Street Fighter Blu Ray/DVD Reviews
Updated February 10, 2017
Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994/2016)
I'm not big on animated films but as a Street Fighter II fan I felt obliged to give this new Blu Ray a chance. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is a well-produced 90 minute feature with attractive visuals, imaginative fight scenes, and a nice soundtrack. The script won't win any awards but it gets extra credit for incorporating all the major characters from the game. The movie whisks the viewer to locations all over the globe from Japan to Calcutta to Las Vegas. The dialog isn't bad but I find it curious all how the world-wide cast of characters all speak with abrasive American accents.
Although the subject matter tends to be surprisingly adult in nature, there are some goofy expressions and mannerisms here and there typical of anime. The movie opens with an epic battle between Ryu and Sagat in a raging thunderstorm, and the atmosphere is electric. Artistic painted backdrops do a good job of setting the stage for each new scene. The battles skillfully mix realistic fighting moves with fanciful moves from the video game. Ironically there's more blood in this film than the Mortal Kombat movie!
The core of the story is the friendship between Ken and Ryu who trained for ten years together at the same Dojo. Did you know Ken's last name is Masters? Bison plays the ominous villain heading up the Shadowlaw organization which uses brainwashing techniques to transform street fighters into terrorists. There are some interesting one-on-one matchups including Dhalsim versus E. Honda and Zangief versus Blanka. The intense battle between Chun Li and Vega (in her apartment) is arguably the highlight of the film. The final battle tends to get a little bogged down by sappy flashbacks of Ken and Ryu training.
I was a little shocked by both the profanity and nudity in this film. The Japanese versions actually drop the F bomb a few times! There's a gratuitous Chun Li shower scene that shows her breasts and rear. I guess that kind of stuff isn't unusual in Japanese culture but you don't normally see that in American animated films.
The movie itself looks great and the Blu Ray is loaded with impressive extras. You can watch several versions of the film (original, UK version, PG-13 version, etc) and there's even a helpful featurette detailing the subtle differences between them. It's possible to watch the English language version with the original Japanese soundtrack which is strikingly different from the American soundtrack. There are also plenty of art galleries and liner notes to peruse.
I wouldn't recommend it for kids but if for adults who grew up loving Street Fighter 2, the Animated Movie is a nice addition to the video collection. I've already watched this twice. If you already own it on another media (DVD or VHS) you can be pretty sure this is the comprehensive edition you've been waiting for.
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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li (2009/2012)
I enjoy reviewing video game-related movies but it's taken me forever to finally get around to watching Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. This movie was released way back in 2009?! Now that I have it on Blu Ray I have to say... it could be worse. The story is loosely based on the video game character introduced by the insanely popular Street Fighter II video game (1992). When I saw that familiar Capcom logo on the opening screen it occurred to me that the company was making a concerted effort to branch out its intellectual property to live action films, similar to Mortal Kombat and its "rebirth" series.
The Legend of Chun Li is an "origin story" that begins with her childhood. The lead is played the beautiful Kristin Kreuk doesn't look much like the young girls who portray her as a child. Chun Li is only half Asian - as are most of the prominent female characters in the film. Kristen's lithe figure is a far cry from the video game character's freakishly beefy physique, but I'm not complaining. She doesn't even vaguely resemble Chun Li until a club scene halfway through the film when she's decked out in her iconic blue outfit and distinctive hairstyle.
The plot is best described as "all over the place" with supporting cop characters whose sole purpose is to explain what the [expletive] is going on. The cocky detective Charlie Nash is portrayed by Chris Klein doing his best Christian Slater impression (complete with slicked-back hair). Neal McDonough does a commendable job as the ruthless Bison, exhibiting enough panache and maturity to pull off the all-important "big boss" role. His henchmen include Balrog, played by Michael Clark Duncan aka "that big black guy who's in everything". In a terrible bit of casting Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas plays Vega. Robin Shou of Mortal Kombat fame appears in this movie as the wise master. While his presence raises the film a notch on the kung fu credibility scale, having him play the character of Gen (an old man in the game) is a stretch. The acting is fair but don't expect any memorable lines.
The Legend of Chun Li was filmed on location in Hong Kong and Thailand and it makes all the difference. Especially on Blu Ray the wide skyline-establishing shots give the movie a big, exotic look. The fighting scenes feature imaginative martial arts action embellished with video game-inspired moves. It's never explained how certain characters are able to materialize fireballs but that's probably for the best. The violence is a surprisingly brutal and even disturbing at times.
As for this movie's poor performance at the box office, Capcom should look no further than its own marketing department. The movie poster is so generic you would never even know it had any connection to the video game! Chun Li looks nothing like her video game counterpart and the lighting is so poor you can hardly make out the other characters. Worst of all, they didn't even bother using the Street Fighter logo. It wasn't like they need to license it - this is Capcom's own game!!
The theatrical version clocks in under 90 minutes which is reasonable for a popcorn flick like this. My wife managed to sit through it so it can't be that bad. Street Fighter fans will take added pleasure in trying to catch all the subtle references to the game. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is not great. It's probably not even good but it's watchable enough with a beer or three.
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Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist (2014)
I stumbled upon this Blu Ray on Amazon and it seemed too good to be true: a live-action Street Fighter movie after all these years! Actually the film only follows the formative years of Ryu, Ken, and Akuma, but I was still stoked that it had the official Street Fighter license. The enthusiastic cast certainly look their parts, and the well-orchestrated fight scenes do a fine job of showcasing signature moves like the Dragon Punch and "Hado" fireball. The Japanese countryside looks quite beautiful and the production values are impressive. The film has its moments, but with a running time of two and a half hours (!), "moments" are not enough. The pacing is erratic and certain scenes are dragged out to an excruciating degree. Clearly the director was unfamiliar with the "show, don't tell" principle, because he tells you the same thing over and over again. There are too many inconsequential, yawn-inducing flashbacks. These flashbacks not only take you back to the early years of the fighters, but often to earlier scenes in the same movie! If it feels like you're watching the same stuff over and over, it's because you are. Was an editor not available? And the ending, if you can even call it that, is completely unsatisfying. Had this movie been trimmed down to an hour and a half or less, it might have been worthwhile. As it is, sitting through the entire film feels like a grueling test of endurance.
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Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind (2009)
This 65 minute animated video was included with the Street Fighter IV Special Edition. I can appreciate Japanese anime to some degree, but this video comes off more like a cheap television cartoon that a full-length movie. Ties that Bind is short on fighting but long on bad dialogue and inconsequential subplots. The premise, which is truly awful by the way, revolves around Ryu possessing some kind of "inner power" necessary to arm an evil weapon. Is this the best they could come up with?! Instead of conveying the story through their actions, the characters prefer to tell it through long, drawn-out conversations. The exposition is ridiculous, and the lack of fighting is unforgivable. There are two legitimate battles in the whole flick, and even those have more melodrama than hand-to-hand combat. The dialogue is full of empty expressions like "Our last battle cannot occur until we truly find ourselves." When Ken and Ryu share a touching moment near the end of the film ("I can feel it in you too, Ken"), it's just nauseating. Most of the Street Fighters characters aren't even represented in the movie, and some, like Balrog, and Vega, only make token appearances. At the very least they could have done something with Blanka, considering the story begins in the Amazon basin! Not to mention the fact that he's on the cover! Ties That Bind would have been an ideal vehicle for introducing the new characters of the Street Fighter series, but it's just a pointless waste of time.
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Street Fighter (1994)
Unlike Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter failed to make a splash on the big screen. The cast of characters is certainly respectable, with Jean Claude Van Damm as Guile, Kylie Minogue as Cammy, and the late Raul Julia in his as Bison. Unfortunately, the ill-conceived storyline extends far beyond the scope of the video game. It involves some nonsense about a small nation invaded by an evil dictator (Bison), and a military force sent to stop him, led by Guide. There are no memorable fight scenes, Dhalsim is nowhere to be found, and Blanka looks like a goofy clown. The film is a complete mess, and even the most devout Street Fighter fans may find this hard to sit through.
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