ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Street Fighter’ (1994), Part Two
Chris Sims: Welcome back to our review of 1994′s universally reviled Street Fighter, everyone! When we last left off, Commander Guile and Kylie Minogue were setting off to Shadaloo in a stealth boat, while Ken and Ryu were buddying up to a bunch of maroon-suited pseudo-vipers. Truly, it is exciting times.
Matt Wilson: Not only were Guile and crew attacking M. Bison’s Secret Base, they were doing so in direct defiance of the world’s governments. Because martial law is great!Chris While Guile and Cammy are off committing war crimes, Bison and Chun-Li are gearing up for what is hands down the single best scene in the movie. Chun-Li has been dressed in a Player-2 Palette Swap of her video game outfit (or, you know, close enough), and starts recounting her origin story while Bison walks in and changes behind a screen, next to a hatrack featuring his Evil Dictator chapeau in various styles.
Chris: All of this takes place in front of an oil painting of Bison riding a horse, which I would pay so much money to own.
Matt: All the different-colored hats and Chun-Li’s outfit seem to be very clear nods to palette swapping and how prevalent it was in fighting games of the time. If only anything else in the movie similarly seemed to wink at video-game-savvy viewers.
Chris: Chun-Li recounts how her father, a simple farmer (because of course he was) was murdered by Bison in one of his earlier military coups, and while Ming-Na Wen is wringing as much as she can from the material, Raul Julia is mixing himself a fruity cocktail with only the slightest mild interest, which is great. She gets to the end of her story, and he delivers the best line in this (or possibly any) movie:
BISON: I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it.
CHUN-LI: You don’t remember?!
BISON: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.
Matt: Well, we got to the line and you didn’t blast off into space like C. Jack hit you with a meteor combo (that’s a deep-cut Street Fighter EX reference for you guys). I’ll call that a victory. Do you think Bison is lying about not knowing about it, since he can pinpoint the day of the week, or does he simply know the funniest day is Tuesday, thus obeying the classic comedy rule of specificity?
Chris: I think he honestly doesn’t remember. I mean, you get the feeling that Bison has killed a lot of people’s fathers over the years. Also, Ming-Na Wen’s reaction is almost as good as the line itself. She just stands there goggling in pure disbelief.
Matt: What can you say to that, really?
Chris: Also worth noting: Bison apologizes for not remembering; he does not apologize for gunning down her father in front of her. I f**kin’ love this guy.
Matt: Back in the Dungeon of Fun, Ken and Ryu knock out the torturer and get into an old-fashioned hero vs. hero fight with Balrog and E. Honda before convincing them they’re all on the same side. Then, back to Bison’s room where he has a bone chandelier, art of himself as a clown and remote-controlled mood lighting. WHY IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE MOVIE OTHER THAN THIS?
Chris: Don’t forget his skull-shaped fireplace! It’s the ultimate bachelor pad, assuming that bachelors are death-obsessed maniacs (most are). Chun-Li talks about how she studied martial arts so that she could get her revenge, while Bison turns on some soft music and mood lighting, continuing to work his seduction game. He then tells her that she probably sucks at fighting, as though killing someone’s father wasn’t already the ultimate neg.
Matt: His hat is 1000 times better than Mystery’s. Chun Li says getting him to think that was her plan all along, then she breaks out of her handcuffs and starts kicking. Not while upside-down, sadly, but Ming-Na Wen’s pretty good.
Chris: Between the jump kick, smoking jacket, mood lighting created by glowing skulls, interesting shelving and that oil painting, this might be the greatest number of my favorite things to ever appear on a movie screen at once. Wait, Batman never ate pizza on-screen, did he?
Matt: The only thing I remember him actually eating in a movie was soup. Balrog, E. Honda, Ken and Ryu rush to Bison’s room to help Chun Li, but actually end up distracting her long enough that Bison can duck into a panic room with a wobbly door and hit his poison gas button so he can laugh through gritted teeth as his enemies collapse. He’s really got all the supervillain moves.
Chris: The best part of this scene is E. Honda looking up at a cloud of smoke being emitted by vents and yelling “It’s gas!”
Matt: “Sure it’s not liquid, Edmund? Double check! It might be plasma, hot as the sun!” Here, we cut back to Guile and his fleet. One shot shows Guile in his boat, but it’s fairly clear to me that this was shot when it was still supposed to be an air attack, because he’s in full fighter pilot gear, with sky behind him in the window his boat doesn’t actually have.
Chris: Back at Dr. Dhalsim’s lab, Charlie is almost fully Blanka’d up, having had his mind 49% overwritten with footage of Hitler, which will obviously make you super evil. This, incidentally, is why the History Channel changed format from constant WW2 Documentaries to telling us how ancient people who weren’t from Europe could never have made anything without help from aliens. Fortunately for Charlie, Dr. D decides to fill up the remaining 51% of his brain with nicer footage, mostly of weddings and dolphins.
Chris: Dolphins: The Opposite Of Hitler™.
Matt: Can we talk about just how ridiculous Blanka looks at this point? It’s sub-Ferrigno Hulk makeup we’re talking about here, plus an orange fright wig.
Chris: Oh, he’s terrible. But again, of all the stuff from the game that they could’ve kept, they went with Blanka? Nobody throws a hadouken, Ken and Ryu are arms dealers, E. Honda’s a Hawaiian cameraman, but we straight up have Blanka in his khaki shorts running around in a live-action Hollywood film? So weird.
Matt: If they’d left him out, he’d be the only original SFII character not in the movie. But considering how fast and loose they played with Dhalsim and others, they could definitely have just made him a really angry, big guy or something.
Chris: While Bison lectures the good guys on the benefits of teamwork, Guile, Cammy and T. Hawk continue flying/boating towards Bison’s base. They use their superboat’s stealth mode to avoid enemy radar, but then they just blow up the radar stations, which is something bad guys tend to notice.
Matt: Here’s what stealth mode means in this movie: The boat turns camouflage and is somehow INVISIBLE TO VIDEO CAMERAS. Woof. And yes, often the point of being stealthy is to not blow stuff up while you’re trying to go unnoticed.
Chris: Bison turns on his special Anti-Stealth Boat Stealth Technology Stealth Jammer, and this entire sequence about Guile having a superboat is completely and utterly pointless. Then he starts Skyping with Bison about how “yeur ass is mine, and it’s six manths overdew.”
Matt: Guile is basically in love with metaphors about reposession. He must have a lot of credit card debt. Sagat is shocked to find that Guile is alive, as if he’s been anything but terrible at staying fake-dead. Bison had the whole plan figured, though, which he explains to Sagat. “But I guess you couldn’t SEE THAT,” he says, with one hand over his eye to mock Sagat’s eyepatch. I’m laughing myself silly over here.
Chris: Everything Bison does in this sequence is pretty amazing. It starts with his famous “OF COURSE!,” goes into mocking Sagat, and then continues with him on his floating control panel, using a Street Fighter II arcade stick to blast Guile’s Stealth Boat with mines. It’s so stupid. It’s so great.
Matt: What button combination makes a mine explode again? Is it quarter-circle, fierce kick?
Chris: I could only ever get the hang of machine guns, you just hit Punch over and over.
Matt: Bison’s a charge character, so it’s probably some s**t where you hold back for two seconds. Bison eventually blows up the boat, which leads him to exclaim “GAME OVERRRR!” It sounds terrible but Julia polishes every turd this movie offers him into pure gold.
Chris: Down in the lab, the mustachioed security guard notices that Dhalsim is using non-approved, non-Hitler footage, and they have a fight scene that’s more accuarately described as a scuffle shot. But then! Blanka breaks free! Were the dolphins enough to counteract 49% Hitler footage?!
Matt: Looks like it! Blanka attacks mustachioed guy with all that extra muscle mass he’s been acquiring, all of which went directly to his forehead.
Chris: For a guy who’s supposed to have a 100% increase in muscle mass, Blanka is definitely the exact same size as when they started. (Forehead excepted.)
Matt: He’s got that Klingon head going on. Outside Bison’s HQ, a few of his men are taking a smoke break when Guile and team come out of the water and beat them up. Dudes can’t even get a cigarette break? Shadaloo labor laws, man. Also: Shadaloo is apparently a place where you can be in a boat that completely explodes to pieces and be completely fine.
Chris: A place where Kylie Minogue shouts “THRUST KICK!” and then snaps a dude’s neck, then continues doing wrestling moves on him. She is thorough.
Matt: Sweaty English Diplomat Guy is following the force in a helicopter and lying to the prime minister that only Guile, not the rest of the army, went on the scrapped mission. Then there’s a pretty amusing shot of the base, which is empty save for a cat and a cook. For real: Why didn’t they just go full-on comedy with this thing?
Chris: Having ripped off Star Wars in the approach to Shadaloo, the movie now decides it wants to be Raiders of the Lost Ark for a minute, sending Guile into a spooooky ancient temple, complete with pit traps and spiders. You remember those cool underground temple levels from Street Fighter, right? Right.
Matt: They were right after the boat-driving and mine-dodging levels. In Bison’s HQ, the hostage death clock (remember that from the first minute of the movie?) ticks down to zero with no $20 billion ransom. We discover that Bison’s Swiss bank account is at zero dollars without it. He must’ve spent everything on that cool bachelor pad. Also: Why didn’t the heroes time this better? Guile could’ve forgone that speech to get their BEFORE the hostage murder time, right?
Chris: I just like that Bison has a pit for his hostages right there in the middle of his command center, which is called “The Hostage Pit,” and referred to as such by the computer voice when he opens it up. “Hostage Pit open, stand clear” is a pretty amazing thing to have recorded.
Matt: Paying for a computer that can do that was probably pricey, too. Guile works his way through the spoooooky temple with little difficulty — there’s like, one spider — and finds himself in Dhalsim’s lab, where Blanka attacks. Guile recognizes his large-foreheaded old pal Charlie and gets him to stop. Blanka begs for help and Guile goes straight to the “kill my best friend” option. Guile is terrible.
Chris: I’m not really sure how Guile instantly recognizes Charlie, what with the fact that he’s green and has a different head now. Do you think that scene in the boat/plane where Guile was watching old videos of broing down with Charlie to get psyched up originally had footage from his last two Halloweens, when he went as Bozo the Clown and the Hulk?
Matt: And Khan. Dhalsim stops Guile from killing Blanka because he’s a better person than Guile is. Meanwhile, Bison’s speechifying to the hostages about how they don’t even deserve a firing squad — a wild beast will do the killing. A hole opens up in the floor, surrounded by big, decorative blades because Bison is theatrical as a motherf**ker, but it isn’t Blanka that comes, out, it’s Guile, doing an impossible kick that ISN’T EVEN A FLASH KICK.
Chris: To be fair, Matt, it has been previously established in this movie that M. Bison’s only weakness is jump-kicks.
Matt: Guile comes out of that thing like he’s rocket-propelled. We get moves like that, but not the video game moves? Come on!
Chris: It’s pretty disappointing. Guile axe-kicks the control panel, which frees all the good guys, and a whole lot of fighting starts. Except that it’s, you know, a big gunfight, with very little of the punching, kicking, Sonic Boom-ing and Shoryukening that you actually want to see from a goddamn Street Fighter movie.
Matt: Bison orders his men to shoot the hostages, which maybe should have been the first option, but Guile closes the Hostage Pit. It’s pandemonium after this. Just everybody shooting at everybody, with very little of anyone getting shot. You know, maybe this movie should have just been called G.I. Joe. We’ve already said how much Bison is Cobra Commaner. Guile is Duke. Sagat is Destro. Cammy is Scarlett. It seems to work.
Chris: It matches up with G.I. Joe a lot better than it matches up with Street Fighter. So some fighting happens, Ken and Ryu have A Moment where Ryu decides to go fight with the good guys, and eventually, Guile ends up taunting Bison into a one-on-one battle. He doesn’t even give him the stiff-arm this time!
Matt: Just before that, there’s a scene where Bison discovers Blanka’s been getting Dolphin mental programming instead of Hitler Education, and he punches a screen with a playing child on it. That’s pretty terrific. Also: It is The Worst Thing that Ken just wants to run away from this fight. That’s not my Ken Masters, Jack!
Chris: Also spotted on a screen: E. Honda and Zangief wrestling and destroying the model of Bisonopolis while Godzilla noise plays. I’m torn between thinking it’s awful and wanting to applaud the effort.
Matt: So many conflicting emotions. So many fun things followed by terrible things. Or things that are both, like Guile taunting Bison by saying, “Cahm aut frahm behind da curtin, whizard!” And then Bison is RIGHT THERE in less than a second.
Chris: So while all this is going on, Jean-Claude Van Damme has a fistfight with Raúl Juliá, and if you think this makes JCVD look heroic, you would be wrong. It just looks like he’s beating up Raúl Juliá, and it seems unsportsmanlike, even though Juliá did quite literally ask for it. This is intercut with other stuff, like Chun-Li beating up dudes with Balrog, who is suddenly now in his video game costume, complete with boxing gloves. WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM?
Matt: And why would he put them on? We should note that Guile and Bison’s fight, at least at first, is on a catwalk, so it looks like they’re going to have an actual 2D-style fight in this movie. Of course it doesn’t last, and soon enough poor Raúl Juliá’s head is clanging into a bell.
Chris: Eventually, you get your wish, and JCVD actually does the Flash Kick. Twice, in fact! Although, you know, there’s no flash.
Matt: He also kind-of does an inverted flip kick, and finally reveals the American flag tattoo on his arm, which he has because he’s so American. It really should be on both arms, so when he turns around, there it is again.
Chris: Plenty of fine Americans have Belgian accents, Matt. We’re a melting pot.
Matt: Oh, we forgot to mention that Balrog and Chun-Li were beating up those dudes to ask where the hostages are. THEY WERE IN THE HOSTAGE PIT. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
Chris: So Guile beats Bison to death, but then Bison’s puffy winter coat gains sentience, and brings him back to life, only now he can shoot lightning out of his f**king hands because of super-conductive electro-magnetism. This leads directly to my third or fourth favorite line in this movie: “Something wrong, Colonel? You came here prepared to fight a madman, and instead you found… A GOD?!”
Matt: So Bison kind of halfway does a few psycho crushers on Guile. Meanwhile, Ryu’s being double-teamed by Sagat and Vega when Ken steps in to help him. Ryu does a half-hearted hadouken-thing with no fireball. Sagat and Vega are beaten. I guess this wraps up some kind of arc?
Chris: The fight between Ken/Ryu and Sagat/Vega is just so pointless. There are no stakes at all, and we haven’t really gotten enough of Ken and Ryu to really care whether Ken comes back to help or not. It adds nothing to the movie other than to give us a break from Guile’s amazing mid-fight puns.
Matt: Bison launches into another speech: “Keep your own God! In fact, this might be a good time to pray to Him! For I beheld Satan as he fell FRRRROM HEAVEN! LIKE LIGHTNIIIIING!” Then Guile kicks him into his TV banks and everything blows up. This, I have to say, is PRETTY GOOD.
Chris: I don’t even mind that evertything is now exploding for no reason, because honestly, why wouldn’t it? Some more filler happens, with rock-stupid Zangief learning that Bison, the guy with skulls everywhere, is evil, and Cammy and Chun-Li needling each other about their hair, because girls. Also, Dhalsim is bald now?
Matt: The hostages get freed, too, and that whole thing about trying to find them was more filler because there they are, in that same old Hostage Pit.
Chris: The Clearly Labeled Hostage Pit.
Matt: That Balrog punches open.
Chris: With his boxing gloves.
Matt: There is a pretty good moment where Zangief learns he’s the only guy who wasn’t getting paid. I have no idea what Dhalsim did to lose his hair, but he and Blanka decide to stay behind in a cave because of shame or something. Dee Jay, who’s been trying to steal Bison’s money, gets headed off by Sagat. It turns out to be all Bison dollars. Guile survives certain death. Just like Duke! He turns Zangief’s thumb-salute up. Then more explosions! Then posing. Then it’s just over.
Chris: Thank Bison.
Matt: Raúl Juliá as Bison is, no kidding, a revelation. He’s the best bad guy in the worst movie.
Chris: He is genuinely fantastic. This is one of his last roles, if not the last one — it has a dedication in his memory before the credits — and as much as it sucks that he went out on a movie this lousy, he’s amazing in it. He goes all-out in every scene and makes everything he does work.
Matt: The only two credits he has after this movie are the video game of this movie, where they took digitized images of the actors and made a sub-Way of the Warrior fighting game out of Street Fighter, and a TV movie.
Chris: It’s a little early to get into Low Points, but the video game adaptation of this movie did the worst thing it possibly could’ve: It made Street Fighter look like Mortal Kombat. Either way, we’re in agreement that Raúl Juliá is phenomenal, and that this movie’s worth seeing just for his performance, right?
Matt: And I’d say this movie actually succeeds when it’s trying to be funny. There are some decent one-liners, and things like the “we can go home” speech and the Godzilla noises during the Zangief/Honda fight are so campy that you’d have to think they were intentionally for laughs.
Chris: Ming-Na Wen is pretty good as Chun-Li, when she actually has stuff to do, and the dudes playing Balrog and Honda aren’t bad either. Kylie Minogue is… well, she’s really pretty.
Matt: It’s hard to really even get into performances because so many of the actors have so little to do, but Ming-Na Wen is good. She shares the best scene in the movie with Julia and holds her own really well.
Chris: Van Damme is enjoyable for what he does. We made fun of his accent, but I find it endlessly entertaining, even if his character is pretty awful. Also, it’s worth saying that this movie is really visually interesting. Bright poppy colors and crazy sets all over the place — there are like thirty amazing things in Bison’s bedroom alone.
Matt: That set in particular looks cheap, but it’s a visual wonderland nonetheless.
Chris: So nothing that happens in this movie actually makes much sense.
Matt: It’s way, way overstuffed. Too many characters, too many subplots that don’t go anywhere. When did Dee Jay suddenly become a greedy opportunist? There’s no set up for that. What ends up happening with that diplomat guy? Nothing. It’s just dropped. The movie even gives up on itself. It ends with extra explosions that happen for no reason, then poses.
Chris: We talked about how little regard there is for the actual game already, and I don’t want to harp on it for its lack of accuracy, but man. They threw the game completely out the window, with the exception of Blanka being a green monster and Balrog’s uncannily accurate hair.
Matt: Look. It’s a video game about a fighting tournament. Why is the movie a war flick that roughly equates to G.I. Joe? I understand if you want to spice up your fighting movie with some international intrigue, but at the expense of virtually all the fighting?
Chris: I think you can sum up everything wrong with the movie’s approach to its source material just by saying “This is a Street Fighter movie where nobody does a Hadouken.” Guys. That is the trademark of the franchise.
Matt: Ryu does the hand motion, but there’s no fireball. He just hits Sagat. Speaking of Sagat, he’s one of many characters that essentially had something akin to the look of his video game counterpart, but very few of the attributes. Dhalsim is just a name and nationality attached to a character, basically. Same for T. Hawk. Why even put them in?
Chris: This movie is simultaneously too ambitious and not ambitious enough.
Matt: It just starts out on completely the wrong foot. The first time you think you’re going to get a fight, the movie says, “Nah, forget that.” It’s so misguided in the ambition it has.
Matt: Often when these movies are over, I feel a sense of accomplishment or maybe despair. This time, I’m just tired. This movie exhausted me.
Chris: Not me, man. I’m invigorated, as if by superconductive electromagnetism. This movie is pretty terrible, but I also kind of love it. I mean, I own it. I quote it on a fairly regular basis.
Matt: Again, I’d probably feel great if it was just the Bison parts.
Chris: Just imagine how you’ll feel next week, after we TEST. OUR MIGHT.
Matt: I’ll say this for Mortal Kombat: At least it’s a fighting-game movie about a f**king fighting tournament.
Chris: Don’t even pretend that you don’t love Christopher Lambert.
Matt: I won’t and I never will! He’s the thinking man’s funny-accented action hero.
Chris: Them’s fightin’ words. We’ll settle it next week!
More Fighting Game Roundup!