The King of Fighters Review

The King of Fighters

Okay… so you know when I talked last time about Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li messed about with the source material a bit too much? Well… THAT, but to a far, far greater degree is how you can describe this. Why did I even bother reviewing KOF ’94, in hindsight? Oh well, I’ll say this much: at least the actual fighting was, for the most part, well done, which is something it has over the previous effort. Let’s take a closer look then…

Synopsis:

For generations three families have been keeping the Orochi contained within its own dimension and then fought many battles within the dimension to find out who is the King of Fighters. Sadly for the current members of the clans, Rugal wishes to claim the Orochi power for himself…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The King of Fighters 3

Kyo with his trademark sword, and by trademark sword I mean… a sword.

You’ll notice in the synopsis (that I had to quickly write because this film is so under the radar it doesn’t seem to have an official one…) it mentions the three clans sealing Orochi and Rugal trying to get his hands on the power, that all happens in the opening arc of the game series, and it even ties the Yagami descendant betraying the rest and gaining a small amount of Orochi power leading to the rivalry between them and the Kusanagi clan. That’s good! Sadly, that’s where it ends, as I’ll get to down below, but still! It does use some of the plot…

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph though, this film does deserve credit for having some satisfying fighting, particularly the final battle, which seemed to have the better part of half an hour dedicated to it. Sure, some hits have cheesy cheap CG lightning or fire effects added, but in general they’re fun to watch. Makes up for some of the lack of characters or acting, anyway…

The Bad:

The King of Fighters 1

Oh look, it’s Rugal! You can tell because of the red eye and LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE.

Okay, so… the King of Fighters tournament in the film takes place in an alternate dimension that people access by putting in special earpieces that teleport them there. While there they have different clothes and more fantasy-based fighting moves and aforementioned CG effects. Why… Why? Just why? I don’t understand why it couldn’t just be a tournament that takes place that gets interrupted by Rugal gathering the three treasures and gaining some Orochi power. That would’ve been fine, why did they add in all this alternate dimension stuff, stuff that’s so confusing and out of place in the game series they’re “adapting” that several scenes had to be written that’s just characters spouting exposition to fit it all in.

Worse than the alternate dimension stuff is the casting of Rugal. He’s played by Ray Park, the man who had to be dubbed over during his time as Darth Maul, and boy… it shows. Yes he’s a great fighter / stunt guy and that obviously helped with a lot of the entertaining final battle, but Rugal? The guy is supposed to be a large and intimidating presence, Ray Park is short and plays a lot of the film for laughs, including having a jokey commentary track play when he attacks people dressed as an Ice Hockey player… Yes, that was actually a scene. Much like Bison in the previous film, they didn’t even dye his hair blond or anything. It was just Ray Park with a single red eye contact in, which I guess was a half-arsed attempt to make him seem like Rugal, but the lack of intimidation killed any hope of that…

The King of Fighters 4

Oh look, it’s Terry! You… CAN’T TELL AT ALL.

Will Yun Lee is actually the only person in the film I think actually acts well, but sadly he’s supposed to be playing Iori Yagami, the brooding red-haired rival to the game’s protagonist, but instead he’s a black-haired laidback guy hanging out with his girlfriend at a big show. Yes, he dips into the Orochi power and very briefly attack Kyo in a callback to the game, but very briefly. Kyo Kusangi, who in the flashbacks is played by an Asian child, is played by the decidedly white Sean Faris, rather confusingly. He likes motorbikes and doesn’t believe this other-dimensional tournament exists, but of course becomes the hero everyone needs at the end. It’s a fine character arc, but Faris is wooden as all hell. In the early-to-middle part of the film his father dies and at no point do I feel sadness from him, just… mild confusion. Hell, even his angry outbursts just sounded like he was mildly annoyed, and confused again. Not good!

Mai Shiranui is in this film, played by Maggie Q, but rather than being a female ninja type with her jugs hanging out all over the place, she plays a standard CIA agent who is undercover in the tournament. Now, this is one character I wasn’t expecting to look like her game counterpart, but making her an American agent is just bizarre. She’s also the female hero of the film and fights Orochi-ised Rugal in the final battle alongside Kyo and Iori, which makes you wonder why she wasn’t cast as Chizuru Kagura instead, the member of the third clan alongside Kusanagi and Yagami that must defeat Orochi… Chizuru is in the film, played by Francoise Yip, but she gets hurt by Rugal in the opening moments of the film, then at the end of the film collects the three artefacts before being killed off. Strange decision! I know Mai is a popular character, but if you’re going to do the Orochi storyline that ends with two men and a woman standing at the end, you may as well stick to who they are!

Terry Bogard appears in the film and is played by David Leitch, but rather than be anything like Terry in the slightest he’s a middle-aged CIA agent in a suit who doesn’t believe the other dimension exists, and then becomes a comedy character when he does arrive there. One scene where a thug walks by wearing the game Terry’s trademark “Fatal Fury” hat and movie Terry punches him and puts the hat on is the only slightly amusing bit. Mature and Vice are also in the film as Rugal’s lackies, played by Monique Ganderton and Bernice Liu, respectively. Given their overly sexualised mannerisms in the game, they’re not exactly done a disservice here, though beyond one scene where Mature is wearing a revealing business suit they don’t really look like their game counterparts. They’re not bad though, they do their job.

Overall Thoughts:

The King of Fighters 2

Oh look… you know what? Three times is a bit much for the same gag. Let’s just talk about how this Mai doesn’t have her jugs out and be done with it.

The King of Fighters bares so little resemblance to the games you have to wonder why they even bothered, it’s not like the KOF branding is so big it was going to draw a huge audience on the name alone… Basically the film is “Short-arse Rugal shoots up the place and steals some of the treasures and becomes powerful in the other dimension, Mai and Irori have to recruit a reluctant Kyo, and then all three of them, plus Terry, end up fighting Rugal in said dimension until Kyo pulls out a win.” It’s simple, not really effective, but the end fight is good, which is more than you can say about the previous film in this marathon…

2 Star Watch

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