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Street Fighter II
It should have been The Matrix before The Matrix was ever thought of, pure and simple. Street Fighter II brought properly to live-action life would give us the most staggering, vibrant, effects-laden super-human combat we’ve ever seen. Not only that, but every character has enough back-story and motivation to pack out a full-length action movie, even if most remain part of the supporting cast.
What we got
Ye gods… A contrived plot about a UN task force, no mention of a fighting tournament, and an almost respect-worthy ability to horrifically miscast every character in the movie left Street Fighter: The Ultimate Battle an agonising and cheap-looking disaster which focussed on all the wrong things and didn’t even notice the right ones. More like your office colleagues having a Street Fighter II-themed Hallowe’en party than a genuine adaptation of the game.
If they’d followed the rules
It might be bold, brash and colourful, but there’s a serious action movie to be made from Street Fighter II. It’s got a cast full of characters who all have their own intense personal reasons for fighting, both positive and negative, so concentrate on human conflict as much as physical conflict. Make the fights as brutal as they are stylised on top of that (See the anime version as well as Neo’s first outing as evidence of how that can work) and you’re onto a winner.
Game’s strengths tapped
With its story of a corrupt martial arts tournament run by a hard-ass criminal mastermind and his cronies, the Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon was the template for Street Fighter II years before the game. Use it as inspiration.
At its core, the Street Fighter II story is all about Ryu and Ken. A noble, disciplined and puristic martial artist both fraternally bonded with and at odds with his cocky, showboating American counterpart is action movie gold, so make the most of it. Combine their struggle both in and out of the fighting arena with an overall plot based around the supporting characters’ differing needs to take Bison down and you’ll end up with a movie that’s as dramatic as it is spectacular.
As for the action, take it seriously but don’t tone it down, and never ever camp it up. Hong Kong fight movies have proven for years that you can make action over the top without making it cheesy, so keep all the iconic fighting styles and special moves that Street Fighter fans crave, but get a decent choreographer to respectfully do them justice.
The right cast
Think about the essence of the characters’ looks and personalities rather than just who’s currently a big name. The last thing we need is another Belgian cheeseball playing Guile or Australian pop star as a troubled British special forces agent. Always go for acting and fighting ability over star status as well. These guys need to be convincing, so don’t settle for training up some obvious Hollywood pin-ups for a few weeks prior to shooting.
Although a bit older than he should be, a pumped-up Donnie Yen could make a killer Ryu, and if he’s kept up his Batman training, Christian Bale would be a brilliantly arrogant and psychotic Vega. Anyone who’s seen American Psycho can tell you that.
The right direction
Put simply, it has to be helmed by someone who knows how to shoot martial arts. The first movie was crushed under the hand of a guy who’d only directed a ‘70s drugs comedy and a handful of TV before, so look east, to where they do this sort of thing properly. Get Woo Ping-Yuen, the guy who handled the action for The Matrix and Kill Bill. And maybe give Ang Lee a call. He can do action and character drama equally well, and he worked with Woo on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.