Thursday, 16 February 2012

鉄拳 ブラッド・ベンジェンス / Tekken: Blood Vengeance

Another dated-looking CGI video game tie-in from Digital Frontier (who also made the similarly-flawed Resident Evil: Degeneration), 2011’s Tekken: Blood Vengeance is likely to disappoint fans of the game and bore the uninitiated. It has its moments, mostly when it comes to impressive action sequences, but as a film it’s severely lacking.

The film opens with that welcome staple of Tekken media – Anna Williams trying to kill her sister Nina and getting thwarted. Afterwards, each is revealed to be working for one of the Mishima line: Anna for Kazuya and Nina for his bastard son Kazama Jin. Each is investigating the mysterious teenager Kamiya Shin, who apparently possesses mysterious powers, and each hires a student to gain intel on him: Kazuya, through Anna, recruits a sassy but identifiable Ling Xiaoyu, who comes complete with her panda, while Jin opts for Alisa Bosconovich, the quirky, perky robot girl chiefly remembered for showing up in Tekken 6 and presenting people with her detachable, explosive head. They clash but then become fast friends, especially when Anna calls Ling a failure and tries to kill her. They hide with their teacher Lee, whose character is consistent with his recent characterisation as almost nothing to do with his foster family and a total – but pretty hilarious – dickhead. Continuing to tail Shin, they find that he is very possibly immortal, and find him captive in Kyoto Castle. Big Bad Heihachi reveals himself, but it’s okay, Shin apparently has a plan. His plan is to punch Heihachi and lose his immortality in the process. Heihachi barely even flinches, so that’s the end of Shin – but as it turns out, Kazuya and Jin have followed their young charges and a huge three-way battle between the three generations of main characters begins, pretty much with a starting point of them all saying the plot up to this point was totally meaningless. The fight gets increasingly absurd until it involves flying devil monsters attacking huge demons made of tree-men, and ultimately the viewer must decide whether to just enjoy the brainless awesomeness of it or to be disgusted by how totally unnecessary the hour’s build up was when the pay-off is a fight between characters who have barely even featured up to that point.

The characters mentioned there are pretty much all that make it into the film – plus Ganryu randomly cameoing as Ling’s principal, Lei turning up as a face on a text message and the wood spirits being Mokujin. No Paul, no Law, no Julia, Christie, Yoshimitsu, Jack, King, Leon…basically, a game with an incredibly rich cast led to a film with a tiny and oddly-chosen one. Xiaoyu is popular and cute, no doubt, but she’s supposed to be ditzy and wild. Her original story was a quest to get a theme park built, after all! And Alisa…well, she’s funny and has a distinctive design, but the attempts to make her genki and loveable just make it look like she’s a horrible actress. She’s animated, and she comes off as a much worse actress than any others in the film. And ultimately, scenes of her bonding with Ling seem daft when the only point is to try and make a tear-jerker out of her using attacks from a cartoon at the end – only for enormous devil lasers to make it all meaningless.

Though the US dub was the first one to be released (the two made in tandem), I urge any viewers to watch the Japanese version: not only is the acting much better in Japanese (though Alisa is annoying in both), but the lip movements are synched to the Japanese, and it makes a big difference.

Ultimately, this seems like a wasted opportunity. Even if only for moments, like in the Street Fighter II anime, I wanted to see more of the wider cast. A sequel is heavily hinted at, and will perhaps be better, but I wanted much more here.

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