Saturday, November 17, 2007

Revenge Match (Universal/Capcom)
Street Fighter When: December 1994
Why: Steven E. deSouza How: Byron Mann, Damian Chapa, Wes Studi & Jay Tavare

The story so far...
For con-men Ken Masters and Ryu Hoshi, things quickly go from bad to worse when they travel to the Thai rebel state of Shadaloo. Looking to take advantage of an arms race between UN Peace Troopers and the soldiers of would-be warlord, General M. Bison; the pair of swindlers import phony weapons with the intent to get in, and get out.

Ken and Ryu make a powerful enemy in Thai underworld crime boss, Victor Sagat, who captures the pair to parade as fodder for his champion Spanish cage fighter - Vega! The con-men avoid lethal combat, finding themselves apprehended along with their enemies, by UN forces led by Guile.

Colonel Guile convinces the pair to use their connections to stage a fake breakout and assassination, using the scenario to earn the goodwill of Sagat.
Though Ken and Ryu are successful in embedding themselves in Bison's operation, the ultimate battle nears, and they are soon uncovered for the spies they are. With Bison's fortress crumbling under UN incursion, Ken and Ryu go their seperate ways, leaving the Japanese fighter to walk alone into a trap...

Previous Form:
Sagat (#58): A win, loss, and draw, all against Ryu.
Vega (#117): A quick fix gimme victory over Dan Hibiki.
Ryu (#20): The leading street fighter with victories over Balrog, Sagat, & Zangief.
Ken (#62): A string of ties with Ryu, and solo victory over Sodom.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sagat 4 (Steroid popper)
Intelligence: Ken Masters 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Vega 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Vega 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Ryu 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Ryu 3 (Explosives)

- Ryu, a Japanese orphan, and Ken Masters, son of a wealthy American heir, were raised and trained by the master of the mysterious unnamed ansatsuken fighting style, Gouken. Despite their distinct personalities, a life of training would develop the pair into two of the greatest fighters in the world.

Both are skilled well rounded fighters capable of harnessing hadou ki for trademark attacks such as; the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku hurricane kick, Hadou-ken fireballs, the Sho-ryu ken dragon uppercut; along with an array of variations of each, some uniquely specialized to the fighter's minor differences.

Ryu's dedicated fighting ethic and intrinisic mastery of the hadou arguably makes him the more powerful of the two. That said, Ken's brash attitude overshadows his finely honed fighting skills, which surpass perhaps even Ryu's.

- Known as the Emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat is supremely skilled in the fighting style often referred to as the "science of the eight-limbs."
Revolving mostly around elbows, knees, fists, and kicks; Sagat's Muay Thai takes full advantage of his height and physical strength. Complimenting his furious style is the development of various ki attacks that stem from a fierce rivalry with hadou practitioner, Ryu. Many of these energy attacks not only rival the Japanese fighter's weapons, but also imitate them, ie; the tiger uppercut, and tiger fireballs.

Though he spent much time with the criminal element Shadaloo, Sagat's character is not traditionally evil. After a lengthy period seeking vengeance against Ryu, Sagat even came to regret impulsive violence, and found some degree of peace.

- The street fighting arena provides convenient abandon for the blood lusting Spaniard called Vega. Harboring homicidal tendencies, the narcissistic psychopath in the protective mask made a name for himself as a matador.
Turning his natural swift and speed to the martial arts, Vega values nothing more than the source of his vanity - his beautiful features - and protects them as best he can, while exacting brutal violence with the aid of his clawed gauntlet.

Vega's speed and agility were particularly complimented by the underground practise of cage fighting. In this domain, few can challenge the matador, and many have tasted bitter defeat at the end of his blades. It was this killing instinct that made him the perfect assassin for Bison's Shadaloo operations.

The Math: Draw The Pick: Ken & Ryu

What went down...
Having experienced a clash of ethics, the usually inseperable fighting buddies Ken and Ryu are indeed seperated, as the Bisonopolis headquarters begins to crumble under the pressures of UN Peace Troopers, technological damages, and the sheer destructive energy of Raul Julia's performance as Bison.

Ryu! Look out amigo! I've heard rumblings of an anti-sporting equipment plot!Seeking the riches hidden within Bison's personal sanctum, Ken inadvertently stumbles upon a video screen revealing live footage of a hapless Ryu walking into a trap inexplicably sprung by the dastardly duo of Sagat and Vega.

Ah, the gym! The perfect stage for our final battle, you sport-loving fool! SNIKT!As he brilliantly searches for a way out in the lowest depths of the Bison-Gym, Ryu finds himself set upon by his filmic arch-rival -- Vega! The Spaniard unleashes a surprise claw attack that scratches the surface of Ryu's gut.
Sagat's typically silent goon utters his first line of the film whilst donning his mask, delivered with the cold grit of Eastwood's ADR double, "Where were we?"

Ryu springs a straight kick that shunts Vega back-first into a row of gym lockers, marking the first of many such collisions. Vega recovers, walking into the devestating heroic retort, "You were losing!", before doing his darndest to prove otherwise with the aimless swings of a six-movie slasher star.

I hate SUPPORT PILLARS, I hate SPORTING EQUIPMENT, but most of all Ryu, I hate YOU! SLASH!Ryu plays the defensive, slipping the jab wherever possible while avoiding Vega's uncharacteristically unrefined attacks. The technique serves him well until he is unceremoniously informed of the two-on-one odds when Sagat enters the fray with a high kick, followed by a clumsy knee combo.

Vega takes advantage of the low ceiling and double-team situation, scoring some points with a successful swinging kick. Ryu collides with a locker, marking the third such occasion during the fight. [You'll have to stay tuned for the full scoop on the locker situation! - Mike "Play-by-Play" Haseloff]

Vega presses the advantage with a jumping forward kick, but Ryu is skilled enough to deliver a defensive-offense of small blocks and hits. He nervously backs up, putting a support structure center to he and his two foes, when suddenly a red streak strikes Sagat -- player two has entered the game!

Reunited in the name of friendship... AND sporting goods!Putting friendship before greed, Ken joins his brother in arms' side, lending his impressive fighting skills to the fray, and effectively bringing his utterly inspired character arc to a conclusion.

Having spent the heroic reunion generally menacing and grimacing, Sagat and Vega launch a syncronised flying attack on their individual foes. Going against established convention, the villains continue to pursue their film-long rivals, Sagat to Ken, and Vega to Ryu.

Death to the surface dwellers!!!Ryu, having utilized the age-old tactic of stripping down, flips Vega down, while tangling his claw in his discarded gi top. Meanwhile, Ken is embattered by the unconvincing knee strikes of the emperor of Muay Thai.

Ken fights back, putting a bouncy punching ball between he and his skilled opponent, while Vega and Ryu engage in more competent flashy combat.

HADOU-KEN, y' hairy-fairy bastard!!!The trading of blows between Ryu and Vega culminates in the big screen debut of trademark power moves! Ryu delivers what passes for a hadou-ken in a movie apparently too grounded in reality to indulge in a full-fledged fireball.

Dodging my attacks? Oh, you're good Senior Punchingbag. A little TOO good! HYAH!Not to be outdone, Vega rolls his way into the rolling crystal flash, otherwise known as a claw jab preceded by a pointless roll. As if to continue to up the stakes, Sagat and Ken continue their dance, giggling and dancing around a punching ball like a pair of lovesick schoolgirls.

In a historic piece of physical comedy, Ken punches the wobbling ball so it collides with Sagat's smirking mug. Unphased, Sagat delivers a kick designed for intimidation, so powerful it explodes the tethered bobbing rubber ball!

Ha ha! Satisfaction is mine, El Punchingbag! Perhaps now I can again learn to love sporting equipment...Meanwhile, Vega continues to resort to wild slashings with his clawed fist, finding a punching bag in the absence of a ducking and weaving Ryu.

Ryu parrys his way to the gym's stone wall, where a raging incinerator is conveniently placed, presumably for all your garment disposing and face burning needs after a long work-out.
Vega's claw initiates the opening of the furnace, allowing Ryu in a struggle of strength to push Vega's steel masked face up against the heat!

Hey, Vega! It wasn't sporting equipment that killed your sister all those years ago! It was me! BURRRNNNNN!!!Sagat uses some of the assorted weight-training equipment on hand to strangle Masters, only to have the handles turned against him in a ball-busting counter!
With Sagat on the ropes, Ken borrows an eye-bulge from Charlie Sheen, before delivering what is presumably the closest thing to a sho-ryu ken uppercut that Damian Chapa could muster.

Pfft... More like a BLOW-ryu ken...Meanwhile, still reeling from the seering pain of the furnace's heat, Vega exerts the last of his flamboyant energy in final battle with Ryu. Delivering a string of trapped headbutts, Ryu continues the assault with a thoroughly unattractive grimace/scream combo, that would surely insult the vainglorious Vega.

HA-HA! Yes! Who would have thought it? El Punchingbaggo and Vega together! Prepare to die, Ryu!As Vega tries to deliver a killing blow, his claw is yanked from his fist by a weight bar, leaving him to engage Ryu in pure hand-to-hand combat.
In another embarassing display of homage, Ryu delivers a hurricane kick with single revolution, putting an end to Vega's lineless, but none the less impressive display of dive-and-roll villainy.

And as if to emphasize just how weak Chapa's Ken is, he's still putting the finishing moves on Sagat, needing to luck his way into Sagat punching the stone wall, before delivering a roundhouse kick, to finish.

Hey, Ken... I can't help but notice you aren't nearly as sweaty OR tired as I am... You must be a GREAT fighter!!!Well, when I say finish, Sagat seems more tired than beaten, as Ryu and Ken leave, with Ken delivering the moral of his story, "I owe you. If I hadn't met you, I might've become you."


The hammer...
And the winners of this exciting tag battle? I'm going to say Ken and Ryu, because it sure as hell isn't the fans.

Oh, alright! It's a soft target and I think we've already had our fun.
Ironically, given the ire USM has suffered, I don't actually have a venomous slew of curses to lavish upon this worthy alumnist of the IMDB worst 100 movies of all time.

As fans of comics, we're all too familiar with the disgruntled cries of diehard fans, disappointed by the latest adaptation of their favourite heroes. I'd like to think a lot of us even have perspective enough to recognise sometimes this is the sole motivation for the total panning of a big screen project (Hulk, Blade: Trinity, Daredevil...); but I suppose it's ironic that, apparently, despite commanding franchised ticket sales at the box office, everyone hated this.

I guess, particularly if you flash back to 1994, you have a related problem.
Sure, these days it's a nostalgia brand, but what you youngsters will fail to appreciate is the sheer blanket dominance of Street Fighter in a gaming market that was blossoming into the entertainment powerhouse we know today. Arguably, Street Fighter had the benefit of being a part of that market while it still had very strong novelty value, to expose it through arcades and social consciousness alike.

Which is where we arrive at the fact that, while Street Fighter: The Movie clearly has a very specific and independent story in mind, it completely under estimates the mainstream familiarity of the Street Fighter characters. Unfortunately, every man, woman, and child probably had some idea of what the Street Fighter character should look like, and a Blanka that would make Ferigno blush, this wasn't it!

Of course, that's not to say the movie isn't without it's charms.
I think it deservedly earns cult status through it's early-nineties, neon colour palette, and bizarre trappings as a hybrid between Good Morning Vietnam and Super Mario Brothers. It's peppered with all kinds of oddities, typifying the logic defying powers of a Van Damme in his prime! Simon Callow?! I mean, REALLY?! Slumming it in Street Fighter?! Take that McKellan! He was openly gay first, too!

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the film is the appropriate pronounciation of Ryu, which goes against the "ree-yoo" verbage popularized by [other] film(s) and video game alike.

It's also with some interest I note the content of the featured fight.
From what I'm told, the ever-brilliant censors of the United States see fit to edit large chunks of this battle, removing specifically the relatively tame portions involving Vega's face burn and claw attacks. You Yanks sure do breed a special kind of crazy, don't you?

Perhaps connected due to TV edits is a lot of confused fan contention about whether or not a hadou-ken does in fact appear in the film. Well, gleefully absorb the unedited violence as it appears here, albeit in stills. The hadou-ken, as gradually noted by know-it-alls across the internet, is more of a traditional open palm strike, broken up by a two-second flash of a completely white frame.
Argue all you like fanboys, but it counts!

The Street Fighter film has been a looming threat in our weekly fight clubbing antics. The franchise's martial artsy credibility, and vague connection to comics, has been a gym-incinerator level convenience for my shameless fandom.
Introducing the Van Damme vehicle not only spices up the batch, but hopefully delivers a diversity to our pursuit of a top five street fighter.

Much like the video game, I've been trying to hold off a character like Bison, bucking against UDON's handling of the character to give a sense of earning.
Sure, I'm aware that Bison is hardly the most exciting character in the Street Fighter world. And sure, Raul Julia's plastic-set chewing performance isn't going to set the readership on fire, but, well... I'm still sort of looking forward to delivering the Guile/Bison battle sometime in the coming weeks.

In the mean time, I am again dragging my knuckles on updates.
It might be a good time to consider some kind of retraction for any implied or explicit promises of updated daily content. At this point I've got all kinds of "real" things going on, along with the never ending struggle to enter the industry not just as a stat-counting fanboy, but as a creative contributor.

And hey, it's been a while since I've mentioned The Kirby Martin Inquest, isn't it? It's a full-sized, 22-page first issue, and it's only $2.99 [plus shipping] from the good folks at ComixPress, who are now promising faster delivery on orders!
Any and all support is always greatly appreciated, and if you do pick it up, be sure to swing by and drop a comment. I'd love to get some reviews going!

The Fight: 4.5 The Movie: 4.5

It seems the best days of Van Damme's career are behind him, and while Street Fighter didn't slow it down immediately, it probably isn't opening many doors right now, either. Good thing: Van Damme is an amateur philosopher! Bad thing: He passed up the Johnny Cage role in the MK games, to do this movie instead.

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