[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 actually first mentioned this film way back in February when I reviewed Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. You see, the Fatal Fury franchise eventually, along with the Art of Fighting franchise, spun off into the King of Fighters franchise in 1994 when the first KOF game was released by SNK. The first game centers around a guy named Rugal Bernstein who hosts a martial arts tournament so he can trick the best fighters into coming and losing so he can turn them into statues for his collection. Coming in from the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting franchises were its leads Terry Bogard and Ryo Sakazaki, but they aren't the leads here. Instead, the King of Fighters main hero is Kyo Kusanagi, at least for the first few games.
The games were so immediately popular that a manga was made based on the first game--and eventually others followed. The series has actually continued in popularity to the point where games are still coming out, and the last KOF game was the 13th edition, which debuted in 2010. It wasn't much of a shock that, with the brilliant success of all the Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and D.O.A. movies that this one should be made, as well. Wait...
Wow. When one of your first thoughts about a movie is "Uwe Boll could have done better," I think you're in trouble. The story makes no sense, but here goes... a crazy dude named Rugal (Ray Park) steals a magic mirror and magic necklace that allow him to enter a parallel dimension where a select group of fighters play in an ongoing fighting tournament called King of Fighters. They tend to get there by these high-tech earpieces that transport them to this other dimension. Anyway, Rugal keeps summoning the fighters one at a time so he can defeat them and turn them into statues or something. An undercover agent name Mai (Maggie Q) teams up with Kyo (Sean Faris), the son of a very important man who is in a broken mental state, because he can help defeat him or something. I don't know why, honestly. They also get help from a man named Iori (Will Yun Lee), who will be Kyo's archnemesis in the future, a woman named Chizuru (Francoise Yip), and a CIA Agent named Terry Bogard (David Leitch).
It's more complicated than all that, strangely. This movie is almost entirely backstory and whatnot, and I really didn't care. I had trouble following anything it was talking about. I was never quite sure who certain characters were or what their purpose was. It was all just a jumbled mess.
The cinematography in this film is a disaster in and of itself. It's like it took notes from the school of Battlefield Earth and then failed out... but made this movie anyway. Yeah, there are dutch angles a-plenty. But it will take them even a step further. There are some truly bizarre shots in this film. Some not just angled, but almost completely diagonal or sideways. I don't think you're supposed to have to tilt your head to watch scenes in movies. And sometimes they would match this up with movement or action scenes that made things very disorienting. I mean, the action seemed like it could be cool... but I almost never knew what was going on. And it wasn't even a shaky cam thing like a lot of action flicks these days. It was just really poorly shot and edited scenes. I was so bored I kept falling asleep during the last 30 minutes, which is nothing but one long action sequence.
It didn't help that the film's characters were so uninteresting. I mean, yeah, I mentioned earlier about how some are hardly explained. But then there are just strange things like the casting of Kyo. He has a Japanese father and is Japanese-American. He's not adopted, either... he's supposedly purely Japanese. But they couldn't have gotten a whiter dude. He's so white he once played the grandson of Betty White. At least in Legend of Chun-Li, Kristin Kreuk is part Asian. The only Asian this guy has in him is the food they had on set that day probably. Otherwise, Ray Park chewed the scenery like crazy and was... interesting as the villain. I don't know how good of an adaptation he was, but the guy who played Terry Bogard was actually fun. He was easily the best part of the movie and had all the best lines.
In the end, this movie is just boring, confusing, and poorly made. And I can only assume it's nothing like the games. It's more just confusing backstory plopping in dutch and/or sideways angles for an hour followed by 30 minutes of poorly shot action sequences. I mean, really... the three movies this most reminds me of are Battlefield Earth, Dragonball Evolution, and The Legend of Chun-Li. That hurts just thinking about it.
The Zed Word
(P.S. It only got that high because I liked Terry... and the idea of dimensional travel to fight, even if the movie makes no sense about it.)