Film Friday: Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994) - The Best SF Movie To Date
I recall the first time I learned that Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie existed, GamePro did a two-page spread of stills and the tiniest paragraph to describe what we readers were seeing: a film that was everything we had dreamed, a film that was not just a high concept but a concrete reality thousands of miles away. The screenshots alone were mind-blowing to my junior high eyes.
I cannot remember how much time passed before that preview and the first time I loaded the VHS cassette into our family VCR, but it felt like at least a year, maybe two. And for the average pre-teen tastes, this film hit desires and needs I did not even realize I had—characters rendered full of violent life through animation unlike any I had previously seen, with a plot that may have felt thin but still worked. I was enamored with this picture, and have revisited it on Blu-ray recently (thanks to a PG-13 cut available in the 25th-anniversary box-set), I can honestly say the film holds up well for my more refined and critical adult sensibilities. Is it a deep and meaningful, no? But it is wildly entertaining.
Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie follows n Air Force colonel Guile and Interpol agent Chun-Li, as they hunt for the legendary criminal Bison, head of the Shadowloo organization, an international terrorism, and crime ring. Bison, meanwhile, is on his own hunt for the greatest street fighters from around the world, to brainwash and use as assassins. Even as Guile & Chun-li get closer to Bison’s operation, the criminal mastermind and incredible villainous warrior get closer to his own targets: training blood brothers Ken Masters and Ryu Hoshi. Over the course of this animated thrill ride, fan favorites like Fei Long, Dee Jay, Blanka, Dhalsim, and Vega get cameo appearances to shine.
After the debacle of Street Fighter with Jean Claude Van Damme, about which I wrote HERE, fans completely and totally embraced this anime import. The stylistic recreation of the beloved characters of the World Warriors franchise came to stunning life, and US fans were treated to both edited and unrated versions. Frankly, I’ve never seen the unrated import, but apparently, even it differs from the original Japanese version, which was deemed too graphic.
Regardless of the content, this film felt in many ways like a Street Fighter fans dreams come true. Yes, many of the game’s beloved characters like Cammy and Sagat are given little-to-nothing to do; but for every character who is misused, another is wonderfully utilized. E. Honda is sensationally realized as a huckster, and Vega—well, Vega is more creepily memorable in this movie than pretty much any Street Fighter character ever realized in a movie. His battle that comes about 2/3 of the way through the film is a stunning tour de force. Fan service is also paid via background easter eggs and the use of many signature moves in the game, and all of it comes to together in a way that few fan-favorite properties do.
SHOULD DADS BOTHER?
Yes, If you like anime and Street Fighter, this is a no-caveat-needed recommend. Watch it with buddies of the same tastes, you’ll have a blast. If you like either this style of animation or Street Fighter, you may still find it to be wildly fun or at least adequately entertaining. If you don’t like either…well, I’m not sure why you are reading this, but don’t bother.
NOTE: I can only speak to the quality and content of the PG-13 edit. The content of the unrated or original Japanese cuts may make the film unwelcome to certain sensibilities, mine included. BUT as far as the version I know now and knew 20 years ago, this picture works as a piece of pop culture entertainment.
SHOULD THEY BRING THE KIDS?
No. Nope. Norp. The action is far intense for the little ones. This is for the teen years and beyond them. No question. But if you decided to introduce your high schoolers to Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers on Switch this year, this may be a pretty solid supplemental piece of entertainment.