AMC Network Entertainment LLC

This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

Don’t Dis Street Fighter, Man! It’s Enter the Dragon‘s Kung Fu Cousin

<img src="" alt="" title="Don't Dis Street Fighter, Man! It’s Enter the Dragon‘s Kung Fu Cousin” width=”560″/>

Hollywood loves its fisticuffs. This week will see the premiere of Street Fighter : The Legend of Chun-Li — the second theatrical release based on the video game franchise and the seventh adapted from a fighting game. Indeed, despite all the other game genres available to studios, it’s the fighters that manage to get the most attention. Why? Plotless and proud of it, games like Mortal Kombat and Dead or Alive are concerned only with allowing players to beat the tar out of each other in well-rendered environments. But for that reason they blend seamlessly with another established genre: Kung Fu. Switch out Bruce Lee with E. Honda, replace Jackie Chan with Sub Zero, and voila — you’ve got a cinematic concoction that pleases gamers and fight fans alike.

The Movie: Mortal Kombat (1995)
Inspired By: Enter the Dragon (1973)
Mortal_Kombat_125x125.jpgThe plot of both the game and the movie are simple: Immortal evildoer Tsang Tsung holds a yearly fighting tournament in the Outworld (basically Earth, but colder and more brown) whose winner will decide the fate of Earth. Fighters from all over both worlds come together to defeat Tsang Tsung for their own reasons. The hero, Liu Kang, is out to avenge his younger brother, who Tsang Tsung killed. Along the way, he gets help from an arrogant but talented white martial artist, and briefly befriends an African American fighter who is later brutally killed. Beat for beat, Mortal Kombat is an almost exact remake of Enter the Dragon — with fireballs. Though perhaps not as fondly remembered as the 1973 Kung Fu masterpiece, Mortal Kombat takes what it needs from Enter the Dragon and ends up a respectably entertaining action flick.

The Movie: Street Fighter (1994)
Inspired By: Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)

StreetFighter_125x125.jpgWhere Mortal Kombat embraced the non-plot of its source material, Street Fighter director Steven E. de Souza opted for a more ambitious adaptation, structuring the movie around a massive war between M. Bison’s (Raul Julia) forces and those of Guile (Jean Claude Van Damme), a heroic “American” general with a U.S. flag tattoo and an incredulously thick Belgian accent. De Souza also felt it necessary to include every single character from the original game into the main plot, so what could have been a simple story of “man meets evil general, man breaks evil general’s neck then poses in front of the American flag” turned into a sprawling, multi-protagonist quasi-epic where even the most irrelevant supporting characters receive their own personalized fight scenes.

The flick’s highly unorthodox structure can be compared to the 1975 cult martial arts classic Master of the Flying Guillotiner, which similarly pauses its main plot at various points to showcase plot-irrelevant fight scenes. Though Street Fighter flopped both critically and commercially, its campy, over-the-top tone and unrepentant references to the source material made it a beloved cult classic as well.

The Movie: Dead or Alive (2006)
Inspired By: Dragon Princess (1979)

Dead_Or_Alive_125x125.jpgThe Dead or Alive fighting series is obsessed with only two things: Breasts and kicks to the face, in that order (Tecmo created an entire game, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, based solely around its female characters wearing bikinis and jumping a lot). It is only appropriate, then, that the adaptation would be little more than an excuse to watch three attractive women kick ninjas in the face. DOA: Dead or Alive combines the tried-and-true tournament plot structure with the even more established strategy of showing supermodels punch people in the teeth a la Dragon Princess. From that flick to the recently-released Chocolate, martial arts movies have long banked on the allure of watching attractive women take out evildoers. DOA is a noble continuation of this tradition.

The Movie: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
To what classic Kung Fu will The Legend of Chun-Li harken? Judging from the trailers, I’d vote for Female Fighting Fist in Danger, aka Sister Street Fighter (no relation to the game). Both follow a butt-kicking heroine who’s out for revenge against an evil drug-dealing organization that employs remarkably colorful henchmen. More remarkable about Chun-Li, however, is that it includes only four characters from the original game and manufactures a vengeance plot out of thin air. In essence, the movie looks to be less an adaptation and more a self-contained martial arts flick with a light video game veneer — the logical conclusion to a decade’s worth of gamer movies that only emulated Kung Fu.

What other martial arts movies do you think inspired our favorite fighting game flicks?

Anthony Burch is the features editor for and the co-writer and director of the video series, “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?” He’s also working on his first artgame, which should be done sooner or later. Probably later.

Read More