It seems as though basing a film on a product with a huge following guarantees success. You’ve got the diehard fans who’ll come out no matter what the critics say and then you have the people they’ll drag along as well as those who are lured in by the hype. It sounds like a foolproof formula, but Chun-Li manages to karate chop that concept to shards and blow them away with her red ball of energy thing. What made Street Fighter such a novel game was how each character had an enthralling back-story that made you relate to them on a level far beyond simply controlling them to take down your opponent. Rather than expand on this history that made us grow to love the game, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li trades in vital material to squeeze in as much acrobatics and fighting sequences as possible. Director Andrezj Bartkowiak shouldn’t have taken the first portion of the title so literally.
In typical origin movie fashion, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li kicks off with a mini Chun-Li watching her beloved father being dragged away by Bison (Neal McDonough) and his thugs. The opening sequence might be the highlight of the film because it’s the sole point at which you actually feel terrible for Chun-Li (Kristen Kreuk). Bartkowiak took some time to introduce you to the characters and show how much they love each other. Fast forward to the time when Chun-Li’s dream of becoming a concert pianist has come true. Amidst her pile of congratulatory flowers she finds a mysterious scroll directing her to seek out a man named Gen (Robin Shou). From that point on it’s a sloppy blend of chasing and fighting that dissolves any hint of a plot.
The least Bartkowiak could have done, was put a little more effort into creating satisfying fight scenes. While the movie is a huge collage of fighting sequences, each individual scene came to an end far too quickly. Taboo must have felt very shortchanged because the ominous Vega is taken down in no time flat. Same goes for poor Balrog. It’s great to see Michael Clarke Duncan get a significant amount of face time, but his finale merely consists of about three minutes of fighting ending with a pathetic steam pipe accident. I might as well continue with my character-by-character critique and move onto the one I loath the most, Nash. Not only does Chris Klein look more like a heroine addict than an Interpol officer, but his acting skills were pitiful almost to the point of mocking his character.
Even though the end of this film couldn’t come soon enough, when the final scene arrives foreshadowing a potential new film, you’ll tingle with excitement. The mere mention of Ryu’s name makes the franchise’s future whirl with possibilities. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li may not have done the videogame justice, but there’s no harm in giving a live-action adaption yet another shot. Better luck next time. The most fascinating aspect of this disc is that it shows the film wasn’t just an idea thrown together to make some quick cash. Not only does the initial concept have potential, but the cast and crew intensely dedicate themselves to making Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li a hit while paying homage to the videogame. It’s too bad the passion doesn’t translate on film.
The deleted scenes are not standalone sources of entertainment, but they do show that the crew recognizes the importance of the characters’ history. Unfortunately, Bartkowiak chooses the wrong scenes to cut. One scene in particular gives some insight into the plight of Nash. Without this vital piece of information, Klein’s character is left a brooding guy with nothing to justify his bad attitude. Let the troubles continue with Becoming a Street Fighter. I guess you have to be emotionally invested in a project that requires so much from you, but I genuinely believe these actors care about the success of this film beyond a financial triumph. Nearly all of the actors have some knowledge of their characters prior to reading the script and are eager to make them their own. If only good intentions meant good results. This disparity is reiterated in Chun-Li: Bringing the Legend to Life. It’s basically just more about how hard the team is trying to bring Chun-Li to the big screen and how devoted they are to doing it the best they can. Writer Justin Marks even emphasizes the care that’s put into bringing Chun-Li’s famous moves from the videogame to the film. Poor Kruek. She better have gotten a big paycheck for all that physical work.
As usual, the Fox Movie Channel featurette consists of all the basics involved in making the film. They give a brief synopsis of what’s going on, what it takes to put the fighting scenes together and what it’s like shooting in the slums of Bangkok. The one element of this piece that throws me is the relentless mentioning of the team’s effort to make the combat scenes realistic. One individual mentions the fact that a normal person can jump six feet in the air, so they’ll have Chun-Li jump eight via cables so it looks amazing while maintaining some realism. First off, who knows anyone that can jump six feet in the air? Secondly, there are very few sane people who genuinely believe they can do what the Street Fighters are capable of.
While the commentary does shed light on some elements of the film’s production, you’re better off sticking with the featurettes. Producers Patrick Aiello and Ashok Amritraj as well as McDonough and Klein do a decent job, but often slip into periods of droning making their remarks more of an annoyance rather than purely informative. On the other hand, the trivia track is a fun accompaniment. A small box pops up randomly with fun tidbits about the actors, production process, location, etc. and are rather interesting.
The best part of the bonus feature list is definitely Recreating the Game: Arcade to Film Comparisons gallery. It’s one of three art galleries on the disc, but the other two are fairly unexciting. One of the most exhilarating instances of seeing a favorite videogame or book being adapting for the big screen, is finding out who’ll play you’re favorite characters. Soon after casting announcements, you know the Internet will be flooded with the coveted side-by-side comparisons. These images don’t lose any of their allure after having seen the film and are only enhanced by showing the actor or actress along side their character in full costume.
Kudos to Fox for including the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 sneak peak because that’s exactly the type of bonus material that’s going to appeal to the people who purchase this BD. If The Legend of Chun-Li couldn’t make much money, at least give the videogame a shot.
Lastly, the pristine quality of a Blu-ray disc does little for the film. You’d think a film with vibrant colors and tons of action would really excel on Blu-ray, but, even when consciously looking for improvements, they are no where to be found. The audio doesn’t seem to stand out either. Basically, if you’re going to buy the film, you might as well save some cash and get the DVD version. The only thing you’ll miss out on is the trivia track and, while that element is enjoyable, it’s not worth the extra money.
Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.
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