Is this movie stupid? Kinda. Is this movie awesome? Oh, Hell YES!
Street Fighter II the Animated Movie is a popcorn flick if there ever was one; only in cartoon-form. There isn’t much plot. It’s based on a fighting game, after all. And even though Street Fighter has probably the most plot of any 2D fighter ever made…that’s still not saying much.
Basically, M. Bison is the leader of Shadowlaw, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. He’s gathering the best street-fighters from around the globe in order to build an unstoppable army. He has his sight’s set on the World Warrior, Ryu, but can’t seem to find the guy. So he gets the next best thing, instead: Ken Masters. There’s some stuff in there about Guile and Chun-Li trying to topple the Shadowlaw organization and what-not, but the main focus of the movie is really the relationship between Ken and Ryu.
“The Plot” is pretty much just a string of coincidences (and sequences that have nothing to do with anything) that serve to get two characters from the game to meet each other and throw down for no readily apparent reason. And Hell, it actually works.
Street Fighter II honestly feels like a 2D fighter brought to life (unlike the Jean Claude Van Damme movie, which felt like a steaming pile of excrement brought to life). All the characters from Street Fighter II are present, even Akuma, and they all wail on each other using their trademark special moves.
You don’t play a fighting game for the plot, you play it cuz you wanna fight. Subsequently, you don’t watch a movie based off a fighting game for the plot, you watch it cuz you wanna see people fight. And fight they do. All the time.
The animation is beautiful and the fight choreography is top-notch. Everything moves at a manic pace and all the characters work-in their special moves so fluidly you almost have to watch the movie 2 or 3 times just to notice them all. Every character from the game, save for Akuma, gets at least a few seconds of screen time to show off their stuff. This might leave a few fans upset, as their favorite characters wind-up shoved into the background or are given only a few minutes of screen time (like Cammy). However, even if their appearances are short, they’re screen time is filled with them doing something awesome (Blanka was particularly hardcore).
The voice-acting from ADV should also be commended. You’ll recognize many of the voice actors, like Steve Blum, from ADV’s other productions, such as Cowboy Bebop and The Big-O. A few of the voice actors play multiple characters, but their talented-enough for you not to really notice it. At least on the first couple viewings. After a few more times you might notice that Dee Jay and Balrog are voiced by “that black dude who was in Halloween H20 for a few seconds”.
The music in the AMERICAN version is fantastic, too. The Japanese version, unfortunately, thought it would be a good idea to make the score sound like a ballet. It’s almost as if they decided to get the most inappropriate music they could find. The American version, thankfully, replaces the boring soundtrack with lots of rock and roll, which suits this kind of movie much better. Even if you’re one of those “OMG Undaground Muzack 4 lyfe!” snobs who doesn’t like any of the more mainstream artists chosen for the soundtrack, all the music chosen suits the scenes they’re applied to nicely. Particularly, in the best fight of the movie; Chun-Li vs. Vega. It transitions from a creepy slasher movie-inspired score, to a melodic French pop song, and then catches you off guard with a blast of KMFDM’s “Ultra”. It makes Vega’s entrance much more alarming.
Is Street Fighter II the Animated Movie a “good” movie? Well, by Joe Average’s standards, probably not. But to anybody whose been alive for the past 16 years and has played a Street Fighter game, you’re gonna love it.
It’s worthy of a B- at the very least. I personally love the movie, but I’ll agree, it’s a brainless popcorn flick that’ll only appeal to people who are fans of the games or the fighting game genre.
You wanna know something? I think this movie has an unfair reputation. Don’t get me wrong, as an adaptation of the classic Nintendo video game franchise, Super Mario Bros the Movie is a complete and utter failure. But that’s NOT how I like to look at it. Super Mario Bros the Movie is more an homage to the games from which it was inspired. If you can look at the movie with that perspective in mind, then it’s actually a whole lot of fun.
Mario and Luigi are the Mario Bros, your average every day Italian plumbers from Brooklyn. One day, however, Luigi spots a beautiful girl named Daisy being kidnapped by a pair of thugs. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) race to her rescue through an underground plumbing system and, after warping through a dimensional rift, find themselves lost in the Mushroom Kingdom. The Mushroom Kingdom is a dreary cavernous place, ruled over by the villainous King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). Koopa needs a magical rock so he can transport his armies to Earth. However, the rock happens to be in the hands of the Mario Bros. Koopa puts a price on their heads and sends his legions of Goombas and Troopas after them. Only the Mario Bros can defeat King Koopa and rescue the Princess!
Like I said in the initial paragraph, this is NOT a full-on adaptation of the games. It’s closer to an homage, of sorts, jam-packed with references to characters, environments and aspects of the game. Spotting these various references is the most fun, if you’re a Mario fan.
Just about everything from the games is there, but in a different form. Pipe-warping is present (though they slide down the pipes on a mattress), as is Yoshi (albeit as a velociraptor), Toad is a minor character (though he gets turned into a Goomba), a bom-bomb shows up (and is actually remarkably accurate), we get to see the King of the Mushroom Kingdom for once (and you’ll never guess who plays him), the Mario Bros use the Kuribo’s boots to perform their trademark platform-jumps (and Kuribo’s boots are actually pretty cool), and the whole Mushroom Kingdom is dense and flat, giving the allusion of a side-scrolling video game! And that’s just for starters. You have to watch the movie multiple times to catch all the numerous references and in-jokes (like bars named “Bullet Bill’s” and “Thwomp’s”).
Bob Hoskins plays an excellent Mario. Keep in mind, this movie was made before Super Mario 64 and Charles Martinet’s rendition of the character as a high-pitched “Mickey Mouse with a Moustache”. Bob Hoskins plays Mario more in-tune to the Super Mario Bros Super Show version; a deep-voiced, sarcastic yet good-hearted plumber. John Leguizamo, despite being noticeably Latino, manages a decent Luigi. He’s missing the moustache, yes, but since when has Luigi EVER been interesting? The real star of the show has to be Dennis Hopper as the hilariously evil King Koopa. Sure, he’s not the turtle-dragon we recognize from the games and cartoons, but Dennis Hopper and his bizarre method of character-acting makes him enjoyable never-the-less. And don’t worry, you get your monster Koopa at the end.
Probably the strangest “error” is that Daisy is shown to be the Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom instead of Peach (in the games, Daisy was the Princess of Sarassaland). The reasoning behind the change was that they wanted the Princess to end up with Luigi, and since Peach is locked-in as Mario’s girl in the games, they switched her to Daisy. Current players of the games might notice, though, that ever since Super Mario Bros the Movie was released, Daisy has been hooked up with Luigi. So yeah, it did have some effects on the games.
As a fan of the games I thoroughly enjoy the movie so long as I watch it with the right perspective. But if you insist on watching this movie as an adaptation of the games, then yes, it is terrible. Super Mario Bros the Movie gets just about everything wrong aside from the basic premise and will serve as a consistent frustration to certain fans of the games. There’s a reason this movie shows up in DVD bargain-bins around the country.
Still, if you can look at it under the proper light, it’s a fun movie packed with video game references and cameos. I give it a C+. An entertaining effort, but destined to fail no matter what.
Advent Children Need to Grow Up
Ninjas in high school are not fully mature to use their ninja powers in the real world. That is why we often turn to video games as a simulation of what is to come. I don’t know about you, but I hate RPG’s. If I’m going to waste the hours of my life sitting in front a screen, I may as well be snapping someone’s neck or trying to outdance someone else. But watching 4 guys on screen taking turns cutting some poor mushroom to “level up” is just plain lame. Which is why it is a miracle that I even made it through Final Fantasy VII, the paradigm of all future RPGs and the one to beat in terms of storyline, game play, logistics, and enduring quality of its characters. Not that I’m praising the game like some nerd, but I do give it credit as being genuinely entertaining and memorable.
And good gravy, look what it’s given us!
Eight years later, we have the film sequel Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. If you were a big nerd who loved the game, there is a pretty good chance that you will crap your pants when you see this movie. The film delivers on so many levels that me writing about it just won’t do it justice. It really is the type of film that you should download illegally just to see what everyone is talking about.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the obvious: this film is gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking in every computer generated way possible, Advent Children has set a new standard for CG movies in a way that would make Peter Jackson weep from sweetness. Remember the rendering of Skull Island in 2005’s King Kong and how vibrant and painterly it looked, and how much better it would have been had those pesky humans not been in the way? This is all that times ten. Remember the fight between King Kong and the V-Rexes and how I was screaming like a little girl the whole time? Take that and multiply it by five. This film has the most ridiculously beautiful, obligatory anime-esque battles I have ever seen in all the years of stupid machismo-movie-viewing I have engaged in. A woman fights hand-to-hand with a biker in a church while classical music plays and flowers sway back and forth in the breeze. Things, obviously, get destroyed and people start kicking ass in ways I never even thought possible. And for those of you thinking that you’ve seen it all, you have no lived until you have seen two metrosexual guys with rockstar hair and big swords start to literally chop down buildings and fly around while the whole audience screams. The visuals alone are worth the admission ticket (5,000,000,000,000 yen, or $5.75).
Where can this movie possibly go wrong? I can give you one. The Japanese, as a culture, are a people of ambiguity. They never answer questions bluntly and they’re always defaulting to being polite for fear of being rude or improper. The same goes for their religion and for their philosophies: they tend to be vague and frustratingly obscure, a pain for those in search of an objective truth and a joy for your run-of-the-mill hippie who likes fortune-cookie philosophies that sound simple and are supposedly very profound. So how does this tie in to Advent Children? The story. Holy crap, I had no idea what in the world was going on. The translation that I received (the subtitles) was probably written by a 3rd grade Japanese kid. This is how bad it was: a woman says “bye” to her kid and the kid waves back and says “Oh! Respect!” Thankfully, the last 45 minutes of the movie is almost entirely devoid of any meaningful dialogue because that’s when two guys are just blowing things up. But the movie really does take a punch to the guts because of its storyline. I went on Wikipedia afterwards to look up the plot synopsis of the film in its entirety and it still didn’t make sense. It was worse than a Saturday morning episode of Pokemon, predictable in every anime clich� possible: some life-energy in the Earth is corrupted and kids are starting to get sick. A group of platinum-blue haired guys who look like Michael Jackson want to kidnap these kids and find the head of Jenova, the bad girl from the game, to bring Sephiroth (the bad dude from the game) back to life. There’s a lot of people being dipped into water and instances that look like the music video for Thriller and a bunch of Philosophy 101 rhetorical questions involving life and love and it gives me a headache just thinking about it.
But the movie IS worth watching. Maybe someone can see it and tell me what’s going on so that I can appreciate it as well.
Video game movies are predetermined to fail as long as they insist on holding fast onto their video game roots instead of attempting to succeed as independent cinematic works. Looking at the track record, we see that the two best attempts thus far have been Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, both of which were directed by Paul Anderson. At best, both films were mediocre (as are all of Anderson’s films with the exception of Event Horizon): for every painfully awkward moment of fandom reference (Johnny Cage signing Scorpion an autograph) or fanboy appeasement (Milla Jovovich jump-kicking a dog), you had consistent storytelling or a buttload of genuinely cool effects to dismiss previous infractions.
So how does Doom fair?
Let’s start with the story. Having only played the first Doom and none of its sequels, I can only judge the merit of the plot alone. The movie tediously unfolds the bizarre research that scientists on Mars have been doing. Archaeologists have found skeletal remains on Mars which have an extra chromosome, chromosome 24. They also discover that these inhabitants of Mars also had super-human strength and a rapid healing ability! You can guess what happens next: they start importing convicts and testing them with the extra chromosome. That’s when things start to go wrong and their guinea pigs start mutating into horrific creatures with a fierce appetite for destruction and reproduction. But wait! Apparently, the chromosome’s effects on the body are different depending on the morality of the person infected. As Rosamund Pike’s character points out, 10% of the human genome has yet to be mapped and scientists say that this remaining trek is the “blueprint of soul.” Huh? I thought we mapped the genome in its entirety back in 2003? Anyway, assuming she’s right, the point is that if you’re a bad dude and you get injected with this chromosome or get beast-raped in the neck, you turn into one of the constantly mutating monsters. If you’re a good guy, you turn into a first-person shooter.
Which is the only part of the movie which shines. After an hour and a half of half-decent Aliens-wannabes moving through dark corridors with heavy artillery, we get the only original concept in this film to set it apart from other crappy movies: a first-person perspective. You heard me. The camera goes directly into the head of Karl Urban and for the next 5 minutes goes on a pretty awesome shooting spree, killing at least 7 zombies and one huge monster before leaving this view and ending the movie with an extremely lame WWE deathmatch with The Rock. If they had used the first person p.o.v. during the earlier action scenes of the movie instead of waiting at the end, it would have certainly elevated my opinion of the movie by way of innovation. But no: they save it for the end to show that when you are dying and get injected with Martian juice, you get gifted with first-person skills and can perform backbreakers.
Until Silent Hill comes out in April, Doom remains shelved with Anderson’s films as an almost-successful attempt at making a decent video game adaptation.