As the poster boy for defining solid 2D fighting gameplay, Street Fighter is also perhaps best known as the poster boy for why making games into film was never a good idea. Having two spin-offs and eradicating the respect of certain actors (Kreuk, Julia, no Van Damme doesn't count), it seems a curse looms over the depraved idea of a silver screen pickup. The common argument is that filmmakers should stick to the established material when it comes to crafting live action adaptations. While this theory can apply to other gaming titles, just how much of it can be administered to Street Fighter?
A common letdown is when filmmakers take plenty of liberty to do their own take on an established story, and the results can be disastrous. Many believe that as long as the story is followed, there would be a presence of damage control. But what of Street Fighter's mythos? Let's be honest, when it comes to games with splendiferous tales, SF doesn't hold up as being one of them. Aside from the Street Fighter III trilogy, the usual narrative involves Shadaloo, helmed by Bison and the unexplained Psycho Power, bent on world domination with Interpol and the U.S. government hot on the trail. But somehow, things will always result in Ryu getting coincidentally caught in the crossfire, but coming out saving the world.
The "plot" is often laden with a number of side stories: Ryu still wanders the world for the perfect fight, Akuma desires to make him a disciple of the Satsui no Hado, Sakura aims to become like Ryu, Sagat struggles to reclaim his Muay Thai championship title, and the denizens of Metro City make occasional appearances for the sake of adding head count, etc. If anything, the Street Fighter storyline seems to be a barely developed tapestry of plot points and story pitches. Capcom's diseased infatuation with jumping from sequels to prequels, locking the cast within a time loop for the last 20 years, certainly hasn't helped. The only thread used to keep it all together is merely how the characters exist in the same universe. Even for non-gamers, the common filmmaker, after enough research, would come to this conclusion and that's why the freedom to write has been bold faced and underlined, there's just that much room. Also, much like the characters, the underlying theme of 'the fight' serving as a form of communication is barely explored, so of course that's easily tossed aside.
Even if the story somehow is made decent, there's still the issue of character design made into flesh. For example, if an actor portraying Ryu was made to wear jeans, Nikes, and a hoodie, it wouldn't sit completely well with fans. But if we were to clad him in the traditional headband and gi, it would still look awkward. As a series that has become a household name, we've come to identify the characters head to toe with much familiarity, including the ones with the modest designs. Imagine Ryu and Ken strutting around a public setting in their iconic gear "“ all sore thumbs. And what of the more illustrious characters? For Blanka and Akuma, maybe you could blend the use of CG and Buffy/LOTR/Hellboy makeup, but good luck trying to make that hair work, hell, good luck obtaining the time and money.
While costume and makeup design is only half the magic, the real challenge comes from casting the right people. Street Fighter, much like any other fighting game, sports a cast of individuals with very demanding physical features and stature. Using Ryu again as an example, the only living person to even come close to matching Ryu's proportions would be Lyoto Machida, but aside from language barriers, he's yet to prove his mettle in acting. For Sagat, you'd have better luck finding the Holy Grail than an asian man with his dominant height and muscle mass. Perhaps the application of the SFX used in portraying Rodrigo Santoro as the towering King Xerxes in 300 would be needed, but again, good luck obtaining the time and money. And as Kreuk and Wen have proven, you can't just throw in any asian chick into the role of the strongest woman in the world. All the women who I can imagine playing as Chun Li (Moon Lee, Sibelle Hu) are unfortunately already past their prime "“ the role seems more fitting for an actress who is already well versed in martial arts. The rest, well, Zangief, Dhalsim, Guile, Vega, Balrog... just think about it for a moment to yourselves.
Not forgotten is the fact that nothing's complete without special moves made real. The reason it worked for Mortal Kombat is because the special moves are pretty straightforward in nature, no projectiles necessary. Street Fighter on the other hand packs a number that are over the top. Street Fighter: Legacy, despite its excellent camera work and use of effects, shows how Hurricane Kicks, Dragon Punches, and Hadokens still tend to look silly in the live action medium, and a majority of the Street Fighters utilize moves of similar nature. Can you imagine a real life Shoryu Reppa?
All in all, it's not to say that a good Street Fighter flick is impossible, rather it's improbable and in regards to the amount of work filmmakers have to go through just to make it worthwhile, it's impractical - borderline groveling would be required to have any studio pick up the pitch for a third try. Given the nature of the series' material, leaving things in the hands of animators have proven to be more or less fruitful. When it all boils down to it, no one cares about Street Fighter as a narrative epic, it's just meant to be played and that's where it all should stay. Besides, we all know that the best live action portrayals that we'll ever see comes from City Hunter and Future Cops.