Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Movie Review: Tekken: Blood Vengeance

Charge Shot!!!'s esteemed co-editor Craig and I made a man-date to see a dumb movie. The plan, originally, was to see Transformers: Dark Moon Rising (or whatever it's called). But it seemed the universe had other plans for us. Because yesterday, at 7:30pm, in selected movie theaters all across the nation a special, stupid, crazy, confounding film aired for one night only. Last night we happened upon Tekken: Blood Vengeance in 3D, and I don't know about Craig but I don't think I'll ever be the same.

Here's what I knew about the Tekken video game franchise before going to see the movie. 1. It was one of those serious fighting games. The kind where smashing buttons would only get you past the first round at an arcade. 2. There was some weird half-man, half-leopard guy you could play as. 3. There were bears. I went into the movie expecting to be somewhat confused. Luckily for me, the movie featuring characters from Tekken had very little to do with the video games! There wasn't even a Tekken Tournament!

So that's the first major complaint: the story. A movie called Tekken should, in my mind, feature a fighting tournament. Instead, we are treated to two different movies smashed together, each one devoid of all tournament fights. I say two movies only because they did that classically bad thing some action movies do, which is engage you in a story until the climax, and then all hell breaks loose and everyone goes crazy. 

Most of the film was about a young heroine Ling Xiaoyu (who rides a panda!) who is blackmailed into tracking down a young man at an international school. There are two rival companies hoping to obtain this guy. He was most likely tested on and now has some incredible power. Along the way Ling befriends a plucky, sort of strange girl who "has a crush" on said boy. Then it turns out the strange girl is a robot, and she has chainsaw arms and Gundam wings and they fight until they realize they are friends again. Yup.

The story progresses with the girls, now on the run from both companies, finding out more about this guy they're after. Eventually there's a showdown at Kyoto Castle. "Hey, Giaco, do you mean a showdown between the guy and the girls?" No, dear reader, no. I mean a showdown between Jin Kazama (leader of one corporation), Kazuya Mishima (leader of the other corporation) and their grandfather/father Heihachi Mishima. Up until their twenty five minute epic devil battle, we see Jin and Kazama for a total of four minutes of screen time. Our hero stands back and let's the big boys fight. Yes, in the end the robot girl plays a big part in saving the day ("It was the love of a robot that saved us," Jin explains to Ling) but really this is all about the three generations of Mishima men beating the piss out of each other. Also they can transform into devils.

The battle sequences were good. They were adequate. They suffer from this modern notion that a fight has to be baffling and impossible to follow. That fists and kicks and throws have to happen so fast no one knows who threw it or, god forbid, who's winning the fight. This is why I returned Marvel Vs. Capcom  after playing it for a week. Call me old fashioned, but if I'm winning a fight I want to know it! There were some cool moments, of course, but I never felt like too much was at stake.

The music throughout the film was good. It leaned a little toward the industrial side of things from time to time, but it was still fairly exciting. And it should be, it was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the guy who made game music for everything from Ogre Battle to Final Fantasy Tactics.

The visuals were very good. The CGI was crisp and clean looking, and most everything looked the way it should. The 3D, however, was incredibly lack luster. I'm sorry, but if you only play with depth of field in your "3D" movie... then it's not 3D. There were characters with chainsaws for arms, characters that shot lasers, characters that threw debris and none of it came out at the audience. The deepest 3D moment was when Regal Cinema's "Please Put On Your 3D Glasses Now" screen came up, and a pair of glasses floated out over the audience.

There's a specific problem with bad anime movies (and for all intents and purposes that's what this was) and a lot of Japanese pop-cinema in general. A bad live action movie from the West is usually just dumb. A lot of beefcakes smashing into each other or a romance that piddles. But when an anime is bad, it's not just bad, it's confusing. That's the main problem with this movie. It confuses where it should delight. Now, to be fair, I had no business going to see a Tekken movie (I was more of a Tobal No. 1 guy). I know I'm not their target demographic. But seeing as half the audience spent the whole movie laughing, I guess I wasn't alone.