The 2D fighting games of the 90s might have had their problems, but they deserve better.
I often complain about the slew of fighting game franchises that have been adapted to live-action films, but I must admit there’s something moderately entertaining about movies like Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter or Tekken. So maybe I’m part of the problem because even though I’d never recommend most of the aforementioned, I think there’s something amusing about watching familiar characters fight each other in some random tournament. That said, The King of Fighters is a by-the-numbers direct-to-DVD adaptation with poor production values, laughable special effects and stiff dialogues. It may scratch the same itch as some of the movies I just mentioned, but you’d be wise to stay away from this appalling adaptation.
It all starts when evildoer Rugal Bernstein shows up in a museum exposition in Boston and steals three ancient relics (a mirror, a sword and a necklace) and when combined, these items open a gateway to an alternate dimension and wake up an evil entity known as Orochi. After the mysterious assailant leaves this world, Mai Shiranui is sent to defeat Rugal, as well as to retrieve the three artifacts. Soon enough, you’ll meet the rest of the characters from the game, including Terry Bogard, Iori Yagami, Kyo Kusanagi and Vice. In between all the soap opera drama, some martial artists are challenged to fights through bluetooth headsets that transport them to another plane of existence where they participate in an underground tournament that doesn’t have any clear rules whatsoever. I assume this tournament is supposed to decide who’s crowned the King of Fighters, but I doubt the writers even know what’s the purpose of this competition.
What surprises me the most about The King of Fighters is that for a movie that’s based on a fighting game there’s not a lot of fighting. The story has some twists and turns and several fantasy and science fiction elements (myths, traditions, references to ancient artifacts and magic,) but I’d assume that the people who purchase this DVD want to see their fantasy matchups more than anything else. During the first half of the movie there are two fights and by the end, there’s fight after fight which makes the overall pace feel woefully uneven. And since the tournament lacks any structure, it’s hard to pay too much attention to who wins and who loses. Also, the movie spends too much time introducing the characters and convincing its audience that there’s a story behind all the punching and kicking. But if you’re the kind of people who purchases a straight-to-DVD movie based on a video game, I’m pretty sure you’re already convinced.
And the list of problems doesn’t end there. The fights look good and are well-choreographed, but they are really brief and some of them don’t make a lot of sense in context. For instance, when the fighters travel to another dimension to participate in the tournament, they all get into costume which is hilarious because those outfits have nothing to do with what those characters are supposed to be. In the film, Terry Bogard is a CIA agent and always wears a suit, but when he goes to the tournament, he’s a fighter that wears a red vest and a Fatal Fury cap and there’s never an explanation for this.
To sum it all up, The King of Fighters suffers from a nonsensical plot, flat characters, cheap production values and a questionable direction (the tilted camera angles drove me insane.) The King of Fighters is another franchise that has been ruined to make a rushed, unnecessary and lazy movie adaptation.