Friday at the Movies: Street Fighter
Video games and movies, you would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately given that the film medium is a passive experience and the gaming medium is an active experience, the hybrid of the two usually goes horribly (and laughably) wrong. This segment will be our weekly realm to appreciate the more “classic” medium of film. Of course, whenever possible I will review a “video game” movie.
It’s almost ironic to me that Jean-Claude Van Damme plays lead character Guile in this film because Mortal Kombat, direct competitor for the Street Fighter franchise, was originally supposed to be a Bloodsport video game. Despite that, and the fact that Mortal Kombat was also made into a film, Street Fighter released to American theaters on Christmas Eve in 1994 up against Dumb & Dumber and The Santa Clause. Director Steven E. de Souza was best known for penning action blockbusters like Die Hard and The Running Man as well as horribly written flops like Hudson Hawk. Street Fighter marked his most known directorial title (he also wrote the screenplay), which probably explains why he isn’t known as a director. In interviews de Souza explains that he did not want this movie to be a simple tournament full of fight scenes – side note: he stated that decision was due to the flop of Super Mario Bros. a year before and its apparent faithfulness to the game, which proves that Hollywood did not pay attention to video game details – and instead created an interesting international terrorist film. To its credit, the overarching plot isn’t bad, albeit quite overcomplicated and tries way too hard to integrate as many people fromSuper Street Fighter II as it can, not to mention Guile’s horrible lines. Despite being a worldwide commercial success (it made just under $100 million in combined worldwide theatrical release against its $35 million budget), the film was destroyed by critics and gamers alike for having slight nuances in both worlds but failing to implement either in a decent way. In fact, if it weren’t for all the praise to Raul Julia’s performance as M. Bison the film would have nothing positive for critics at the time to talk about.
My biggest gripe is thatStreet Fighterbreaks a cardinal rule in storytelling: the script writes its own conflicts into the plot. To be more specific, Guile is the catalyst for every bad thing that happens in the film and I often refer to this movie as, “Guile screws over everyone”. Here are some examples (spoiler alert):
- In the very beginning of the film, Bison has hostages he’s holding ransom for $20 billion, but doesn’t make any threats towards any of the hostages until Guile jumps in to mock and threaten him. In addition, Guile decides to also call out to his buddy Charlie (Carlos Blanka) and tell him they’re coming. This in turn is responsible for Bison choosing Charlie to turn into the beast as a message to Guile.
- Guile gives away Cammy’s identity and eventually leads to her capture with Bison and subsequent lack of personal revenge, only to claim that revenge for himself.
- The ransom is about to be paid and every hostage will be safe until Guile, now dishonorably discharged, decides to storm Bison’s compound instead. While this may have potentially stopped Bison’s funding, he puts the hostages in a position to either be immediately executed (which probably would have happened in a real crisis) and definitely endangers their lives when he destroys the compound and has little to no regard for the location or safe extraction of these hostages.
- When he sees Blanka has become a monster, he decides to shoot his best friend in the head rather than let him live on. Dhalsim offers to stay with him and allow them both to die in the exploding compound. So basically he causes Blanka to become a monster and then sentences him to death because of it, some friend.
Putting all those little plot holes and various other horrid decisions aside, it’s an entertaining movie. My advice is to go into it with no expectations and just pretend it isn’t a video game movie. No super moves were used, there’s almost no fighting (every time an opportunity comes up someone else interferes), and it takes over an hour for anyone to wear outfits from the game. At the same time, Raul Julia has an absolute blast with the role – impressive considering he was in excruciating pain from stomach cancer at the time and would pass away before the film’s release – and many have said it was a fitting end to his life and career. To be clear, not because he was in a cheesy video game movie, but rather because he had fun in his final days acting in a role he took solely because his kids begged him to. I also find it interesting that Cammy is played by Kylie Minogue and that de Souza claimed her character was the hardest to cast because she has nearly no lines and can be written out of the entire movie with ease.
My regret is that there are almost no references to the video game at all, including the dodging of fight sequences, which is exactly why I watch these movies. Fortunately the one nod in the film is so blatant and impactful that it almost completely excuses this: for the final shot all of the live actors stand in the winning pose of their character from the game. Apparently a sequel was in the works and in the home video and DVD release of the movie there is a scene after the credits of Bison coming back to life, but I highly doubt given the events since 1994 that this will ever happen. Still, it was an easy film to attack that in hindsight is far from the atrocious film adaptations of other games we’ve seen since then.