The Street Fighter video game franchise may be one of the most successful video game franchises in history. It had spawned numerous video game sequels, countless remixes, an anime series, an American cartoon series, inspired two shameful live-action American flicks, a manga, and a Japanese anime movie directed by Gisaburo Sugii. I was going to wait for the uncut Japanese release before I was going to revisit this movie to do a review, but what the hey, I wanted to see if there was going to be anything more significant from this unrated cut that I own from the uncut Japanese version.
I was told that the uncut version has more blood and it included a naked Chun Li in the shower. But let’s talk about that later, since I expect my copy to arrive next week and this copy will fall into the hands of my friend's brother. I guess I need to focus on what made this animated movie so much more entertaining, successful than any of the “Street Fighter” animated series is the fact that it stayed very close to the groundwork/storyline established in the beloved video game. I will credit the English voice cast since this is what was available in this DVD that I am reviewing.
The film begins with Ryu (Hank Smith) and Sagat (David Conrad) duking it out under the cover of night with lightning the only source of illumination. The two fighters trade blows while someone is obviously gathering data from their fight. The fight ends when Ryu plants a huge blow that scars Sagat (oh, there is a lot of blood) on the chest and dispatches him with a blast of chi energy called Haddoken. Years later, Ryu drops off the grid as he wanders Asia looking for fights and to try to help out. Now a criminal organization called Shadowloo led by Bison (Phil Matthews) has surfaced and they have caused unrest after British agent Cammy (S.J. Charvin) kills an important political figure. They are also actively looking for Ryu so that they could enlist them in their evil cause. Hot on the tail of Bison are Guile (Donald Lee) and Chun-Li (Mary Briscoe), who wish to bring him to justice and have vengeance for Bison’s past sins. But Bison is no easy prey as he now has Sagat, Vega (Steve Davis), and a brainwashed Ken Masters (Ted Richards), also Ryu’s closest friend and co-student under his command.
If you are a fan of the video game, then this film would be close to heaven. It was wise for the screenplay by Kenichi Imai to focus on Ryu, Ken, Guile and Chun-Li to develop the core of its premise. It does several things right, it manages to flesh out the roots of Ken and Ryu’s relationship, it was nice to see their rivalry developed in the script. Chun-Li is out to avenge her father while Guile stays true to his original motivation against Bison. Bison is also no slouch in this flick, he is ruthless, powerful and very dangerous. He is indeed the ‘top’ bad guy in this flick. The script keeps its momentum with the development of its named central characters going forward to the final encounter.
What really made me feel that the script wasn’t as smooth or focused was the fact that it tried to do so many things. I know, this is an animated flick about “Street Fighter” and so it was to be expected that characters from the game would make appearances. Some appearances made sense, Fei Long (Philip Williams), Honda (Patrick Gilbert) and Dhalsim (Don Carey) actually build up to its script. Zangief, Blanka, Deejay and T. Hawk also made appearances but they felt more like ‘fodder’ to feed the “Street Fighter” fan. Their appearances felt a little too cheap and really irrelevant. The film could’ve done just as well without them. I also wasn’t too happy with the way Sagat seemed to have been forgotten in the script later on.
Now I am also a sucker for hard-hitting fights and “Street Fighter II” has a lot to spare. The animation work may feel a little dated to today’s standards, it had some perspective issues and seemed choppy when it wasn't moving that fast. But the fight choreograph had enough behind them to make them shine. Ryu vs. Sagat in the beginning of the film defined exactly what this was all about. The Bruce Lee clone, Fei Long also had a one-on-one with the hero Ryu; while the fight was short, it was fun to watch. Chun-Li even had a good battle with Vega. Now I wasn’t too happy with the battle between Balrog and Honda, or Honda’s run-in with Dhalsim, but they all added to the build up. The Ryu vs. Ken, and then the Ryu and Ken vs. Bison is the film’s bread and butter. The fight was exciting with all the use of their powers and skills. The film made Bison exactly how I imagined him to be; tough, dangerous and relentless that it took both Ryu and Ken to fight him. Also, as an added treat for fans, the characters get to use their 'signature moves' from the video games. The music was also engaging as it reflected the mood and tempo of the sequences.
Yes, this film was flawed and the script while competent had a lot of rough areas. To its credit, it did a lot of things right to cover up its weaknesses in plotting. The spirit of KARATE was competently portrayed, Chun-Li had her moment to show her stuff, and while Guile was underwritten, he made up for it with his brief clash with Bison. What I really liked about the film was the animated fight choreography and it was good to see Ryu and Ken in all their glory. Bison was a great bad guy too and it helped define the Ken-Ryu dynamic. Yes, this film is strictly for fans of the franchise, as they have the will to truly appreciate what was done here. Come to see the action, don’t expect anything intricate or cerebral and you’ll enjoy this show. It is the best movie made based on the franchise, but unfortunately that is not saying much.
Pros: Animation and voices were better than I remembered... Cons: Attempt to cram in all known Street Fighters just because The Bottom Line: Not that awesome, but at least it didn't totally suck. And am I a dork for liking the music? Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. I was bored one night, and realized I hadnt yet reviewed my Street Fighter II movie. So I popped it in and refreshed … more