Street Fighter: Extreme Edition (US - BD)
Gabe flicks a quarter in the slot, selects his fighter, and laughs his ass off...
I’m gonna be brave here, and go against more than a decade of unrequited love. I think Street Fighter may be one of the silliest major motion picture releases of my life time. I know, audiences have fawned lovingly over Raul Julia’s performance, and until this last year he was the most favoured posthumous Oscar nominee in history. His lack of nomination shocked the world, but you know what, he’s actually pretty hammy. And even considering their age, these special effects aren’t really all that special, nor are these martial arts scenes. I have this terrible feeling I’ve stumbled upon a grave misunderstanding here.
Okay, I can’t keep up the sarcasm. We all know Street Fighter was a joke of a film. That’s probably the only reason we’re still talking about it—it’s a joke. If writer/director Steven de Souza hadn’t known it was going to be a joke it might have been an even funnier joke. There’s something both charming and disappointing about the film’s pseudo-comedic tone. It’s a little less fun laughing with something than it is laughing at something, but as a critic I have to admit that de Souza hasn’t crafted an accidentally amusing film. It also features a shockingly impressive cast, who seem to be in on the joke. The hiring of Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t a surprise, but Raul Julia was experiencing a sort of renaissance at the time, and Ming-Na was coming off great dramatic success with The Joy Luck Club.
The biggest bother of the entire thing is probably the lack of street fighting, except for a shootout, which isn’t the kind of street fight fans of the video game were expecting. There’s also a lack of tournament style fighting, save the Ryu vs. Vega fight, which is, of course, cut short before a single punch is thrown. Strictly speaking, Street Fighter is a cheap Bond knock-off, with a few more 007s, Blofelds, and Odd Jobs thrown into the mix, and a lot less plot to confuse the prospective audience. It is actually quite fun to watch this hunk of junk in a crowd of ‘experts’, who will likely point out all the inaccuracies concerning martial arts, mutation science, military procedure, and even character origins (considering the video game).
Being based on a video game, and to a lesser extent an animated series of movies, Street Fighter is a very colourful film, which may be its major saving grace (assuming it actually has a future). This new 1080p transfer accurately recreates these bright, comic book inspired colours. The tones are solid, and usually evenly lit to best exploit these cartoony natures. The overall depth of the frame is flattened by broad focus, better exacting a comic book panel. The contrast levels aren’t particularly impressive, but this too can be blamed on the design of the cinematography. Black levels on this disc are deep enough, but sort of blend into other dark hues. Details are as sharp as the semi-flat appearance will allow, mostly impressive with close-up shots, though brightly lit outdoor sequences are pretty realistic. There are no real problems with edge enhancement, digital or print damage artefacts, and even warm colours are mostly clear of compression noise.
Again, being video game and cartoon based, Street Fighter is brimming with all manner of silly, electronic sound effects. 1994 was a bit early in the lifespan of 5.1 digital, and nobody’s going to bother to remix Street Fighter, so the soundscape is a little empty, but the DTS-HD Master Audio upgrade is smooth enough. Many of the surround effects lack full discreetness, and the centre channel is a bit over-cranked, but we’re really splitting hairs on this account. The amped up LFE track is pretty funny when it comes to the severe nature of simple punches and kicks that practically drown out the rest of the audio. The constant score is surprisingly low on the track, which might be a symptom of bad sound editing, or just too much music.
Because you asked for it, Universal has re-released this classic film in an extras-packed ‘Extreme Edition’. Things begin with a lethargic commentary track from writer/director Steven de Souza. de Souza gives up the facts, acknowledges the guilty parties, and actually delves into the technical aspects to a relatively extreme degree (hence the release title). My favourite bits were brief discussions about aspect ratio and the ratings system in 1994. The sound quality makes me think that the track was actually recorded in shifts, or that the blank spots were filled in after the fact.
‘The Making of Street Fighter’ (six minutes) is strictly an advertising tool. It introduces the cast and concept, and features a few scenes from the film, but features no real insight into the making-of process. This is followed by a series of outtakes (which in this case is code speak for behind the scenes footage, apparently), two deleted scenes, two storyboard sequences, two brief samples of footage from various versions of the original video game, an odd little digital flip through, the original news footage used in the film, and an archive filled with stills, ads, and concept art (note: one of the posters is a direct rip-off of the classic Phantasm II poster).
The Blu-ray exclusive extras, and the only HD extras on the new release, are a series of trailers for the new Street Fighter IV video game and animated film. I had assumed that this re-release was supposed to sell the new movie, but apparently it’s to drum up support for the new game (as the new movie is being released by a different studio).
A somewhat unfairly maligned film, Street Fighter suffers from being a little too funny for its own good. Now that we know better than to take it seriously we can derive a bit of entertainment from its colourful and ridiculous nature. This doesn’t make for a good film, but surely a less bad one. If you’re itching to see the new movie, and I can’t see why you wouldn’t, it looks so good (end sarcasm), it might be worth whetting your appetite with a revisit to the original.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 10th February 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, 'The Making of Street Fighter', Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, Storyboard Sequences, Video Game Footage, Stills, Ads, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steve De Souza
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Kylie Minogue, Robert Mammone
Genre: Action and Comedy
Length: 104 minutes
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