Street Fighter: The Legendary Box Office Failure of Chun-Li

It's finally here -- Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li comes out this weekend, and we cannot imagine a more poorly put-together movie. First of all, it stars Kristin Kreuk, and we can only imagine that they chose her because she was the only actress with Asian heritage who was willing to take the role. But on top of that, it appears as if every single element of this movie was designed for failure. Yes, we realize it's a movie based on a video game, and the last time they made it into a movie it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, but still, doesn't anybody even try to make a good movie anymore? Even Super Mario Bros. with Dennis Hopper and Jon Leguizamo had high production values. Here's our list of the seven things that will make Street Fighter a legendary failure.

1. The Cast
Who saw Chris Klein's roles in Rollerball, American Pie and Just Friends and said, "Hey, wouldn't he make a great hard-boiled cop?" A little stubble and a gravelly delivery do not a street-smart, world-weary detective make. And while Neal "Creepy Dave" McDonough is certainly creepy (watch Desperate Housewives), I'm not sure he's the best choice to play martial arts master and Hong Kong gang leader M. Bison. With the light blonde hair and blue eyes, he's just a bit too Village of the Damned for the role (not that anyone could do better than Raul Julia in the original 1994 film). But the most egregious casting would be Smallville's Kristin Kreuk as Chun-Li. Some fans complain that she's "not Chinese enough" to play the role, but they should really complain about how really the only thing she's ever done is deliver wooden performance after wooden performance in seven years' worth of Smallville episodes. She can pretend to be earnest, and pretend to be tough, but the one thing she can't pretend to do is be a real character who's speaking real words that aren't written on a piece of paper. We're sure she was game for the wirework, but you need a little more than that when you're casting the character whose name is in the title. We won't even talk about the fact that Vega is played by a member of the Black-Eyed Peas.

2. The Characters
In the Street Fighter franchise, which includes games, comic books and animated movies, the two lead characters are Ryu, the white ghi-wearing Japanese dude, and Ken, his blonde, red ghi-wearing friend and rival. So in the 1994 Street Fighter movie, they cast star Jean-Claude Van Damme as... Guile, a second-tier American military character who wore army fatigues and had comically tall hair. (The film versions of Ken and Ryu were supporting-character con artists.) So when trying to revive the film franchise, video game company Capcom of course decided the star should be... Chun-Li, the game's top female character. It could have worked, if someone had been cast to play up Chun-Li's sex appeal -- arguably the main reason for her popularity -- but they don't seem to be trying to make Chun-Li sexy at all. If anything, Kreuk comes across as mousy and reserved -- not the sort of thing you do if you're trying to lure male viewers into your theater to see a Street Fighter movie with no Ken, Ryu or Jean-Claude.

3. The Script
Regardless of the actors' inability to deliver them (we're looking at you, Kristin), some of the lines in this movie are amazingly clich├ęd bits of dialogue that appear to have been selected due to the frequency with which they appeared in other movies. (Obviously, other movies didn't have a character named "Bison," so consider that a placeholder.) To wit:
"You don't want a ticket to this dance, detective."
"You should learn some manners. Never put your hands on a lady."
"You think this is over?" "No, I'm just getting started."
"His name's Bison, and I've tracked him through 11 major cities on four continents and never come close, not once. This guy walks through the raindrops."
"I want you to send Bison a message. Tell him the schoolgirl's grown up."
Obviously, whoever wrote this screenplay was watching a lot of 1980s and '90s action films. Is this a bad thing? No, but maybe they should have been playing more 1980s and '90s video games. Like Street Fighter! (Not for dialogue, necessarily, but at least the movie would appear more accurate.)

4. The Costumes
If you aren't going to dress Chun-Li in her Chinese cocktail dress, or M. Bison in a red uniform and cape, or Charlie in a puffy orange vest, why even call it Street Fighter? Just take your story of a girl out to get revenge on a white guy, throw in some Street Fighter-esque elements and word will spread like wildfire among gamers that you have a movie that feels a lot like Street Fighter. And you certainly won't get the negative feedback you'll get by taking the "Street Fighter" name and not putting the right Street Fighter costumes in. To be fair, we can see they tried: Kreuk wears a blue dress at one point, but it's a shapeless bag with absolutely zero sex appeal, which pretty much defeats the purpose. And Vega wears a silver mask and claws, but he also wears a black sweatsuit that hides his body, where the original Vega liked to put his trademark full-body snake tattoo (and rippling pecs) out on display. And M. Bison wears a business suit. More befitting a gang leader? Yes. Would a cape have helped? Absolutely. The original film was magnificent in its own way because everybody wore their costume -- apparently, in trying to avoid repeating that film's hokey vibe, the producers went in the completely opposite direction.

5. The Director
I know what you're thinking -- how could I possibly have a problem with Andrzej Bartkowiak, the cinematographer responsible for the visual stylings of Jade and Lethal Weapon 4? Granted, his directorial debut Romeo Must Die was better than any hip-hop martial arts flick had any right to be -- hell, even Cradle 2 the Grave had its moments -- but when you're looking for someone to direct a video game movie, you need to either get someone who has done a good job directing video game movies before, or has never tried to do a video game movie. You don't get the guy who made Doom, one of the most high-profile video game movie flops in recent years. Granted, Street Fighter is a martial arts game, and probably has more in common with Romeo Must Die than Doom, but still... Doom!

6. The Superpowers
While Kristin Kreuk appears to have some crazy martial-arts skills in this movie, it looks like she'll have some superpowers, too. In the trailer, we see her trainer Gen spinning a big ball of energy, and at the end she fires something from her hands towards the screen. It looks a hell of a lot like Chun-Li's Kiko-sho, an energy blast she can shoot at her opponents. But where are her two most famously unbelievable martial-arts moves, the rapid-fire Hundred Rending Kicks and the helicopter-like Spinning Bird Kick? They're two of her most distinctive personality traits, given that her personality is that she's a character from a fighting video game, and neither is anywhere to be seen in the trailer. Sad now.

7. The Posters
The teaser poster for the movie was pretty darn boring, since it was just Kristin Kreuk looking sad. It was also pretty misleading -- that Photoshopped-in high collar is meant to be the one from her famous Chinese cocktail dress, which she doesn't appear to wear in the film, and it's obviously there to lull the fans into a false sense of security. The second poster continues the boredom with the silhouettes of two dudes fighting, and a bunch of little faces living inside them. One of the tiny faces is TV star Kristin Kreuk, while another face is Moon Bloodgood and another is Chris frickin' Klein -- way to give equal billing to people no one cares about, guys. The third poster is a bit of an improvement, with Kreuk actually taking a starring role in her own movie, but the sepia tones make it feel like a period piece, possibly called Crouching Street, Hidden Fighter. Still, it beats the Japanese poster, which simply combines all of these elements into one poster, complete with Chun-Li's weirdly baggy blue dress. Sigh.

What do you think? Will you go see Lana Lang as Chun-Li, or are you simply glad she's not on Smallville anymore?




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