Friday, August 28, 2015

Street Fighter: The Movie - Part Two

I was not prepared for what I was getting myself into with this project.  I thought "hey, wouldn't it be fun to watch a movie that I know is big and dumb but still kind of fun?  Wouldn't it be great if I just did reviews of video game movies?"

And to think I have both the Chun-Li movie waiting in the wings for after I finish this one.

I did not really think this through.

Where did we leave off?

Oh right, the fate of the world rested in the hands of Jean-Claude Van Damme, a pop star, and Not T. Hawk.

Let's get back into it.

At a mission briefing, Guile is preparing his team for an assault on Bison's base.  Apparently their goal is to do an assault by sea, which makes sense considering that the only camouflage costume the prop department had on hand was "blue."

Also, they apparently have a stealth boat, something that I can only assume is just as technologically advanced as the boat from the Hulk Hogan classic Thunder In Paradise.  Well, okay, maybe not, but it's got to be at least as good as K.I.F.T. from Knight Rider 2000.

You know it's good, because it has lines.

There's an interesting dialogue that happens as Guile explains his plan.  He wants one lone boat to pull a Star Wars and slip through the defenses to strike at the heart of Bison's little island/temple empire.  When one soldier states that whoever does that must be out of his mind, Guile's response is that Bison "hahs driven me cray-zee."  Just the kind of man you want leading a dangerous mission, your admittedly insane boss.

The expressions on Guile's team speaks volumes about their confidence in a man who already stuck his head out a window when he was supposed to be dead.

Meanwhile, in Shadaloo headquarters, the official torturer is doing his best to try to hurt Honda, but he's "sumo, bruddah," so he's able to push the pain down.  The two of them make a prison sex joke, then get to work on breaking free.

Zangief does everybody a favor by throwing Ken's tacky suit into the incinerator, making him my favorite character in the movie so far.  He then compliments Ryu and Ken who are dressed in their actual costumes from the game, stating that now they look like "Bison troopers."  These are costumes we haven't seen anybody else in this movie wear yet, and every other "trooper" Bison has under his employ is dressed in red leather jumpsuits with weird helmets.

I find it interesting that Zangief is portrayed as someone who is either really loyal or really dense, because he actually believes Shadaloo is fighting against "the allied nation's oppression."  It's an interesting take on the character, making him somewhat more sympathetic than "guy who wrestles bears and dances with Mikhail Gorbachev."

Guile gets ready to head out, when suddenly a wormy bureaucrat shows up and announces that the allied forces have decided to "negossiate."  When Guile protests, the bureaucrat asks him if he's lost his mind, and instead of Guile responding "yes, we already established this a few minutes ago" he replies with the classic response, "no, yeu've lahst yohr bahls."

Guile then delivers the second most memorable monologue in the movie, and I'm just going to put it here.

Now, let's talk about this boat.

First off, I like that someone tacked on fabric over the windows so that you can just almost see through them.  This must be to cut down the glare from the sun.  Second, Guile had his name painted on the boat.  I'm pretty sure that at no point in history has any military commander ever told someone "hey, paint my name on the vehicle that's going to be transporting me so everybody knows I'm on it."  Sure, it's a "stealth boat," but people can still see it if they look at it, right?

Anyway, Guile and his team leave via a public dock that anybody working for Bison with a pair of binoculars can spy on from across the waterway and a) know Guile's alive and b) be able to call ahead and warn Bison that the boats are coming.  He and his team don't let things like "good strategies" get in their way, and go out to commit an unapproved attack on someone the allied forces want to negotiate with (possibly to try to STOP more soldiers from dying).

Then this happens:

Sadly, Raul Julia is not actually rising a horse and posing like Napoleon, that's just a painting of him.

Bison has returned to his room where Chun-Li's outfit is changed to a dress (strangely reminiscent of her Player 2 costume), and she's explaining why she hates him so much.  It's a classic revenge story, Bison had her father killed when he raised a rebellion and drove him and his "goons" out of a region.  
There are a few really interesting things about this scene.  The first of which is the details that have gone in to Bison's home.  The rack of different colored hats matching his costumes from the game, the fact that he never interrupts Chun-Li as she goes on her lengthy speech about how terrible he is and why she hates him, and then, of course, there's the most infamous response ever given.

See, Chun-Li has just delivered this "you're a monster, you irreparably ruined my life" speech, and Bison, with what sounds like a genuine sense of apology in his voice, says, "I'm sorry.  I don't remember any of it."  The next line from him is, of course, a classic, one that everybody should use in daily conversation: 

"For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life.  But for me, it was Tuesday."

Though, this does further make me wonder where Shadaloo is supposed to be.  Chun-Li is Chinese...unless she's somehow Shadalooian?  So, is Shadaloo actually a conquered part of China?  It was filmed in Thailand, and Sagat is supposed to be Thai, so Shadaloo being a proxy for Thailand would make sense, but...

But back to the point, it's going to take Chun-Li a few minutes to process the fact that her major life-defining moment isn't even a footnote in the life of someone she hates.

Back in the dungeon, Ken and Ryu manage to take out the torturer on their way to trying to be heroes, but when they go in to save Honda and Balrog, the two athletes are already free and ready to choke the two "traitors" with some chains.  Ken and Ryu finally manage to convince the other two they're on the same side (using essentially those same words, which Honda and Balrog just accept), and we get back to Chun-Li, where Bison is....turning into a complex character.

Chun-Li is just casually walking around the room, talking about how her plan has come together to get the two of them in one place so she can enact her revenge.  Bison, meanwhile, is putting on mood music, changing the lighting in the room, and doing everything short of pushing a button to make a circular bed start to spin.

It's interesting that Bison is clearly a monster.  You know his plan here is to have his way with Chun-Li, and there's nothing in his manner that indicates that there's even the slightest chance this won't happen...but I can't help but think he's actually trying to win her over somehow.  He doesn't lay a hand on her.  He makes her a fancy drink (and himself, so presumably the ingredients weren't poisoned).  He listens to her talk.  He apologizes for not remembering her father and this event that clearly defined her life.  He's still clearly a monster.  I mean, they make an allusion to him being like John Wayne Gacy by having him paint portraits of sad clowns.

However, between this scene and the previous scene where Bison laments that all he wants to do is bring peace to the world by conquering it, I can't help but feel that they've tried to make Bison more "human" for lack of a better word.  I almost feel like Bison is genuinely hoping that this woman (who, he points out, is the weakest one of her team and hasn't thrown a single punch since she came into the country) will see things his way and will join him.  

It's all part of his psychosis, undoubtedly, but it still gives him more depth than you'd expect him to have, considering every other time someone calls him evil or insane he gets upset.

Speaking of weakness, Bison is convinced that Chun-Li is, in his words, "harmless."  Chun-Li reveals that it's exactly what she wanted him to think, whereupon she snaps the chains holding her wrists and starts beating the daylights out of M. Bison.

It's this first fight scene, though, that presents why, even though I love Raul Julia so much in this role, he wasn't the right choice for it.  The man was in his fifties when this movie was created, had cancer, and wasn't a martial artist.  In this scene, it looks like a woman is screaming a lot and smacking around a sick old man.

Fortunately (?), this weirdness is cut short when Honda, Balrog, Ken, and Ryu show up to help her, distracting her long enough for Bison to escape into a room and hit a panic button.  This causes the entire room to flood with gas, knocking everybody out.

Back at Exhibit A for the upcoming war crimes tribunal, Guile and his fleet approach Bison's hideout, and Guile, deciding now is a perfect time for being distracted, decides to pop a tape (?) into a tape deck (?) allowing him to watch videos of himself and Charlie hanging out with attractive women.  

For the record, in case you're curious why Guile, an Air Force guy, is going in by boat, it's because they were filming in Thailand and the country didn't want them flying all the planes they'd need for these scenes over their airspace.  So, boats it is!

Over in Dhalsim's lab, Dhalsim halts the violent video mental programming at 49% and starts it again with new footage featuring young people getting married, Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his famous "I have a dream" speech, and dolphins.

Bison gives the good guys he's captured a lecture about teamwork, but then Guile and his crew engage "stealth mode" on their ship, allowing it to....somehow not be picked up on video cameras while they start blowing up radar stations.  Bison's technology (sonar?) is able to override stealth technology, and the boat is picked up on camera.  Bison demands the ship identify itself, and Guile is, again, more than happy to oblige talking to people who should still think he's dead.

Most of the people are amazed he's alive, but Bison pretty much had it figured out the moment Ken and Ryu were captured, stating it was a ploy to get "his spies" in with Sagat.  He then delivers a sick burn on Sagat by pointing out Sagat couldn't "see that."

I take back my earlier complaints about the fight scene.  I'm sure that if it had been a rap battle, Bison would've taken it.

Bison declares to Chun-Li that she's about to get a good look at the "power she spurned," at which point Bison uses a classic Street Fighter two-player joystick console (with six buttons each!) to ... release mines at Guile's boat.  There's a big explosion, and I guess we're supposed to believe that Guile's dead for a second time.

In the base's basement, the lone guard keeping an eye on a scientist known to hate Bison and their giant science experiment finally catches on that Dhalsim is up to something.  He attacks Dhalsim, but in their struggle Blanka is freed.  Blanka immediately turns on the guard, throwing him across a room.

Yes, he looks ridiculous.  No, there's no real good pictures of him.  Yet.

Outside, Guile, Cammy, and their friend pretending to be a character I like are still alive (duh) and infiltrating the grounds.  We FINALLY get some kind of special move as Cammy exclaims something unintelligible ending in "kick" and, to be fair, she does then kick someone, then climb on their shoulders, wrap her thighs around their neck tightly and then twist their head to the side.

She then continues wrestling with the dead body, because you can never be too sure.

Number of possible moves from a Street Fighter game, if I include Chun-Li's jump-kick earlier?  2.

Number of streets: 0.

Guile asks T. Haaaaaaaaa- no, I refuse to call him that.  Guile asks James Franco (not played by James Franco) why he wears a headband.  I'll point out that James Franco has been by Guile's side since before the start of the movie, and Guile has never once asked him why he has a headband.  Or why he had a bandage on his head.

Guile and his team work on infiltrating the base while Bison realizes that he doesn't have his money as the countdown reaches zero.  Guile runs into Blanka and Dhalsim in the basement, and I honestly don't know which is worse here.

First, we have a white guy slathered with bad TV series Hulk makeup and a clown wig and bad fake teeth trying to beat up Guile.  You can see the make-up doesn't even completely reach his eyes and he's clearly wearing a fake nose.  Oh, and he's naked except for some shorts.

Second, Guile's reaction to discovering that his friend Charlie has been turned into a green warrior is to put a gun to his head and promise to "make them pay."  Charlie isn't completely gone, Guile.  He can be treated, perhaps cured.  You don't know that, you aren't a scientist, but you're just so ready to write him off as gone that you just assume "kill him, execution-style" is the right answer.

Fortunately, Dhalsim keeps Guile from finishing his transition into the least sympathetic character in the movie,  When Bison brings up Blanka's tank, instead of getting his savage beast soldier, Guile emerges and jump-kicks Bison in the chest.  

The heroes break free, a huge gun fight breaks out (like you'd expect one to in a movie called "Street Fighter"), and the characters start to split off into actual duets to fight each other.  Honda battles Zangief, Ryu fights Vega, and Ken fights Sagat.  Cammy and James Franco focus on not getting shot and (in the case of Cammy) looking good while doing it.

Speaking of Cammy, while there's a huge gun fight happening inside, the other soldiers finally arrive and give Cammy and James Franco some much needed backup.

Yes, I could have put a picture of some generic soldiers there shooting at other generic soldiers, but WHY?

Inside, Bison prepares to face down his enemies with Dee Jay by his side, but Dee Jay essentially goes "forget this" and bails on him.

Chaos ensues, Ken abandons Ryu, Blanka kills soldiers while Dhalsim calls for him to stop, and Guile and Bison arrange to face each other alone, with their respective troops leaving the room.  The two fight and...yeah, for the most part it looks like Jean-Claude Van Damme is beating up a fifty year old guy with cancer.

Let's move on.  Chun-Li and Balrog are fighting guards trying to get to the hostages, and somehow Balrog has found and donned a pair of boxing gloves.  I don't even know how he got those, since the exercise area was clearly about martial arts, not boxing.

They even have him wind back a punch and you hear a Looney Tunes revving sound before he punches the guy.  It's not as great as Leon's arms making a gun-cocking sound, but- no, actually, it's pretty stupid.

Back at the main fight, Guile delivers two "flash kicks" (backwards somersault kicks) to Bison and then knocks him into an electrical panel where he gets bad CG lightning bolts crackling over him.  This appears to kill Bison, but apparently Bison planned for this.  While Guile is talking to Cammy over a video radio, Bison's costume brings him back to life (?) and he stands up and shoots lightning bolts at Guile.  You know, as Bison is prone to do.

Some more character filler happens (Dee Jay pillages Bison's room, Ken realizes that Ryu is walking into a trap via a monitor, Ryu and Vega square off), and Bison unleashes his true mental powers electromagnetic powers on Guile, floating up into the air and then barreling forward (read: swinging on wires) to deliver a punch to Guile's face.

There's a lot of stuff here that could take up pages and pages of text because it's all filler, so I'm just going to summarize the high (and low) points.

The good guys free the hostages and get them moving towards the exit.  Guile kicks Bison into his giant display of screens, which somehow causes a huge meltdown (a television-powered reactor?).  Zangief finally gets clued in to the fact he's working for the bad guys, and keeps a blast door from closing to let the hostages escape.  Ryu and Ken beat up Sagat and Vega, and we almost get a fireball from Ryu.

Down in the basement, Guile shows up to recover Charlie (oh, sure, NOW you want to save his life), but Charlie doesn't feel he can return to civilization looking like he does.  Dhalsim, who suddenly is bald, has brown skin, and lost his shirt but still wears the ring around his neck from when he was a prisoner, says he'll stay with Blanka.  

In a room that's actively on fire and about to explode.

Did- did nobody read this script?  I mean, it had problems before now, but having these two characters stay behind when the place is blowing up around them is ridiculous.  There's no heroic sacrifices here.  Dhalsim gives the "if good men do nothing" speech that indicates he's trying to be heroic, but he's literally just sitting there as everything blows up around them.

Everything blows up, Guile is feared dead a THIRD TIME, Sagat and Dee Jay escape with a chest of worthless Bison bucks (why is Sagat so bothered?  He's still a huge crime figure in the city AND has all of his other contacts), and when an ancient temple finishes exploding, all the characters do their signature victory poses (including Zangief, who I guess doesn't need to face charges for any of his crimes while in the employ of Bison).

Let's get this done with so I can move on with my life.

The Good:

Raul Julia.  Seriously, he's the thing that makes this movie worth watching without driving people to chew off their own necks so their bodies can escape what their eyes are seeing.  He hams up every scene, does his best to act like an action movie "boss fight," and just seems to be having fun for scenes that aren't too action-based.  He certainly gives us the best dialogue of the movie, and the only lines anybody should ever be quoting.

He also gives M. Bison, possibly the least developed character in Street Fighter up until that point, the most interesting characterization.  His comments about simply wanting peace, his attempts to woo over Chun-Li, his fixation on single combat without weapons being superior to war, it's all rather interesting when you have it mixed with a man who blows up boats with a joystick, tries to have his hostages be killed by a "wild beast," and clearly wants to force himself on a female prisoner.

There are several characters who are done well by the actors playing them, if I'm being honest.  Chun-Li is pretty good in most of her scenes, Zangief is enjoyable every time he shows up, and Vega is strangely loyal to his original character concept of "pretty boy with a claw."  I think he might be the most loyal in terms of combat, because we see him spamming the same attack (roll forward, thrust claw) against Ryu but it's actually one of his moves from the game faithfully done.

The set details are well done.  Despite the story and characterization, the makers clearly had seen a copy of the game before, and copied stages from the game into other locations through the movie.  Honda's tsunami mural is in the Shadaloo training gym, the statue from Sagat's stage shows up, but sadly there's no hall of elephants for Dhalsim to appear in.

Oh, and Kylie Minogue's really, really pretty.

The Bad:

Somehow, this movie is both too ambitious and not ambitious enough.  It includes nearly every character from the movie (leaving out Fei Long and replacing him with another military character who really doesn't contribute anything but still gets to be in the final victory pose), meaning the cast is ridiculous, and the story veers so far off from being a movie about a guy holding a fighting tournament that it may as well just be a G.I. Joe plot, or some random B-movie for some 80s action hero.

Simultaneously, while it tries to cram in every character and make a huge story out of what is essentially a less complex plot than The Running Man ("guy fights a bunch of other guys for some other peoples' entertainment"), it doesn't even try to do anything with the characters it has.  Ken and Ryu are essentially worthless, relegated to the background a lot instead of being the stars.  Chun-Li, Honda, and Balrog are almost unrecognizable (one of them shouldn't even be a hero), Dee Jay's a villain who used to work at Microsoft (his words, not mine).

It makes it all the more peculiar that, for all the stuff they changed about characters (Dhalsim isn't even Indian!), they decided to keep Blanka and make him just as big, green, and freaky as he is in the game.  We couldn't get a real fireball or other common attack out of this, but I would not have been surprised to see Blanka crouch down and electrify himself to hurt anybody touching him.

Speaking of "I only exist to motivate the main character," let's talk about Guile.  The man is, quite possibly, the worst soldier I've ever seen.  He freely admits his whole purpose in getting Bison is a personal vendetta, he suckers other soldiers into fighting for his vendetta when his superiors have told him to stop fighting so they can try to negotiate the safe return of the hostages, and then rather than simply get the mission done, he feels the need to personally fight Bison one on one, leading to a possibility he'd die and the bad guy would get away.

Let's ignore the fact that the war wasn't even necessary.  Guile could have just sent a message to Bison that said, "hey.  You and me.  Fight to the death.  Let's settle this now.  I'll hit "random" on the stage select, and we'll finish this."  Bison probably would've shown up, because he spent most of the movie anxiously waiting for the chance to fight Guile one on one!

We're not even going to talk about the fact that his default setting for "I found my friend, but he has a different skin tone and is having trouble talking clearly" is "shoot him in the head and keep going."

There's so many more things I could talk about in this movie that are bad.  The fact that it tries to balance being an action movie and a comedy movie and fails at both.  The fact that it steals scenes from other movies and tries to crowbar them into this movie so awkwardly that you can still see the original film's footprint in those scenes.  The fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme is almost impossible to understand in points.  The fact that Cammy insists on wearing baggy combat pants when we know full well what her costume should be..  Everything about T. Hawk.


You know what?  This movie is so bad I think I was actually whimpering as I waited for pointless fight scenes to finish so I could get to the credits.  Small, individual scenes are entertaining, but the last third of the movie just gets so caught up in itself that I think the storyboards got shuffled up and they just tried to cut the scenes quickly enough that nobody would notice how sloppy they were.  You don't care about the characters, the hero's almost another villain when you stop and think about his plans, and nobody else gets enough time to really develop as a character.

There are other, better dumb movies out there.  There are other, much better video game fighting movies out there (do I really need to link my DOA posts again?).  This movie just feels like somebody wanted to try to cash in on something popular, so they grabbed a different plot, changed some names, and then kept changing names when they realized there were more characters who needed to show up.

If this had just been a smaller movie about Ken and Ryu or Guile or Chun-Li, they could have introduced Sagat, Balrog, or Vega, done a tight fighting movie with a few select cameos, and then set themselves up for a sequel (a "Street Fighter II" if you will) where Bison arrives and starts a tournament with lots more characters arriving.  To be fair, Raul Julia wouldn't live long enough to be in the sequel, but let's be honest here, the only reason he works so well here is because we aren't taking the movie seriously at all.  If this had been more Rise of the Dragon than Kung-Fu Hustle than he wouldn't have fit in here at all.

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