Saturday, June 13, 2009

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (Sutorīto Faitā Tsū Mūbī)

Unlike the last video game movie I revued, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie delivers exactly what it promises. If you've played Street Fighter II for more than about a minute, you probably have a pretty good idea of what this movie is going to be, for better or worse.

One of the first shots is of a street, and shortly after that, we see two guys fighting on or near it, hence, "Street Fighter." This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We then spend about an hour being introduced to various characters while getting little sprinkles of exposition about the actual plot: the terrorist organization Shadowloo is recruiting street fighters to train as assassins. Their leader, Vega, has his heart set on recruiting Ryu Hyabusa, a fighter whom their cyborgs have identified as having a power level of OVER THREE THOUSAAAAAND (2,000 is supposedly the maximum). Ryu is wandering the globe, getting into fights and having homoerotic flashbacks about training with his rival/friend/maybe more?, Ken.

(Note: In the U.S. version of both the game and the movie, M. Bison is the big bad, Vega is the guy with the claw, and Balrog is the boxer. In the original Japanese versions, Vega is the big bad, Balrog is the guy with the claw, and M. Bison is the boxer. They changed it for the international release so Mike Tyson wouldn't sue. I watched the Japanese version, so I'm using those names.)

Meanwhile, Interpol agent Chun-Li, who has a grudge against Vega because he killed her father for some reason that's never explained, is working on trying to take down Shadowloo. To this end, she enlists the help of U.S. Air Force guy Guile, who has a lot of angst but ultimately doesn't do anything.

During this part of the movie, we're also introduced to Cammy, Fei-Long, T. Hawk, Dhalsim, E. Honda, Deejay, M. Bison, Zangief, and Blanka, but none of them are really part of the story except Cammy and E. Honda, and even they don't do much. Which is fine -- it would get pretty unmanageable if they tried to give every character something to do -- but it does feel like there's a lot of time spent on introducing all these characters for essentially no reason. (Fei-Long even tells Ryu that they'll meet again, but they don't. Maybe they were trying to set up a sequel?)

Anyway, eventually we get to the part we've all been waiting for: the infamous Chun-Li shower scene. For a long time this scene was cut out of the American release of the movie, but as a film purist, obviously I had to track down the uncut version. I have to say it doesn't live up to the hype at all. There's a brief shot of a pair of rather unrealistically proportioned animated boobs. That's it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I don't see what made it so important that we Americans not get to see it for so long.

Back to the plot: this is where things actually start to happen. Vega has sent Balrog to kill Chun-Li, so after she gets out of the shower, he jumps off the ceiling and attacks her. Though she takes a beating, she manages to throw a sofa at him and kick him through the wall (presumably to his death), but then she goes into a coma or something just as Guile shows up too late to be useful.

Ken proposes to his girlfriend, but the whole time he's thinking about Ryu. "Ryu, I'm tired of waiting for you," he thinks. But then he gets captured by Vega, who sneaks up on him in a giant jet that can hover and, in a trippy scene, uses his "psycho power" to exploit Ken's feelings for Ryu and take control of him. Vega tracks down Ryu and makes Ken fight him. Guile tries to fight Vega, but misses every punch and a sonic boom, then falls off a cliff (as do E. Honda and M. Bison).

Anyway, as you probably could have guessed, eventually Ken's love for Ryu overcomes Vega's mind control, and the two of them team up and hadouken Vega into his jet, which explodes, and Interpol or the Air Force or somebody blows up Shadowloo. Guile is led to believe that Chun-Li is dead. He says to what he thinks is her corpse, "I took revenge on Vega as I promised," which is kind of funny when you consider that what he actually did was get knocked off a cliff by Vega after not damaging him at all. But it turns out Chun-Li isn't really dead; she's just playing a rather cruel joke on him, so he strangles her (pictured).

Ryu and Ken split up at a Stuckey's, both agreeing it's best. They'll "settle things with each other" the next time they meet (wink wink, nudge nudge). Ken leaves with his girlfriend in their convertible, and Ryu the fighter walks down the street. The end!

...OR IS IT?! Out of nowhere, Vega appears and tries to run Ryu over with a huge truck! I know that sounds like something I would make up, but that's really how the movie ends! It's a classic horror movie surprise ending, not at all appropriate in tone with the rest of the movie. It's great!

I spent more time summarizing that plot than I expected, but there really isn't that much else to talk about in this movie. Like the game, it's pretty much just a series of loosely connected fights. The fights are pretty cool, though, if you're into that sort of thing, and the animation is decent (though I feel like the characters are a little too muscular (I don't like men with too many muscles)).

Like I said before, my main gripe is that the movie spends so much time showing us characters who turn out to be pointless. It's cool to be able to say, "hey, look, it's that character that I like" and all, but it's just a whole lot of time before the story gets going, spent on exposition that never pays off (the Zangief/Blanka fight scene is particularly pointless, as it's the only time those characters ever appear and they don't interact with anyone else).

There is, as far as I can tell, no moral or theme to the story. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens. So... I really can't think of much else to say. If you like Street Fighter II, you probably wouldn't dislike this movie. I don't feel like it was a complete waste of my time, but I doubt I'll ever think much about it again. I have no strong feelings about this movie one way or the other, except that the ending is hilarious. It's probably not worth watching the whole thing just for that and the shower scene, though.

Next time:
Double Dragon

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