Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie

Finally...a videogame to movie adaptation that doesn't suck.

Now, granted, of all the videogames out there that have made the leap to the big (or small screen), Street Fighter 2 is one of the few I personally know well. Back in college, it was the game. I mean, THE game. Although I wasn't particularly great at it--a few other guys in the dorms played it so much they burnt out their Super Nintendo machines practicing--it was superior to a lot of other fighting games out at the same time. Though Mortal Kombat featured better animation and shocking death sequences, Street Fighter 2 was a great, well-rounded entertainment where no character was unbalanced...skill and practice made the difference. It wasn't deep, but it was an enjoyable diversion from hours of studies. Now that I've seen the movie, I can say the exact same thing about it. It isn't perfect, it has an excuse for a plot, but if you're into fast-paced fight sequences, you can't miss it.

Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie starts with an attempted assassination. The evil organization Shadowlaw, run by the monolithic Bison, has been kidnapping and brainwashing fighters from around the world to carry out his devilish schemes, and one nearly takes down the head of the Department of Justice. Chun-Li, a fantastic Asian fighter who works for Interpol, has been tracking Bison's movements. While she interrogates the former MI-6 agent who was turned into an unwitting killer, she starts recruiting brawlers of her own to take on Shadowlaw's minions. Both sides in the conflict start targeting two young men: Ryo and Ken. Ryo's a Japanese fighter who travels all over Asia taking on the best competition (when he's not busy training and mediating in the middle of nowhere). Ken, meanwhile, is a flashy American playboy who trained at the same dojo with Ryo. Though he still feels a bit of jealousy towards Ryo's skills, Ken's virtually his equal. As he sends his henchmen to destroy Chun-Li and the rest of her contingent, Bison plans to capture Ken and turn his powers to evil as he schemes to conquer the world. Will the good guys be able to find Ryo in time to keep Bison's plans from taking root?

As you can probably tell from the last paragraph, the plot is not the point here. If that's what you want, look elsewhere (though you're not going to find any better within the genre). For action, though, Street Fighter 2 goes beyond its origins and winds up having some of the best combat sequences of any recent anime. The animation is inconsistent; the non-fighting sequences are artistically fine, but their quality suffers in comparison to what we see in the brawls. But once you see the battles, you won't mind. They are lovingly accomplished, rejecting the "moving lines" that simulate combat movement in many anime. They move at an amazingly fast clip, just like you'd expect from a down-and-dirty fracas. A few of them, such as a vicious melee between Chun-Li and Vega, are just fantastic. And they are truly street fights. Despite the use of special powers here and there, this is a martial arts spectacular.

You may find yourself a little bored inbetween fights, however. The plot is what it is: justification for people beating the snot out of each other. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. From the plot perspective, it's hard to justify the filmmakers' decision to include almost every character from the game into the show's 96 minutes. This makes some scuffles almost pointless, shoehorned into a movie that doesn't need them. Then again, this movie IS the fights. And for a fan of the game, it's really a treat. The original game was balanced with a lot of unique special moves for the characters, and all of them show up here integrated in perfectly. (Being a Chun-Li player myself, there was no small satisfaction in seeing her superspeed kick wiping somebody out, let me tell you.) But if you've never played the famous coin-op, a lot of this will seem superfluous.

There are a few versions of this film floating around out there. There's the original Japanese version, which except perhaps for a fansub here or there does not exist in the US. The DVD version in America has no menus and only the American dub soundtrack, which replaces the score with some hard rock music in spots; it also trims up a gratuitous shower sequence by a few seconds. Then there's a VHS dub version in the US that cleans up a little gore and removes the shower sequence altogether (though there's still a bit of fan service in a fight sequence that couldn't be edited regardless). I would hope that a better release would see the light of day, but as of summer 2004, that seems unlikely.

The genre of videogame anime is severely limited by the structure of the games on which they are based. That being said, Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie is the best this genre has ever seen and likely will ever see.

Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie -- violence, profanity, brief nudity -- B+