Arcade Fighting Games That Led to Two Disappointing Films Each But Could Be Potentially Rebooted in the Near Future

12 06 2010

If you took the time to read that whole title, you might be thinking that there can’t be too many perfect fits for that description. I can only think of two. Here they are.



Released in arcades in 1987, Street Fighter wasn’t the first side-view, one-on-one fighting game, but it was pretty much the first one that was any good. The game revolves around Ryu, a Japanese fighter who competes in an international martial arts tournament (presumably just because he can), and Ken, Ryu’s friend, rival, and carbon copy. As one of the two, the player fights 10 other martial artists, ending with a big burly man named Sagat, who, upon his defeat, announces the player as the “strongest Street Fighter in the world.”

Sagat is roughly 90% muscle, and 48% balls.

Apparently, the world didn’t get that memo, as a sequel, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, was released in 1991. It was about the boys entering yet another tournament, this time masterminded by a man named M. Bison, and introduced some new characters. This was soon followed by Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition (1992), Street Fighter II’: Hyper Fighting (1992), Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (1993), and Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994). Almost 10 years after all that, in 2003, Hyper Street Fighter II came out.  Somehow, between those last two, there were also three Street Fighter III games. Apparently, Capcom got its math straight after that, though, since Street Fighter IV came out in 2008. Of course, it was soon followed by Super Street Fighter IV, released earlier this year. With any luck, Super Mega Hyper Turbo Ultimate Street Fighter IV: New Ultra-Champion Edition should be out in a few months.

Despite the ridiculous number of games in the series (there were 3 other “series within the series” that I didn’t even mention), Street Fighter was pretty awesome, setting the stage for other fighting games to follow, such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and Soul Calibur. It was the first to employ the concept of “special moves” unique to the characters, a staple in pretty much any video game nowadays, and was a turning point for the video game industry altogether. Street Fighter found immense success, both in arcades and on home consoles. So what do you do when a video game gets that popular?


You fuck it up.

Street Fighter (1994) has Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme), one of the new characters in Street Fighter II, infiltrating M. Bison’s (Raul Julia) base to rescue several dozen hostages. Along the way, he is assisted by Ryu, Ken, and several other characters from the series. They fight the bad guys and they win. I think there was some kind of plot that got jammed in there somewhere, but I can’t be sure.

Alright, to be fair, I haven’t actually seen the whole movie, but I’d like to, if only to earn the right to insult it proper. From the parts I did see, it seemed just like any and every other movie Jean-Claude Van Damme has starred in: entertaining at times, but mostly just bad. In 2009, the movie made Time‘s list of “top ten worst video game movies,” which is pretty bad considering Uwe Boll probably made the other nine, and the New York Times deemed it “a dreary, overstuffed hodgepodge of poorly edited martial arts sequences and often unintelligible dialogue“. But at least the worst was over. Street Fighter’s name couldn’t possibly be tarnished any more, even if they made another mo-

-vie. God damn it.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) is about (you guessed it) Chun-Li, another one of Street Fighter II’s new additions. M. Bison kidnaps her father, she embarks on a quest for revenge, then she fights some guys, some stuff blows up, blah, blah, blah. The movie just turned out to be another load of crap, even worse than the first bomb. Again, I’ve never actually seen the movie, but I doubt everyone was wrong about it. The film was described as “dull and visually uninspired” with a “solemn screenplay [that] lacks any trace of wit.” Even worse, it is apparently even less enjoyable than the original Street Fighter film. Good thing they didn’t make any more mo………vies. Oh, yeah, they really didn’t…..



You may have seen this video circulating around the internet recently:

In about 3 minutes, this short film, called Street Fighter: Legacy, has achieved something that the two feature-length films could not: awesomeness. The choreography is great, the special effects aren’t excessive, and it captures the spirit of the game without feeling empty. I haven’t heard anything to indicate that this will actually be made into another Street Fighter movie, but it does seem that I’m not the only one who could get behind that idea. The video seems to hint at a more serious rivalry between Ryu and Ken, and it’d be cool to see that played out. And the actors aren’t well-known, so they don’t have reputations for being washed-up action stars. I say we give Joey Ansah, the director, a Hollywood budget so he can expand this into a real movie. If that fails, we can turn to….



By the time Mortal Kombat was released in 1992, Street Fighter already had three games out, so MK had some catching up to do. Mortal Kombat is about Liu Kang, a Chinese martial artist, and several other fighters who compete in a martial arts tournament with varying motives (sound familiar?). The primary motivation here seems to be saving Earthrealm, one of several realms in this universe, since one realm can conquer another if its fighters are victorious in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments, and Outworld has won the past nine. With the thunder god Raiden’s help, Liu Kang saves Earthrealm by defeating the evil sorceror Shang Tsung.

Ponytail, skimpy leather outfit, grabby hands. Kinda looks like a rapist.

Like Street Fighter before it, Mortal Kombat proceeded to release a bevy of sequels. Mortal Kombat II (1993), Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996), Mortal Kombat 4 (1997), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002), Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004), and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006) all followed the same basic formula as the first: 2 people with superhuman abilities beating the shit out of each other. There were a few other games among those that tried for a more adventure-game-esque feel to it, but those weren’t nearly as fun.

To some, it might seem that Mortal Kombat was a lot like its predecessors in the arcade fighting game genre, just with a hell of a lot more special moves and much more realistic characters. What really set it apart, however, were the massive amounts of gore and, believe it or not, comedy. When other games’ characters were defeated, they often would just fall down in exhaustion or something. In Mortal Kombat, players were given a chance to perform brutal Fatalities after defeating their enemies, maiming, eviscerating, or blowing the loser right the fuck up. Some of the games gave the the characters several Fatalities, allowing for some variety in the “holyshitthat’salotofblood” department, as well as Animalities, where one could turn into an animal and kill one’s enemy, Brutalities, which involved pummeling the loser at 100 mph until they exploded, and Hara-Kiris, where the loser could off themselves before the winner got a chance. By today’s standards, Mortal Kombat’s blood and gore would be considered fairly tame, but at the time, it was kind of a big deal. In fact, the level of violence in Mortal Kombat was one of the reasons for the creation of the ESRB, the organization that assigns age and content ratings to video games, much like the MPAA does with movies.

Left to right: Unacceptable, Acceptable

You might be wondering what all that has to do with the comedy I mentioned. Well, after the criticism that the first game garnered from parents for its gratuitous violence, Mortal Kombat made the most obvious retaliation: they mocked them. Starting with Mortal Kombat II, along with the gruesome Fatalities, players were also able to perform Babalities, transforming the loser into an infant version of themself, or Friendships, doing something silly and harmless (That’s right. The picture of Shang Tsung with a rainbow wasn’t photoshopped). If you were playing as Raiden in Mortal Kombat II on the Sega Genesis, you could even perform a Fergality, turning your enemy into a miniature version of Fergus McGovern, some guy who worked on the game. These were humorous alternatives to the Fatalities, allowing a non-violent resolution to the fights. I hope the underlying message of “Fuck you, over-concerned parents!” wasn’t lost on them. Mortal Kombat also hid countless Easter eggs throughout the games that were based on inside jokes among the development team, such as McGovern’s head flying in front of the moon, the famous Toasty! joke, and some hidden characters that became more prominent later in the series.

So it was that Mortal Kombat became very, very popular. And if you’ve been paying any attention to this article, you know what happens next…


That’s right, they made a movie.

Mortal Kombat (1995) is about Liu Kang, U.S. soldier Sonya Blade, and movie star Johnny Cage, who are all chosen to compete in the Mortal Kombat Tournament being held by Shang Tsung in order to prevent Outworld’s leader Shao Kahn from invading Earthrealm. Each of the three has their own reason for accepting: Shang Tsung (as played by Johnny Tsunami) killed Liu Kang’s brother, crime lord Kano killed Sonya’s partner, and Johnny Cage…..well, nobody takes him seriously and he wants to change that. Along the way, Liu Kang finds a love interest in Princess Kitana, Shao Kahn’s adopted daughter. Everyone fights someone else, and Earthrealm’s warriors are ultimately successful in defending their home.

Actually, the movie wasn’t that bad. It was no Oscar-winner, of course, but that’s not always the deciding factor in a film’s quality. I guess it was mostly a “so-bad-it’s-good” type of movie, that was at least fairly loyal to the games. It’s been described both as having “wondrous special effects and witty production design [that] effectively combines supernatural terror, a mythical slay-the-dragon, save-the-princess odyssey and even a spiritual quest for self-knowledge,” as well as “[having fallen] flat under an uninspired good-versus-evil plot and pathetically simple-minded dialogue.” Grossing more than $122 million, the film wasn’t too bad of a venture, overall. As long as they don’t make any m-

-ore. *Sigh* Here we go again.

In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), despite Earthrealm’s victory in the latest Mortal Kombat, Shao Kahn attempts to conquer them anyway. A bunch more of the games’ characters are thrown in, Raiden helps the good guys, and Earthrealm is saved once again.

Because of its attempt to cram in as many characters as possible, MK: A‘s plot suffered, as did the development of said characters. Many of the new characters only made brief appearances and had little to no bearing on the plot. And the returning cast was almost completely overhauled, with only Liu Kang and Kitana played by the same actors as in the original. Apparently, the makers thought that, instead of the immortal Highlander, Raiden should be played by the porn producer from The Girl Next Door.

"I am God of Thunder!"

The movie was hailed as “nothing more than a perpetual chain of elaborately choreographed fight sequences that…are linked together by the most flimsy and laughable of plot elements,” and rightly so. I mean, sure, I’ll never get tired of watching it. I’ve always been a big fan of the games and I love campy movies like this, but deep down, I know it’s bad. Unfortunately, the sequel could really only appeal to fans of the games and not audiences in general. Its box office sales reflected this. Luckily, this all happened over a decade ago, and when it comes to making Mortal Kombat movies, it seems Hollywood has gotten the message.


Or have they?

Like Street Fighter: Legacy, this video popped up on the internet recently:

Fuckin’ A. That was Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, and unlike Street Fighter: Legacy, this one was actually made with a full-length feature film in mind. Director Kevin Tancharoen filmed it in order to show Warner Brothers the potential a reboot of Mortal Kombat could have. I’d say it worked. It seems like they’ve taken away any supernatural aspects of the series, instead going for a cops vs. criminals setting, and I’m okay with that. Hollywood had their chance with a literal adaptation, and they blew it. The characters can still be interesting as normal humans, and this way we won’t have to deal with something overly campy. If you noticed some familiar faces in Rebirth, that’s because it featured a couple moderately well-known actors. Jax was played by Michael Jai White, known for starring in Spawn, Sonya was played by Jeri Ryan of Star Trek: Voyager fame, and Baraka was played by Lateef Crowder, known for fighting Tony Jaa in this fight scene from The Protector (Interestingly, the second guy he fights in that scene is John Foo, who played Ryu in Street Fighter: Legacy). Hell, Scorpion himself (Ian Anthony Dale) was Mr. Chow’s henchman in The Hangover. I don’t think it’s been picked up for the big screen yet, but hopefully Warner Brothers or someone else will make the right choice soon. As long as Uwe Boll doesn’t get his fucking hands on it.






2 responses

12 06 2010

You’ve never seen the Street Fighter movie? I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

12 06 2010

I’ve never seen the WHOLE movie. Bits and pieces. Or at least a bit. Maybe a piece.

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