Video game adaptations, especially from Hollywood, are given the side eye. Hollywood adaptations have a poor reputation, earned thanks to the likes of Double Dragon and Super Mario Bros. But, Hollywood persisted, because where there is a large enough number of people, studios will exploit. And in 1994, $studio exploited the names of actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, singer/actress Kylie Minogue, and actor Raul Julia along with the video game Street Fighter.
Street Fighter – The Movie did not do well with initial audiences. The tone of the film was not what anyone expected – Van Damme’s acting style was better suited for movies with more action and less acting, the film was almost four-colour at a time when the approach was to go darker and grittier, and the studio got too involved. However, on retrospection, Street Fighter – The Movie isn’t in the same league as the worst video game movies made.
The video game has backstory on who all the characters are, why they are fighting, and why they’re after M. Bison. The game play, though, is a fighting game. That’s the draw of the game, not the backstory. The backstory is there to give a reason for the player to beat up opponents but via the game manual. However, that backstory can be adapted, if loosely.
The movie had a few strikes against it on release. The rep of video game movies and the acting capabilities of the leads, with the exception of Raul Julia. The movie tried to include every character from the video game, even if it was for a brief appearance. The result could be a complete mess.
There are some bright sides that save the movie, beyond just Raul Julia. The supporting cast, which includes Ming-Na Wen, pulled their weight, though, carrying the film. The movie’s writing has a strong pedigree with Lorenzo Semple, Jr, handling the duties. Semple also wrote the 1980 Flash Gordon and was on the writing staff for the 1966 Batman TV series. The humour from Flash Gordon appears in Street Fighter, little things that come naturally in the situation without feeling forced. Watching the movie through the lens of an action comedy, the tone clicks. The four-colour approach works. Raul Julia knew exactly what sort of movie he was in and played M. Bison the same way Leslie Nielsen played Dr. Womack in Airplane!; straighter than straight to the point of being funny. His speech to Chun-Li about him not remembering invading her village is a great example of what he was doing.
Street Fighter – The Movie is a cult classic. Time has given audiences time to figure out what it is without marketing trying to set the genre in minds beforehand. The bright colours turn the film into something timeless, separated from grim and gritty. There are little things to noticed with every viewing, including the Armed Forces radio announcer, Adrian Cronauer, who was the inspiration for Good Morning, Vietnam. Yes, the movie parodied Good Morning, Vietnam with the real AFRS DJ. That’s going the extra step.
It’s such steps that elevate Street Fighter – The Movie. It may not be a great film, but it is a fun movie, well worth the watch.