By Justin Meltzer
What do you get when you mix Jean-Claude Van Damme (the muscles from Brussels), Raul Julia (Gomez Addams from the Addams Family) and a cornucopia of fighting personalities from around the world? That’s right, you get one of the best video game adaptations ever to grace the silver screen. And the best part is that this movie was made in 1994, so, sadly, this genre of film peaked before it ever even got off the ground. This is Street Fighter the Movie, the retro-review.
What Street Fighter attempted to do was take the story of Street Fighter II, the video game produced by Capcom, and turn it into a full length feature film. The only problem is that this video game is a “fighting game,” hence the title Street Fighter. This type of game doesn’t really need to have a story, and why should it need to? The genre consists of random assortments of characters fighting each other. You normally wouldn’t need a story for something like that, at least not in the early 1990’s. However, when making a movie based on this property, a story is actually needed and Street Fighter the Movie delivers. The story follows M. Bison (Julia) as the bad guy who wants $20 billion in exchange for a bunch of hostages he captured. But U.S. badass Colonel Guile (played by clearly non-American Van Damme) has other plans. He’s the “Repo Man” and Bison is “out of business!”
The corny lines in this movie flowed like a fountain of champagne from the most decadent jewel encrusted waterfall. Except instead of being classy and delicious, it was the exact opposite. Every two minutes the audience is treated to something like “Game over,” or “If I hadn’t met you, I might have become you.” The cheese in this movie is strong, but that also happens to be the reason it is so great. To take these lines seriously is to willingly bludgeon yourself with a hammer. You have to watch this movie with a grain of salt and then (and here’s the important part) repeat the lines out loud. The only way to appreciate such gems as “Tell you what, after I’ve crushed my enemies we’ll see about getting you published. That should cheer you up, hmmm?” is by saying it out loud to whoever may be in the same room as you at the time.
If the dialogue is considered cheesy then it’s time to pack your bags and pitch a tent, because the action was campier than a boy scout meeting at Lake Ronkonkoma. The expressions and actions used by the actors were borrowed straight from the lowest budget daytime soap opera. When extras on set were needed to show emotion you could tell they knew they were on camera and were trying to act the shit out of their 5 seconds of fame. As for the fight sequences, they included not only hand to hand combat but also large drawn out gun fights, where of course only the good guys with hand guns can hit the bad guys with fully automatic weapons. The disappointing part however was that there was not a single street fight. You would think that a movie called Street Fighter would incorporate at least one fight in the streets, yet the only instance of anything even resembling that (it was an illegal cage match, close enough) was smashed to pieces before it could start. What-a-gyp.
The movie did manage to incorporate cohesively every character from the game and actually gave them a partially substantial role in the movie. But, like every adaptation done in Hollywood, liberties were taken. Character’s traits and personalities were changed, sometimes completely. For those who know the character of Dalsim, they wouldn’t know him in this movie. Ken and Ryu were failed weapons dealers, Chun-Li was a reporter, and Guile was Jean-Claude Van Damme. The little story the game did have was thrown to the sharks. Luckily the most important aspect of the characters was kept intact; their costumes. By the end of the film everyone was wearing their respective outfits, which is all that really matters.
What I’m really trying to say about Street Fighter is that it manages to capture our hearts and minds, and then subsequently turn our minds to putty. It does so with over used clichés, and outlandish plot devices. It was glorious and spectacular in all of its ridiculous video game goodness. Eat it up because no other video game movie ever released since has ever managed to match the quality (however little that may be) of the one and only Street Fighter.