Interestingly, not many people know of this production (certainly not the ones that I’ve met thus far). It kinda gives you a slight hint of the filmmakers intentions, then: they’re probably aiming to make this a sleeper-hit, one that will make some money, but only after a certain period of time spent in cinemas around the world. It probably also points to the low-budget of the production (though having said that, ‘low’ is a term that is very relative these days: gone are the days where a $100 million film would be announced with pride. Certainly within the Hollywood context, at least). Let’s put it this way, then: for a film, based on one of the most popular video games series of all time, that’s due to be released in around 6 months time, they haven’t even released an official poster (teaser or otherwise) yet.
Is, however, such machinery required for a film like ‘Street Fighter’? The answer is: probably not.
However, I think the bigger factor in the film’s low-key production thus far is the history of franchise. Firstly, I speak here of the actual game that the movie is based upon. One should say ‘games’, for the Street Fighter universe is a multi-platform, multi-episode, multi-everything franchise. There are dozens and dozens of characters to choose from, each with their own unique background that, mixed in together, can make for an interesting experience.
Wisely, perhaps, the producers have decided to eschew this approach, and focus on the developments of one main character, Chun-Li. This is perhaps another reason why, so far at least, there is little in way of hype with regards to the film. Mention Street Fighter to anyone who even has a remote and passing interest in the game, and chances are the Chinese fighter won’t be the first name that jumps to mind. You might think of a Japanese dude in simple, white garb, donning a red headband, or even a brash American soldier who has a year’s supply of hair gel to keep his ‘cliff’ up at all times.
Indeed, the American soldier was the one who was picked to headline the last live-action Street Fighter foray. While Jean-Claude Van Damme was as good a choice as any as Guile, the issue was not so much with the casting as with the film itself. As a silly little action flick…it was OK, fun at times, and a birthday present which I enjoyed watching time and time again. Nevertheless…the film kinda sucked. In fact, it sucked really, really bad. If I had the chance to watch it again, I would, and may even enjoy it still, but more for nostalgia purposes rather than for its actual quality. It didn’t help that the manga Street Fighter was more accurate, more good (that doesn’t sound right…) and…well, had a very ‘interesting’ shower scene that caused much excitement amongst testosterone-filled boys of Forest Hill School. The live-action version, however, sucked so bad, that even though it made tonnes of money (roughly returning three times its budget of $30-ish million), a sequel was never made (even though rumours of it were abound for many years).
Until now, that is. Technically speaking, though, it is not a direct sequel, but a reinterpretation, a reboot, a…whatever you want to call it. What is it about, then? Well, the story follows Chun-li and…her quest for justice (it says so on the film blog). Not much else is revealed unfortunately. It’s set in Thailand, and we know that Bison will be the main baddie. I can guess at Vega and Balrog being his cronies (before I find out that they actually will be the cronies). Nash will probably be a good guy, and so will Maya, a new character created for the film. She’s a police officer, so she’s got to be a goodie, right?
Does knowing the storyline matter? Well, usually, it does. But in this case…well, what more can I say? It’s a Street Fighter movie. Andrzej Bartkowiak has helmed some decent action flicks, most notably ‘Romeo Must Die’ and ‘Cradle To The Grave’. ‘Doom’ was, for the most part, OK-ish, and I think that he has displayed enough in the previous films to do well enough for this film. There will certainly be plenty of action in this film (duh), so I am not worried about that side of things.
Cast-wise, however, is where the worries actually start. Perhaps it’s not accurate to describe them as worries, as there appears to be some inspired decisions made here. Michael Clarke Duncan as the boxer Balrog…no contest. Taboo as Vega was more left-field, but also looks like an inspired decision (he really does fit, physically, into the Vega character somehow). The rest of the cast members, however, are more intriguing. Kristin Kreuk is undoubtedly very beautiful to look at, but…well, she’s not Chinese. Not by a long-shot (though she does have some Javanese blood in her). I don’t really doubt her acting abilities so much (though I haven’t really seen her tested in a meaty role thus far), and I think she’ll be OK in this department. She’s just…not Chinese. What can I say? Maybe Zhang Ziyi would have been the more obvious choice, but this could also turn out well as well.
The same could be said for Neal McDonough as Bison. If there was one really good bit of casting decision for the first film, it was Raul Julia’s turn in the flick. I wonder how Neal McDonough will follow this through, although he does possess some of the most captivating eyes I’ve seen in a long while. And they do say that the eyes are arguably the most important tools an actor could have. Robin Shou makes a bit of a splash, primarily because he was already the Mortal Kombat film earlier on. Given the ‘rivalry’ between the two franchises, his casting raised a few eyebrows, but beyond that (and beyond these cast members), I don’t have much of an opinion.
I am, however, very much looking forward to this film. Unlike many close followers of such franchises, I’ve always thought of film adaptations as a different art form, which emphasises different points of the stories or characters that were known before. Changes are inevitable, and with regards to the games and films of yesteryears, ‘The Legend of Chun-Li’ looks like turning out to be a very different film, in terms of style, story, and substance.
And, hopefully, in terms of quality, too.
Fikri always liked playing as Dhalsim, because he can just hit people from halfway across the screen. But Blanka’s electric attack was also pretty cool. 🙂 For more info, check out the official film blog.