BLU-RAY The King Of Fighters
A little known adaptation of an obscure series of videogame beat ‘em ups gets a hi-def sheen, but can the Blu-ray transfer do anything to improve on what is another in a long line of failed game to film translations?
The King Of Fighters tournament is an ongoing contest held in a alternate dimension that runs parallel with our own. Overseen by Chizura Kagura, the tournament is made possible by harnessing the energy of three mystical artefacts into electronic devices that transport the fighters into battle.
Former combatant Rugal Bernstien finds a way to bend the alternate dimension to his will, summoning fighters with the sole purpose of killing them and stealing their energy in order to be merged with demon god Orochi.
Mai Shiranui is an undercover CIA agent sent by her superior, Terry Bogard, to infiltrate the tournament, but joins their ranks in order to defeat Rugal.
Their only hope of stopping him is to reunite the three artefacts that make the alternate dimension possible, and for this they require the Kusanagi sword, which rests in the hands of Kyo Kusanagi, son of the legendary tournament master, Saisyu…
There are many reasons why videogame adaptations don’t work. For one, many of the games that have been adapted simply do not warrant the effort, as they are already accomplished works of fiction in their own right. By offering a loose translation of a game’s basic elements, filmmakers risk alienating their target audience – the gamers themselves. Case in point would be the Resident Evil franchise, which takes everything that’s good about the games and throws it out the window in favour of a high-kicking, scantily clad Milla Jovovich.
The only real success stories, in what is fast becoming a moribund sub genre, are the ones that stick as close as they can to the source material, such as the Jerry Bruckheimer produced Prince Of Persia or the Angelina Jolie starring Tomb Raider, both enjoyable if throwaway productions that didn’t screw around (much) with the legacy.
It’s a neat touch to have the combatants clad in their traditional videogame garb.
The beat ‘em up genre, in particular, requires a tentative approach; the rich mythology often formed over several decades doesn’t make for an easy cinematic translation, as the much maligned Street Fighter movies can attest. Last year’s live action Tekken movie is a perfect example of a game to film adaptation that adheres to the source material just enough to make it worthy of attention, succeeding where the abysmal Street Fighter films failed. It preserved the story and captured the overall aesthetic of the series, right down to the stages on which the fighters clash, resulting in a flawed but enjoyable experience for fans.
The King Of Fighters, based on a series that many fighting game aficionados consider the equal to Street Fighter, tries it’s hardest to please fans with its knowing winks to the games, but it ultimately fails to capture any of the spirit and charm that made them so popular. This is largely thanks to a laughable plot that translates the games ‘bad guys versus good guys in annual brawl’ story into ‘ancient artefacts allow inter-dimensional travel via Bluetooth headset…where bad guys fight good guys’ – a ludicrous premise that might work if exposition wasn’t restricted to near incomprehensible vignettes of philosophising babble.
The fighters possess no character to speak of either; the roster running the gamut from disillusioned youth to camp villain and lesbian dominatrix, only Maggie Q’s Mai managing to be even remotely engaging. It’s a shame because The King Of Fighter’s roster is just as substantial as its peers, but writer Rita Augustine doesn’t think they warrant an appearance, instead assembling a handful of the principal players.
It’s a neat touch to have the combatants clad in their traditional videogame garb when they enter the alternate dimension (it even says ‘Fatal Fury’ on Terry‘s trademark trucker cap), but it’s only that and the characters names that give away any link to the games, everything else is a product of misguided re-imagining.
The fights themselves are reasonably impressive, with David Leitch (who plays Terry Bogard in the film) orchestrating some kinetic brawls, although the obvious skills of gifted martial artists Will Yun Lee and Ray Park (best known as Darth Maul, but seen recently as Snake Eyes in GI Joe) are diluted by some erratic editing and flashy effects.
It’s those effects that benefit most from the Blu-ray transfer, because regardless of the quality of the film overall, it is technically accomplished. The impressive production design, lavish costumes and garish cinematography look great in high definition, and elsewhere the flawless sound mix accentuates every bone crunching impact. With all the care and attention lavished on the visuals, it’s a shame that more attention couldn’t have been paid to the script.
The King Of Fighters is a mildly diverting fight film that looks great on Blu-ray but remains a failure – although not quite as awful as Street Fighter: The Movie. Unfortunately, with Resident Evil getting another instalment and Uwe Boll’s career showing no signs of stalling, it looks like we haven’t seen the end of the subpar videogame adaptation.
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