In this tournament, no one wins.
The Dead or Alive series of games control well and has some engaging mechanics, but where it really stands out is in its unconventional roster of characters. They are primarily women and they wear skimpy outfits that don’t leave a lot to your imagination. In fact, the game’s physics, which allows for some realistic breast-bouncing, has become one of the hallmarks of the series. The Dead or Alive film isn’t that much different from the game, so anyone looking for a film that has attractive women who wear next to nothing, you’ll feel right at home here.
In a way, Dead or Alive is remarkably similar to Mortal Kombat, but instead of seeing violent fatalities, you’ll see attractive women fighting. And in the former, the levels of fan service are taken to an extreme: there are shower scenes, women in bikinis, suggestive dialogues, slow music plays when there’s someone naked and rock and roll when there’s punching and kicking and so on.
So what happens in this movie? There has to be more than just attractive women fighting, right? Some of the best fighters from different disciplines (American wrestlers, assassins, thieves, ninjas, spies and so on) are invited to an exclusive tournament that will take place on an island. Some of those people are Kasumi, Tina, Helena, Christie, Hyabusa and all the characters you remember from the Dead or Alive series of games. The incentive to win that tournament is a 10-million dollar prize, but soon enough, the protagonist realize that they need to cooperate to uncover the secret behind the organizer of the tournament. Each character’s reasons for participating are one-dimensional: some of there for the money, for the fame and glory or to avenge a loved one. The story couldn’t be simpler, but the reasons why it doesn’t work is the same why the Mortal Kombat films didn’t work: structuring a movie as a martial arts contest where there’s fight after fight seems lazy and boring.
And there’s constant excuses to see the contestants in bikinis. There’s a physical examination before the tournament, you’ll see women sleeping in the same bed, there are random baths and shower scenes where the director’s trying to show as much skin as possible while keeping the PG-13 rating and so on. I almost forgot that they play volleyball at one point because DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball was a game that came out at one point. Also, the camera insists on focusing on specific body parts from the female characters (I’m pretty sure you can figure put which anatomical parts the director’s interested in showing.)
Another problem that I have with DOA is that at no point does the movie explain the reason behind the tournament. Why would someone set up such an expensive facility in the middle of nowhere and give away millions of dollars to the winner of a fighting tournament? Is it just to develop a pair of sunglasses that can predict any fight? Everything about the story seems nonsensical and confusing. If you just needed to implant nano machines into the fighters to create a super fighting program why creating a tournament in the first place? Also, why all the female fighters are so anatomically perfect?
Making a movie based on Dead or Alive must be extremely difficult. After all, the games’ story is simple and one-dimensional. As a consequence, it’s a shame to see how everyone involved in this adaptation took the most obvious route and did the most predictable thing you could do. In this tournament, no one wins.