COVER TO COVER: THE LEGEND OF STREET FIGHTER!
February 27 will forever be remembered in the Street Fighter calendar as a day of infamy for it marked the cinematic release of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Starring (if you could call it that) Kristen Kreuk, Chris Klein, and Neal McDonough; the film garnered unlikely acclaim for achieving some of the lowest review scores ever tallied by aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes, amounting for a long time to a total approval rating of 0%.
Fans of the 90's juggernaut no doubt regard it's filmic conversions with mixed feelings. Legend of Chun-Li has already suffered the indiginity of comparisons to both the mid-1994 animated feature, regarded by many as a great translation of the brand, as well as those of the Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle, which was released the same year.
Street Fighter, as if to ominously forecast the quality of the Chun-Li movie, was released on Bluray DVD for the first time, with a new "special" edition.
Though unashamedly hokey, the Van Damme picture has suddenly become the lesser of two evils. Despite mangling many of the game's popular characters, the 1994 film finds itself recreating the iconic visuals of the series with colourful glee. This quality arguably contributes to undermining the film with an overall aesthetic of cheap, but when measured against 2009's efforts, it suddenly glows with character and a charming reckless abandon.
Despite Hollywood's failure to capitalize on video game properties, it is safe to say that this is the responsibility not of any inherent curse upon the source material, but rather, the people creating these adaptations. Legend cinematographer-turned-director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, now owns directorial credits for two uninspired video game adaptations, coming off of the fun, but bland, 2005 version of Doom. Similarly to his Street Fighter film, anything iconic about that particular series is absent. Washed out to incorporate an aesthetically archaic wasteland of barren blacks and similar urban tones.
The animated features, while not quite cinematic masterpieces, allude far better to the potential locked within these characters. Unfortunately, much of this remains untapped in any medium, as Capcom continually fails to take ownership of it's canon. Similar to the film, the recently released Street Fighter IV home version, has failed to live up to it's narrative promises. Despite the introduction of fully animated video sequences, the game relegates most plot to a seperate animated feature, as well as tie-in properties produced by UDON comics.
While largely unimpressed by 2008's Iron Man, it is impossible to deny it's contribution to an indulgent sensibility of design and colour that is befitting these modern films. Zack Snyder's much talked about Watchmen adaptation straddles the line, but also puts forward an argument for colour and visual accuracy in a film genre no longer foreign to movie audiences.
Ultimately, Legend of Chun-Li appears cowardly and archaic in it's approach to hyper-stylized fiction. For that, it has been shunned far worse than any of the mistakes of the past. We can only hope as these mistakes continue to reoccur, that the influences of more profitable, and better made films, begin to spread that sense of investment further.
Street Fighter (December 1994)
"Revenge Match" Steven E. deSouza
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...
Street Fighter II V Ep.2 (April 1995)
"The King of the Air Force" Gisaburo Sugii
When billionaire heir Ken Masters contacts his martial arts training partner, Ryu, by letter, Ryu makes the long trek from Japan to San Francisco to reunite with his friend.
Brought together again, the two are impressed with the development of their martial arts skills, and challenge each other as they propel themselves into mischief with the help of their tour guide, Chun-Li.
To spark their quest to develop their martial arts, an encounter with US Air Force thugs in a bar called Mt. Fuji. Though the skillful Ken and Ryu are able to defeat the thugs with ease, their commanding officer Guile may prove more sport.
Street Fighter Alpha (1999)
"The Tournament Begins" Yamauchi/Yoshida
Having returned to Japan for a major street fighting tournament; Ken Masters, wealthy United States champion, reunites with his fighting rival and best friend, Ryu. Together they mourn the death of their master, Gouken, and together face the threat of the dark hadou energy that threatens Ryu.
In an effort to curb the dark energy rising in Ryu, he limits all fighting activity, opting only to accompany Ken to the tournament, along with a young Brazilian orphan claiming to be Ryu's half-brother.
Though Ken would ultimately be side-tracked and miss registration, the young Brazilian boy, Shun, would go on to enter and pitted against overwhelming odds. Emerging from the opposition cage the Russian man-mountain: Zangief!
Street Fighter #1 (September 2003)
"Stage 01" Siu-Chong/Lee
His name is Bison, and he is the megalomaniacal leader of the world's most vile criminal organization -- Shadaloo.
Involved in every facet of criminality, Shadaloo funds Bison's desires for world conquest, and his interests in fostering the martial arts and his psycho power.
It was during an investigation into Shadaloo that Bison uncovered and brutally murdered Charlie, partner of Interpol agent, Guile. Ever since, Guile has had the burning desire to personally put an end to the Shadaloo empire, and the evil M. Bison.
Patiently working his way through the various branches of Shadaloo, Guile and agents like him pick apart the pieces of the puzzle, working their way closer to the source. Wannabe street toughs, like the English street fighter, Birdie, represent the lower rungs, all useful for tracking back to Bison.
Street Fighter Alpha Vol.1 (April 2007)
"Round. 5" Masahiko Nakahira
The legend of Ryu's defeat over the Muay Thai champion Sagat has spread across the globe, but for the wandering world warrior the victory has come at a terrible cost.
Working as a bodyguard for drug smugglers; Ryu finds himself despondent after the glory of defeating one of the world's most popular fighters. However, unbenknownst to the world, Ryu is also plagued with doubt, having resorted to a power forbidden by his master, Gouken.
Working in Thailand with fellow street fighter and British thug, Birdie; Ryu is about to become the subject of an anti-narcotics sting launched by Interpol. Over zealous intervention inevitably escalates to violence, and when the battle is done, this night of fighting is destined to change Ryu's life forever...