Dredd”), this was several things-one of Raul Julia’s last films, a Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle and an attempt to turn a beloved video game franchise into a mindless action movie. Considering the reception it got from fans and critics at the time (it sits at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes), it didn’t do too well in the U.S. Box Office. However, it has since gone on to become something of a cult favorite, but not for the reasons one would hope for.
Former drug lord turned tyrannical General M. Bison (Julia) is holding several United Nations representatives hostage, and wants $20 Billion or else they will be killed-and their death will be blamed on his arch rival, William Guile (Damme.) Meanwhile, con artists Ryu (Byron Mann) and Ken (Damian Chapa) are trying to sell fake weapons to crime syndicate head Sagat (Wes Studi). To reward them, he has them engage in a fight to the death with Vega (Jay Tavare), but it’s broken up by Guile, who thinks these two could actually help him find Bison.
However, their plan runs into a brick wall when news reporter Chun-Li (Ming-Na Wen) gets into the scheme of things, as she wants revenge on Bison for killing her father. She’s not alone either, as she has E. Honda (Peter Tuiasosopo) and Barlog (Grand L. Bush) by her side. Her plan doesn’t work as well as she hoped, as Ryu and Ken betray her to gain Bison’s trust. Also, the United Nations says that they don’t really need Guile and co. anymore, since they are about to pay the ransom anyways, but he’s not having anyways. Instead, he delivers a heartfelt, somewhat broken English rallying cry that gets the troops on his side.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that one of the U.N. representative being held hostage is Carlos Blanka (Robert Mammone), whose also one of Guile’s best friends. With the help of held against his will doctor Dhalsim (Roshan Seth), he’s being turned into a mutated super soldier.
As an adaptation of a video game series, “Street Fighter” fails spectacularly. Characters from the game either have their back-story changed, or are re-written as buffoons and cowards. The biggest example of this is Ryu and Ken, who has gone from main characters that have honor to petty criminals you never really care about. If you, like me, played these games religiously back in the day, this will feel more than a little jarring. It mostly just proves the second point, about studios not understanding the game or their audience, to be correct.
That being said, there’s little here that’s actually worthy of hate per say. In fact, there’s a reason this has gained a following overtime-it’s amazingly watchable in spite of how bad it can be. There’s something about the earnest but bad dialogue, dunderheaded comedy and absolute clueless nature of the endeavor that at times pushes it towards an amusingly bad movie that you can laugh at. Nothing about it feels mean spirited or ugly, and you get that the people behind it want the audience to have a good time. Granted, they mostly wanted money from what they saw as gullible fans, but they at least wanted them to be entertained. Do They succeed? Sometimes, but not in the way they intended.
That being said, if there is anything that resembles something good here, it’s Raul Julia as M. Bison. He’s obviously the only actor who realizes what kind of movie he’s in, so he hams it up with lip smacking zeal that kind of makes you like him in spit of his evil nature. Once he delivers his now beloved “But for me, it was Tuesday” speech, I said to myself “this guy is awesome”. He’s the only guy who remotely feels like his video game counterpart, and he alone is the main reason to bother watching this.
Such niceties can’t be said for 2009’s “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li”. Not a sequel as much as it is an attempted reboot hoping to get things right, this sucker is mostly just so bad it’s bad.
As a child, Chun Li (Kristin Kreuk, in a performance that best says “why am I here?”) saw her father attacked and abducted by one of M. Bison’s henchmen. Years later, she discovers an ancient Chinese text, and after traveling to China to get it translated (and losing her mother make us sympathize with her-um, I mean to cancer), she discovers that she must find a man named Gen (Robin Shou), who once worked for Bison (Neal McDonough) and knows where to find her father. To aid in her quest, he teaches her his brand of martial arts, and in the process, she learns more about Bison’s criminal organization The Shadaloo, which is also run by henchmen Barlog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Vega (that dude from The Black Eyed Peas that never talks.) Meanwhile, Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein-more on him in the next paragraph) and detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) are sent to investigate a series of murders in Bangkok that are the work of the Shadaloo.
If there is anything about “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li” from being completely unwatchable is Klein. Unlike the rest of the cast, he seems to think he’s in a different movie, as he tries-and fails-to show any actual acting range. His acting is so wooden, and his dialogue so bad that he feels more like somebody you’d see in a bad 80’s action movie than a bad video game adaptation. It’s a performance so bad, it becomes hypnotic. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast does know what kind of movie it is, and in the process they seem embarrassed to be there. McDonough has none of the over the top camp that made Julia’s M. Bison so enjoyable, Kreuk looks like she’d rather be on “Chuck” again, and Duncan seems to be wondering “What happened in my career that’s lead to this?” Nobody wants to be in this, and it shows.
Everything else about it falls flat too. The direction by veteran cinematographer turned director Andrzej Barkowiak (whose directing credits include “Romeo Must Die” and “Exit Wounds”) is flat and uninteresting, whilst the script is boring and the action scenes lacking anything resembling spark. Say what you will about the first “Street Fighter” movie, but it at least has a certain idiotic charm to some of it. This is just idiotic. Something made by studio executives that have never played the game (or any game for that matter) and have no interest in anything but making a few bucks from a bunch of rubes. However, the reviews and box office reception the movie (It made a slightly $12 million of its $50 million budget) were all the indication that fans weren’t buying it this time.
If you want a “Street Fighter” movie that’s actually good, watch the animated “Street Fighter II’ animated movie from the 90’s. Will Hollywood ever make a good video game movie? Maybe. Will they ever make another “Street Fighter” movie? Probably not (not unless it goes straight-to-video), and that’s for the best.
Next Time: An animated cult classic gets the sequel nobody asked for or wanted.