The Street Fighter franchise has been a wonderful video game series that captured our attention, most importantly with the release of CAPCOM's "Street Fighter 2" in the early 1990's when it was first released in the arcades. Since its release in 1991, there have been many "Street Fighter" related games that have been released in the arcades but also on the consoles with "Street Fighter IV" being released in 2009.
One of the iconic characters of "Street Fighter" has always been Chun Li. The Interpol agent who has been desperately looking for her father and uses the "Street Fighter" tournaments as a way to get closer to the crime syndicate known as Shadaloo run by M. Bison. (Balrog in Japan).
With a film released back in 1994 featuring on a large cast of characters which included Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile, Ming-Na as Chun-Li, Raul Julia as M. Bison and Kylie Minogue as Cammy but receiving a lot of criticism for its convoluted story and too many characters, the film remained on the list of a staple of films based on video games that were not that good.
In 2009, CAPCOM with Hyde Park Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox decided not to repeat that mistake and focus on their character Chun-Li.
"Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" was directed by Adrzej Bartkowiak ("Cradle 2 the Grave", "Romeo Must Die" and cinematographer for many films which include "U.S. Marshalls", "The Devil's Advocate" and "Lethal Weapon 4'), a screenplay by Justin Marks ("Unbroken", "The Stranger" and "Fast Forward"), music composed by Stephen Endelman ("Samurai Girl", "The Net 2.0' and "Now and Again") and cinematography by Geoff Boyle ("Mutant Chronicles" and "About a Girl"). Producing the film were Patrick Aiello ("The Other End of the Line") and Hyde Park Entertainment Chairman and CEO Ashok Amritraj ("The Other End of the Line", "Traitor", "Virus" and "Double Impact" ).
The film would bring together a diverse cast with Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville") as Chun-Li, Chris Klein ("American Pie", "American Dad!" and "Election") as Charlie Nash, Neal McDonough ("Desperate Housewives", "Walking Tall" and "Traitor") as Bison, Robin Shou ("Mortal Kombat", "Death Race" and "DOA: Dead or Alive") as Gen, Moon Bloodgood ("Day Break" and "Terminator Salvation) as Det. Maya Sunee aka to "Street Fighter IV" fans as "C. Viper", the US debut of Hong Kong actress Josie Ho ("The Twins Effect", "For Bad Boys Only" and "Purple Storm") as Cantana, the US debut for Singapore actor Edmund Chen ("The Eye)" as Chun Li's father Xiang, the Black Eyed Peas member Taboo as Vega and Michael Clark Duncan ("The Green Mile", "Sin City" and "Daredevil") as Balrog.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" is featured in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and AVC@28MBPS. For the most part, the film receives an awesome transfer on Blu-ray. Outdoor scenes of Bangkok are vibrant and a lot of detail can be seen with the characters and their surroundings. Flesh tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep and I spotted no sign of compression artifacts. The picture quality is quite solid!
As for the audio, the film is presented in 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio and action scenes sound great as you can hear the sounds panning from your left surround to your right. LFE is utilized quite well throughout the film and you can expect your subwoofer(s) to be utilized while watching this film. From the bass of the music, the booms of the thunderstorms and the many gunshots heard throughout the film. Audio is well-utilized throughout the film. Dialog and music are quite clear through the front channels. Overall, a solid lossless soundtrack.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.
"Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li - Unleashed and Unrated" features a good number of special features. The Blu-ray release comes in three discs. The theatrical and unrated feature on disc one, disc two contains the digital copy and disc three contains the full-length animated Origins comic movie "Street Fighter Round One: Fight!". Included are:
# Unrated Cut Audio Commentary by Producers Patrick Aiello and Ashok Amritaj and Actors Neal McDonough and Chris Klein - For the most part, the commentary was on the positive side. About working with the various talent and fight choreographer Dion Lam. Also, the experience of filming in Bangkok. And a hint for a "next one". Could that mean a Ryu, Ken or Guile film on the horizon?
# Street Fighter In-Movie Enlightenment - Optional factoid while watching the film. You can learn about the character Chun-Li and her video game history and power moves and also behind-the-scenes of the film and more.
# Deleted Scenes - (15:31) Around ten or so deleted scenes (no individual selections, just play all) which is actually quite interesting because the deleted scenes had interesting background on why the Bangkok neighborhoods were protective over Chun-Li and more character development between Chun-Li and Charlie Nash. Also, an alternate ending was included.
# Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Sneak Peak - (1:13) I'm guessing this is the XBOX Live HD version of the popular fighting game. Even more interesting is how the "Transformers" (animated film) theme song "You Go the Touch" is used as the background theme for the sneak peak.
# Becoming a Street Fighter - (17:41) Interviews with the cast and producers and CAPCOM staff of the popularity of "Street Fighter" and brief summary on the history of the video game franchise. Chun-Li's character and how Kristin Kreuk had to undergo five weeks of intense training, filming in Bangkok and having an international crew/cast involved in the film.
# Chun-Li: Bringing the Legend to Life - (6:38) Writer Justin Marks talks about the prequel to "Street Fighter 2" and what they wanted to accomplish in this film. Also, the wirework and training and working with fighting choreographer Dion Lam ("Spider-Man 2", "The Matrix", "Romeo Must Die" and "Young and Dangerous").
# Fox Movie Channel presents Making a Scene - (9:26) The alley scene and the importance of the fighting scenes of the film. Interviews with Dion Lam and his first impression of Kristin Kreuk and how she was serious with her training and worked with him in making sure that credibility is important with the fight scenes.
# Recreating the Scene: Arcade to Film - Using the remote of your Blu-ray player to show side by side comparisons of the actual characters from the video game and the talents.
# The Fight in Black and White - Storyboard Gallery - Using your Blu-ray remote, you can view many of the storyboards of the film.
# Behind the Fight - Production Gallery - Using your remote, you can view the production gallery images.
Street Fighter Round One: Fight! - This is a full-length animated origins comic movie from Eagle One Media features a total of six chapters. Each chapter is around 15 minutes long. There have been quite a good number of comic releases on DVD and Blu-ray featuring voice acting and the animated comic panels with or without word balloons (this is optional in the menu). But overall, I felt the inclusion of this DVD with a Blu-ray release was a great addition.
The main special feature on this disc are the trailers for "Dragonblade" and "Voltron" but also a cover gallery.
The "Street Fighter" franchise has its dedicated fans. With each version released at the arcades and on consoles, casual and competitive video gamers are always anticipating something big with "Street Fighter". And as there have been critical responses to the Japanese animated versions of the series, the same can be said with the two live action films.
Suffice to say, that with Kristin Kreuk as the lead actress to play with Chun-Li, many fans of the series were a bit mystified because Chun-Li was a woman that had muscular characteristics (known for her muscular thighs) and typically her storyline centered as an Interpol agent working alongside with Guile to find her father and put a stop to M. Bison and Shadaloo.
So, when there is a change, especially a major change to the characters, the film is going to cause its fans to cry foul.
Needless to say, having grown up with "Street Fighter", going to the arcades and spending a massive amount of quarters on the machines and even covering EVO tournaments on various "Street Fighter" related video games and the people who compete, as a reviewer I had to let my love and knowledge of the video game off-the-hook and just pretty much watch and see what changes the producers and writer needed to change in order to make "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" a commercial film.
With that being said, after watching the film, I was entertained. By no means is this the worst video game to film adaptation. There is actually an entertaining story behind the film but its loosely based on the video game series. The film has its flaws and I can see clearly, hardcore "Street Fighter" fans are not going to enjoy how the story of this film differs greatly from the video game. If anything, its just the names and certain fight moves that retain its "Street Fighter" video game correlation but it's as roughly based on the video game series as the HK martial arts film "Avenging Fist" was to "Tekken".
Kristin Kreuk brought her talent to the film as we have watched her do for years on "Smallville" and it was great to see that she underwent the five week intense martial arts training to get her prepared for the film. It's one thing to understand that finding a talent to play the definitive Chun-Li would be challenging but if anything caught my curiousity was the casting of five year old Chun-Li who looks very full-blood Chinese, while Kreuk and Katherine Pemberton (who plays the ten year old Chun-Li) are not. Many viewers don't think Kristin Kreuk as an action star but she was able to carry her own throughout the film. But judging by the amount of time the producers had to get this film ready for a US and Japan premiere, I would imagine that casting had to be made quickly. But if you are still looking for a Chun-Li action film with her trademark blue outfit and muscular thighs, there is always Jackie Chan paroding the character in "City Hunter".
Neal McDonough can always play the nefarious villain. His role on "Desperate Housewives" and "Walking Tall" are good examples of that. But to play the role of the evil Bison is another challenge because viewers have a picture in their head of what M. Bison is and how he should be. I wasn't expecting a similar Raul Julia (from the first "Street Fighter") type of Bison with Bison to be in his red garb but to watch Bison in a business suit was a bit surprising and just didn't feel right.
But the video game and film adaption of the characters differ greatly with other characters as well. Chris Klein as Charlie Nash is another character that greatly differs from its videogame counterpart but there is actually a storyline focused on his character and why he is so driven to go after Bison but it ended up on the deleted scenes portion of this release. Moon Bloodgood (who I enjoyed in "Day Break" and "Terminator Salvation") does a good job playing Det. Maya Sunee but also differs from her videogame counterpart "Street Fighter IV" character C.Viper. The swashbuckling, handsome and egotistical Spanish fighter known as Vega also differs in its film counterpart as The Black Eyed Peas Taboo plays him. Mainly as a hired thug for Bison.
Michael Clarke Duncan actually compliments the character of Balrog as in the video game, he was just the boxing thug for Bison. And I actually found Robin Shou's Gen as interesting, definitely casting an older character would not work. So, overall, I was more accepting of the character of Gen and how he was utilized on the film.
I did enjoy how the casting went into finding Hong Kong actress Josie Ho ("For Bad Boys Only", "Purple Storm") for the role of Cantana and Singapore actor Edmund Chen ("The Eye") as Xiang. And I did enjoy watching the setting of the film in Bangkok.
Part of the reason that I found the film quite entertaining was the awesome picture and audio quality. Twentieth Century Fox has been releasing awesome HD transfers for their Blu-ray releases and this is no exception. "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li - Unleashed and Unrated" definitely gets a wonderful High Definition transfer and along with the special features included, the addition of the third disc of "Street Fighter Round One: Fight!" was a great addition.
I know that there are many differences between the live action film and the video game and of course, to make a film more commercially accepted by the general viewer, difficult choices had to be made. Especially, considering that the filmmakers didn't have much time to mess around since they had to get the film done within a years time for a US and Japanese release. In fact, the filmmakers talk about how this film went to the wire in post-production and getting the final cut ready for its theatrical premiere.
But despite the problems I had with the film, by no means is "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" the worst video game film ever released. In fact, there were far more video game live film adaption stinkers out there and this film definitely does not need to be clumped with those. It's not exactly a film that will receive a lot of praise, especially of its character and storyline difference from the video game.
But I accepted the film to be totally different from the videogame beforehand and that made my viewing experience much more enjoyable. Especially to hear this film with my sound system and just being impressed by the picture and audio quality (a pleasurable High Definition visual and audio experience can definitely enhance a film's enjoyability) definitely made a big difference.
In the end, is this film worth the blind buy? It truly depends on the viewer. For those who enjoyed the film, I can tell you that the Blu-ray High Definition transfer is solid. I can also tell you that if your a "Street Fighter" fan, a third disc (DVD) of the "Street Fighter Round One: Fight!" animated comic book is included with the release.
But if you are expecting video game Chun-Li and other characters to come to life on film and be exactly like their video game counterparts, you may be disappointed. But if you take the film for what it is and see just watch and see how everything plays out knowing it will be different from the video game but still in the "Street Fighter" universe, then you may enjoy it. For the most part, I was not distraught or overtly disappointed by the film. It's not the greatest and it's not the worst video game film to be made to a live movie. In the end, I was entertained.