[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]
I've already given practically all the history you need in my article for Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. But to continue from there, the first live-action Street Fighter movie came out the same year as the aforementioned film, but to much fewer positive reviews. It was, actually, a box office hit--but was easily knocked down as one of the worst video game movies ever made. I've seen it before, but it's been well over a decade. So let's see how it holds up (or not).
This movie is a prime example of how a producer said "You know everything in the source material we're basing this on? Let's ignore that." This film takes the story and characters of Street Fighter and gives us M. Bison (Raul Julia), an insane general who wants to take over the world with an army of brainwashed and genetically enhanced super soldiers. His first test subject is that of Carlos Blanka (Robert Mammone), a friend of U.S. special forces colonel Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who is now out to save him and some hostages. Guile eventually hires two traveling street fighters named Ken (Damian Chapa) and Ryu (Byron Mann) to infiltrate by getting in with crooked businessman Sagat (Wes Studi) and twisted cage fighter, Vega (Jay Tavare). Also on the case is a news reporter, Chun-Li (Ming-Na), and her crew of Balrog (Grand Bush) and E. Honda (Peter Navy Tuiasosopo), who wants revenge on Bison. And, of course, a hundred other characters appear.
Let's talk about it as an adaptation first. They couldn't even get the characters right. In the games, Balrog is a bad guy and Dee Jay isn't exactly evil (and he's a kickboxer). But the film has Balrog as a good guy and Dee Jay working for Bison as a hacker (though he's still not exactly evil). Dhalsim is a muscular, bald, moderately young yoga guy. In the film, he's an old, frail scientist who helps create Blanka. Guile is supposed to be this big, buff American. We get Jean-Claude Van Damme. Chun-Li is damn near a schoolgirl, but works for interpol, and here she's Ming-Na as a reporter. Ken is WAY off and very scrawny. Ryu is... OK, but the actor sucks. T. Hawk is supposed to be this massive Native American. He's played by someone who looks like a tiny pop star version of Atreyu from Neverending Story, but without looking native. The best casting was probably E. Honda, who I actually liked overall in the film. Worst of all is Bison himself, who is supposed to be a mountain of a man with a box for a jaw and overall incredibly intimidating. We get Raul Julia (of course!).
What about as just a film, ignoring adaptation stuff? The acting is super cheesy and over-the-top. Yes, Raul Julia has been lambasted for years for this role, but he is rather silly with it. Van Damme was just as bad--but it's Van Damme. What else would you expect? There are a couple good parts, though, I have to admit. As I said earlier, I do like E. Honda in the film. And the guy who plays Dee Jay is funny. The character is silly, but he does well with it. The writing is terrible, and the dialogue is mediocre-to-bad. It's hard to know what the hell is going on in the movie, but at the same time... you really don't care.
The most important thing about this flick is that it doesn't take itself seriously and it stays well into the side of so-bad-its-good. I don't think it ever gets to the point that it's just bad. It stays light and silly and cheesy, even ending on an incredibly out-of-place and pointless posing freeze frame of the bulk of the cast. This is one to make fun of with friends, but it's not bad enough to where it would hurt watching it alone, either. It's just a big mess from the ground up.
(P.S. And it's certainly not as bad as the other live-action Street Fighter flick, which I'll be reviewing later in the year. Ugh...)
(P.P.S. That also finishes up my second month of this. Stay tuned next month when we finish up this string of fighters and get into some handheld and computer game movies!)