Street Fighter Alpha
What to call this...how about `streetfighter : demonic angst warriors'? This is a movie, obviously derived from the latest iteration of the well respected fighting video game, that really wants to be deep and cinematic. How successful is it? well, read on.
After a couple of flash-backs, which I think refer to a movie or series I haven't seen, the story begins. Chun-li, an interpol agent, is happily smacking around some bad guys when one of them grabs a hostage and puts a gun to his head. The situation is resolved when an amazingly skilled martial artist, who had just been watching the sea, comes in and takes them out. She, and a rather hyper-physical school girl, are amazed at his abilities. And that's enough to get three characters into the story.
The martial artist is none other than Ryu, the nominal star of the streetfighter world. It appears, once again in a previous movie, that his master and father figure has been killed. And the warrior who did it, Akuma, did so by using the `dark side' of martial arts. But what really has him worried is that is that this dark power is boiling within himeself. And the question of what he is becoming, and whether he can control it, or will head down the same path as the monstrous Akuma, has him somewhat unbalanced. And while he's got his good friend Ken to rely on he's further bothered by the emergence of a young child claiming to be his brother. And, to complete the picture, this youth also seems to have some abilities with the dark hadou (as the force is called). Add in an evil crime-lord (and tournament sponsor) who considers the dark force the final requirement for his twisted plot and all the pieces are in place.
If anyone wondered why the synopsis was a bit fragmented I can explain it now. It's because it accurately reflects the feel of the movie story. While there's various flash-backs, and impressive scenes, the actual story is more than a touch broken. While the sections do flow in a somewhat logical order it's as if they couldn't really be bothered with all the work of linking them. Mind you it actually seems intentional, with the belief that `suggesting' the story rather than spelling it out makes it feel deeper than it actually is.
And this aspect of `striving for depth' is also present in the scenes themselves. Lots of scenes look quite impressive and dramatic, filled with angst, meaning and mystery. But the question of what they actually mean is a lot less certain. And there are times where you really wonder whether the scene is logical, or adds to the story, or has simply been included because it looks cool and dramatic. Likewise elements like the nature of the dark hadou and the plans of the villain are impressive first and make sense second. While I don't mind this style I don't think this is one of the better examples, and I really wonder what the hard core street-fighter fans thought of it.
Then again it does have some fight scenes, and they're sort of cool. They've adopted a really extreme style, lots of motion, perspective and deformation. Bodies twist, characters leap into and out of the `screen' and the `camera' zooms around to provide nice shots of the action. When it works it looks pretty cool and quite interesting. When it doesn't work it looks quite strange. In general I thought these were pretty good, providing a somewhat different but quite effective way of representing action. The martial arts also focuses on physical moves, rather than being dominated by `energy blasts'.
However, before you can enjoy the fighting you've got to cope with the production style in general, because it's pretty different. To start with the characters are drawn with very strong lines, agressive blocks of solid color and some fairly weird and variable proportion. There's also some strange camera angles (including a lot of chun-li's crotch) and posing. This is played out against backgrounds that often have some quite complex coloring and design, they almost look like paintings a lot of the time. It's an interesting style, and matches the animes obvious attempt at a cinematic experience, but it doesn't always work. Some of the characters, and scenes, look pretty weird and unattractive at times. The voices seemed reasonable and the music was suprisingly minimal.
This movie is probably fairly recent, but it is somewhat suprising that none of my regular sources have a review of this title.