Videogame movies are, with a few exceptions, awful. This is not news. It’s not surprising. It’s a sad fact, which gamers with any sort of taste in movies resigned themselves to years ago. And yet, every time an announcement of a new game movie comes down the pike, we foolishly think it might be good, forgetting the brazen, burning contempt that Hollywood harbors for games and those who play them.
Above: STREET FIGHTER!
The latest cinematic abortion to briefly get our hopes up was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, which promised to redress the wrongs of the original, comically wrongheaded Street Fighter movie from 1994. After stomping into theaters earlier this year and onto DVD a few weeks ago, however, it proved to be so bad that we couldn’t even give it away. And if you’re curious to find out why, the following reasons are a good place to start.
Oh, and: SPOILERS AHEAD.
When you say “Chun-Li,” the fifth thing Street Fighter fans usually think of is that she has gargantuan thighs. The fourth thing is that she’s a martial artist, the third is her blue dress and the second is her hairstyle with its dumpling-like buns. The first thing, however, is that she’s Chinese. And while actress Kristin Kreuk is of half-Chinese descent (according to her Wikipedia page, at least), she looks about as Asian as Hugh Jackman.
Above: Then again, the in-game version isn’t exactly Michelle Yeoh
Also, she doesn’t so much throw herself into the role of Chun-Li as she hurls herself at it, gurning and mugging through the same four expressions for most of the movie.
Kreuk’s ethnicity isn’t the only liberty taken with the character, either. Gone is the tough, confident policewoman Street Fighter fans have come to love, and in her place is a quavering, overprivileged concert pianist who also happens to be a Wushu master. She lives in a mansion, but leaves her cushy digs because a strange old lady told her that an ancient-looking scroll said she should go to Bangkok. Once there, her idea of “becoming one with the people” of the city is to wander aimlessly through the streets, talking to as few people as possible and generally looking like she doesn’t have a clue where she’s going.
Above: “Can anyone tell me if this is where the scroll said to go?”
In combat, she tends to reserve her worst punishments – some of them lethal – for enemies who are already down and mostly incapacitated. She also never wears anything that even vaguely resembles her familiar costume (unless you count the diaphanous blue club dress she wears to beat up one of Bison’s lieutenants) and, blasphemy of blasphemies, her father hasn’t even had the decency to die at Bison’s hands.
To be fair, the filmmakers at least tried to throw fans a bone with the inclusion of Chun-Li’s signature move, the Spinning Bird Kick, although its execution left something to be desired.
Above: Meh. Jackie Chan did it better
Also, this is the adult Chun-Li’s mother, just before dying of Movie Cancer. Note that she looks to be the same age as Kreuk, apart from the tiny, makeup-enabled wrinkles around her mouth:
That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Chun-Li herself, sure, but it’s a weirdly awful thing in a weirdly awful movie, and therefore worth drawing attention to.
For the record, this is M. Bison:
And this is M. Bison as portrayed by Neal McDonough:
No, he never puts on the red suit. No, he never lights himself on fire and flies across the room screaming “PSYCHO CRUSHER!” And he’s not a stocky, butt-chinned monster who could crush a man’s head between his enormous pectoral muscles. But surely mature fans can understand that, on film, a grown man prancing around like a flamboyant, cherry-red third-world dictator would be difficult to take seriously, right?
Unfortunately, the problems with Bison go a lot further than quibbles over wardrobe or his supposed faithfulness to the videogame character. Transformed from a diabolical conqueror into a more pedestrian criminal mastermind, this version of Bison nevertheless has an unnecessarily complicated, non-game-related backstory that makes little sense and has even less impact on the plot.
Despite being played by an American, for example, he has a distinct Irish accent. This is later explained away during a flashback that reveals him to be the child of Irish missionaries.
Above: Grrrr! Random street violence!
However, we immediately learn that said missionaries died in Thailand when young Bison was a baby, leaving him to grow up a criminal on the streets of a Bangkok slum, and leaving the audience to wonder exactly where he picked up his lilting, wafer-thin brogue.
This same flashback tells us that he later got married, brought his young wife to a dark, evil cave somewhere, and murdered her in a really gross fashion just so that he could magically transfer his conscience – his conscience, for Christ’s sake - into his unborn daughter, Rose.
Because, see, his conscience was holding him back. So now Rose has two consciences, and she probably feels extra-guilty about every little thing.
Above: The girl with two consciences
Above: …who, like every other character, bears little resemblance to her in-game equivalent
This somehow makes Bison invincible, and makes Rose “his only weakness." And that leads us to the next point.