The beat-em-up is a staple of any gaming platform, and so it is no surprise that we have seen quite a few movies based on this genre. Below is a comparison between a few fighting movies that have been released over the last two decades. My intention is to see how, if at all, the genre of the fighting goovie has progressed. A small disclaimer first, though – all statistics about box office takings are courtesy of IMDB. These box office takings don't take into account sales on the DVD format and as such serve only as an indicator to the movies financial success.
Street Fighter: The Ultimate Battle
Street Fighter: The Ultimate Battle came out in 1994 fronted by action hero Jean Claude Van Damme as American commando Guile and Raul 'Gomez Adams' Julia as General M. Bison. The movie also starred Kylie Minogue (fresh from Neighbours) and cost $35,000,000 to make. The movie has since made $105,414,729 at the box office and so can quite reasonably be described as a commercial success.
However, in terms of critical reaction
, the movie was a disaster. One review read
: "It's hard to give a damn one way or the other about Street Fighter -- it's so thin that an errant sneeze might topple this glossy house of cards." It's hard not to agree.
Street Fighter reinforced peoples opinions that movies about games were generally crap; plot-less and bizarre, lacking direction and respectability. There are many reasons for this. Street Fighter The Movie was made off the back of the massive popularity of the arcade game and the reason the game was popular was due to its simplistic nature. Nobody cared that there was no (or only a little) story; nobody was bothered how Blanca came to be green or how Bison planned to fight his way to the top of the world. No, Street Fighter was about a bit of mindless violence, but in the movie they tried to turn it into a geo-political battle against a dastardly dictator.
Could Street Fighter have been a critical success? With the casting of Jean Claude Van Damme it was always destined for low quality status. The fat cats in Hollywood knew that with Van Damme as the lead they would always guarantee sales, which it did. Quality doesn't always matter when there is money to be made.
The Street Fighter movie was followed closely by what is regarded to be the greatest goovie of all time – Mortal Kombat. To the untrained eye, Mortal Kombat was surely a very similar proposition as its bitter arcade rival Street Fighter. Thankfully, this wasn't the case. Rather than try to come up with some mainstream storyline for the game they went for simplicity. A tournament, filled with the characters of the game and decorated with impressive (for the time) CGI graphics, set the story and the movie flourished.
The key element here was that the movie targeted a more adult audience. When the characters fought to the death it felt far more realistic. The crash-bang-wallop of the Street Fighter movie had gone and a far grittier fighting movie was introduced. The box office reflected this success, with the movie making $122 million despite its relatively modest budget of $22 million.
Mortal Kombat was by no means an excellent movie but it is
one of only a handful of movies that is in any way a credit to the goovie establishment. Despite a good start the Mortal Kombat series fell by the wayside with its sequel named Annihilation. This movie, unsurprisingly, went away from the safe, simplistic formula of the competition scenario and entered the familiar Street Fighter esque save the world from… you guessed it… Annihilation. Well done Hollywood, the one flicker of brightness that was cast over goovies was extinguished in a second.
Dead or Alive
I wish I had been sat in the meeting where the producers decided on going with Dead or Alive. No doubt, a group of fat cats perched around a table weighing up all the pros and cons - as I have above - of goovies, and then decided on how best to tackle Dead or Alive:
Fat Cat Boss:
"So people love the fighting goovies, right?"
Minor Fat Cats:
Fat Cat Boss:
"Do the fighting goovies have girls with big boobs?"
Minor Fat Cats:
"So far… not really."
Fat Cat Boss:
"Then boobies is what we need. Make it so!"
Out went any plausible storyline, out went any gritty fighting action and in come bouncing mammary glands complete with nipples. As if goovies weren't ridiculed enough, in 2006, Dead or Alive stuck the boot in.
Not that I'm not a boobies fan - I am - but making a goovie as a second rate soft porn film is not that way to win over the world. Instead goovies have once again been pushed further back onto the stage of ridicule, to be laughed and poked at by all the other movie genres.
Fighting goovies are an area particularly popular with the Hollywood money men, no doubt because they see those who like fighting movies as a similar breed of simpleton to those who like games. There has, however, been a rise in the number of goovies attempting to do something different. On the next page we take a look at how well those films were received.