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Street Fighter II: The Movie
A UK region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

A number of years after the release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo systems, animator Gisaburo Sugii was asked to create a movie based on the franchise. Thus, Street Fighter II: The Movie was born. If you're now thinking of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue, don't worry – this is a completely separate animated project that portrays the characters of the games more faithfully, and is considered by Street Fighter fans to be far superior to Van Damme's live-action flop.

As the title suggests, Street Fighter is pretty much all about fighting. On streets. And if you gave this as a plot summary, you'd only be leaving out about a quarter of the actual story, which is tacked on to provide some kind of reason as to why the fights are happening. In a nutshell: the terrorist organisation Shadowlaw, headed by the militaristic Vega, is kidnapping powerful fighters and brainwashing them to create an ultimate fighting force with which to safeguard Shadowlaw's interests. Vega hears of an exceptional fighter by the name of Ryu, and naturally wants to "recruit" him. The story switches between this main narrative and two smaller subplots featuring Ryu's journey across Asia (and the search for his old friend Ken), and Interpol agent Chun-Li's buddy-cop investigation/romance with American Major Guile.

A quick note before we go on: I watched the movie in Japanese (more on this later). For the English version, some of the character names are swapped – Vega, the head evil honcho, becomes M. Bison, while Bison, the boxer, is now Balrog; Balrog – the claw-wielder – takes the name Vega. This was purportedly to avoid M. Bison being compared to Mike Tyson (whom the character design was obviously based on). I only mention this if you're familiar with the English games and are confused as to who's who.

This two-disc special edition differs from previous releases in two ways: one, Western audiences may now experience the original Japanese soundtrack and voices, and two, the movie's infamous shower scene (featuring Chun-Li) is present in its entirety – having been trimmed down in the VHS and one-disc editions, or cut out altogether in the version present on the Street Fighter Anthology video game disc. I don't really know what all the fuss is about; as fanservice goes, I've seen much better (or depending on your sensibilities, worse). All you see is a few shots from behind and a five-second topless shot.

This doesn't mean, of course, that this movie is anywhere near suitable for children below age 15 to watch. The fight sequences – which naturally take up the bulk of the movie's running time – are graphic, though never gory. They're very well coreographed, too, and show off the characters' unique fighting styles and signature moves far more effectively than in the live-action movie. There's also an element of quasi-fantasy that's been carried over from the games: the fighters' ability to fling fireballs or generate sonic booms. And that's to say nothing of Vega's intimidating Psycho Power – which he boasts about in just about every scene he's in.

In terms of animation, Street Fighter is showing its age; its deliberate gritty style was commonplace in early 90s animé, but when you compare it to the trailers for the recent Street Fighter Alpha series, the difference between the styles is very apparent. Nonetheless, I don't have much else to complain about. Character designs are taken straight from the games and are more or less identical, but you can always tell a main character apart from the "normal people" – they're all larger and more muscular than anyone else. The movie travels all over the world, from Las Vegas to London to Calcutta, and depicts the various metropolises and slums in great detail. 

I usually watch animé with the English dub language track, at least for the first viewing, but in this case I made an exception. I'd previously seen the movie in English several years ago on VHS, and remeber being singularly unimpressed with the quality of the voice acting and the choice of music. To make the movie more palatable to a Western audience (this was the mid-90s, and animé was even more of a niche market than it is today), the producers of the English edition replaced the entire soundtrack with contemporary American artists like Alice In Chains and Korn. That's fine if that music is your thing, but the Japanese soundtrack – featuring three vocal songs – adds far more emotional power to the scenes in which they are used. I was pleasantly surprised at how the original soundtrack transforms what I had once thought of as a throwaway fighting animé into something much better.

When it comes to reccommending an audience for this movie, it's the same old story: fans of the franchise, and of martial-arts animé in general, will jump at the opportunity to see the movie in its original form, but there's very little here for non-fans. The story is too slight to be engaging, and if you're turned off by lots of fighting, I can't see you sitting through the whole thing. I enjoy a good fight scene as much as the next man, and so I found it enjoyable in that regard, but the addition of the Japanese language track almost made it feel like I was watching it all over again.

sound and vision

Both versions of the film are presented in 16:9 widescreen but neither are anamorphically enhanced. The picture quality is not bad, but shows its age in the slightly soft picture and muted colour reproduction, although detail is otherwise quite good. There is some grain and digital video noise visible at times, notably in darker scenes. Contrast is stronger on the Japanese version than the English language release.

Both 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks are available on both versions, and there's not a lot to chose between them for the dialogue and sound effects – only the music uses the surrounds to any real degree.

extra features

The only real extra feature on this set are some character biographies, present only on disc 2. There's a lot of trailers; notably for Street Fighter Alpha: The Movie and its companion series Generations.  

Street Fighter II: The Movie

Japan 1994
98/101 mins
director
Gisaburo Sugii

DVD details
region 2
video
16:9 letterboxed
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
Dolby surround 5.1
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
extras
Character biographies
Trailers
distributor
Manga
release date
19 February 2007
review posted
20 February 2007

See all of CNash's reviews