Wednesday, July 5

Hitback: The Streetfighter II Animated Movie Retro-Ramble Review

Uncut, Uncensored, Unleashed.

Waaaaay back in 1994, the Street Fighter franchise was at an all-time high in terms of popularity. It became so popular that not one but two movies based on the games were released. One was the US-produced live-action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme et al; probably one of the most reviled videogame-to-movie translations known in the history of man (though I admit to having cheered the first time I saw it).

Yes, that has the version that marred the late actor Raul Julia's memory, it being his last film before succumbing to an illness. In another reality, instead of the Addams Family excerpt, the last image of Julia to the world is his goggle-eyed General M. Bison shouting "GAME... OVER!" Ew. It was the live-action movie that insisted on rationalizing every single appearing character (all 16+ of them), giving them all last names and ridiculously detailed background stories, even butchering the origins of others (Blanka and eventual SF Alpha character Charlie are merged into one mutated mess), and still others are neutered beyond belief (Dhalsim turns into a wimpy scientist who only gets his trademark looks after getting BURNED). But of course, it also commits the cardinal sin of putting the mantel of main hero on the American fighter Guile (ironically played by someone known as 'The Muscles from Brussels').

But of course, the real Street Fighter movie is the Animated Movie produced in Japan. Known as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, this is simply the most faithful and accurate depiction of a videogame franchise to a movie. The art was gorgeous and true to the games, and the fight scenes were fluid, incredibly well-animated and intense to the extreme.
And there were a lot of them (contrary to the live-action version) too. Included of course is the infamous Chun Li versus Vega fight- a knockdown, drag-out duel between the masked Spanish Ninja and the spunky Interpol agent who spends the whole fight wearing little more than her bra and panties- yep, before Agent Aika flashed underwear in anime, there was Street Fighter. Fan service aside though, this action sequence, along with the two-on-one final battle between the Shotokan Brothers and the Master of Evil Psycho Power, M. Bison are some of the best fight scenes you'll ever see in anime.

If only Chun Li's undies were a selectable costume in the games...

To be fair, the SF Animated Movie is not perfect- the story, of course, is a videogame story... Evil organization uses the world's best fighters as assassins in their service. The movie is also long... overly long, with lots of lulls and lingering pans of scenery (or Ryu meditating) that you would probably want to skip or fast-forward over to get to the good stuff. Sexy commando pixie Cammy is hyped about to no end in the movie's posters and art, but in truth only appears for a few seconds at the start of the film (although she does make an impression). Lots of characters are just glossed over, and the movie's ending... a weird bit with Ryu, M.Bison and a Mack Truck(!)... just leaves you with a WTF feeling.

Still, the movie is about as close to a true translation of a great videogame into a movie/anime format as you can get... something that other franchises have failed in. Remember the vomit-inducing Tekken anime? Even the relatively well-done Mortal Kombat movie (the first one) had to make quite a few changes and is still less than a perfect translation.

Anyway, if you were too young to see the original SFII Animated Movie, the film has been re-released in the US in an "Uncut, Uncensored and Unleashed" version which gives the whole kit and kaboodle... which means that you can see Chun Li's boobs and butt (which were censored from previous releases) in her infamous shower scene. Plus, some fighting scenes have a bit more blood and violence to kick up the action a notch. You also get a choice of the dramatic, ballad-heavy Japanese soundtrack or the obnoxious and ear-grinding heavy metal cacophony in the US dub. If it isn't obvious, I prefer the Japanese music, which I believe has at least emotion and gravitas, while the crappy US music is just LOUD. As far as voices go, the US dubbing is also pretty iffy, so go with the US subtitled version.

Copies of the SF Anime Movie are available in local anime shops. Or you can go for the recent US release through Amazon or other online shops, or with nice US-based relatives. Or you can download the kit from Bittorrent (hehe). In any case, if you're a videogame fan, you gotta have this in your library (if you're an SF fan, you probably already have it). Chances are, they'll be showing the Live-Action movie on cable, but never the anime. Ick.

Ah, the Street Fighter II Animated Movie. Still pretty awesome after all these years. Seeing Chun Li grind her foot into Vega's face never gets old. Good times. Heh.

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