Reaching back, we find that I've already covered Street Fighter, focusing on the movie featuring Raul Julia in his last role. Instead of rewriting all the background, I'll just send you to re-read it if you want and then continue.
The year 2009 had a glut of action movies. Not all of them lived up to the promise of the trailers. One such movie was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. The movie chronicles how the titular character grows from young girl to, well, street fighter. Essentially, an origins movie. Kristin Kreuk starred as the adult version of Chun Li as she struggled to find meaning after her father disappeared and her died. Her search took her to Bangkok to study under Gen, once a member of Bison's gang who now protected the downtrodden from the villain's schemes. He took Chun Li under his wing, teaching her new techniques and leading her to find a new balance and lose her anger*. In the meantime, Charlie Nash, an Interpol agent, also arrived in Bangkok to assist the local police, including Detective Maya Sunee of Gangland Homicide, in finding who was responsible for the deaths and beheadings of eight major gang leaders.** Nash had been on the trail of Bison for several years and is hoping to finally put him away. Despite having Chun Li narrate for most of the beginning, turning "show, don't tell" into "show and tell", the movie maintains a decent pace thriough the investigation by both Nash and Chun Li and has decent action sequences.
Overall, the movie worked as an action flick, something to watch in the heat of the summer in a cool, dark theatre with a large bag of popcorn and a soft drink of one's choice. So, why was there a problem?
It wasn't Street Fighter.
Oh, sure, it's there in the title: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Kristin Kreuk played Chun Li; it's even there in the credits. And she took on Bison, Balrog, and Vega.
But, if the audience wasn't told that who the characters were, who'd notice the difference? None of the characters were in the costumes from the video game. Unlike Street Fighter – The Movie, where everyone eventually wore the trademark costumes from the game, outside of one scene in Legend of Chun Li, they could have been called anything else. The one scene? Featured Chun Li with her hair in the same style as in the video game wearing a short blue dress as she seduced Bison's henchwoman***.
I dare say that if the movie didn't have the Street Fighter character names and links (a couple of scenes, really), the movie might have been better. Expectations would have been different. Change Shadaloo to a generic Triad, Tong or even the Russian mob, change Chun Li to Suki or Mei Lin, change Bison to Biyall, and the movie still holds together. It's as if an existing script was taken and modified to slap the Street Fighter name on to draw in more people. From a marketing perspective, this makes some sense. Action movies in the summer have a lot of competition. Adding a familiar name can get attention far easier and potentially far cheaper than putting in an effort to tweak the trailers to maximize interest. Problem is, slapping a known franchise name can backfire when the movie has a fairly generic plot and characters that could be renamed without affecting the story, the case with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.
So, the takeaway here is that if one wants to put the name of a franchise on a movie, the writing has to add recognizable elements from the franchise beyond just the names. This may fall under the concept of caring for a property. Slapping a name on a product is easy; making sure that the product reflects the name takes a bit more effort. Thus is the case of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. A decent action movie with baggage that added expectations it couldn't handle.
Next time, a holiday classic.
*Apparently, anger not only leads to hate but to distraction.
**Yeah, guess who ordered the killings.
***Yay, fanservice? The fight in the washroom was just as fanservice-y.