In a world where movies based on video games are slowly becoming more popular, suffering from the same growing pains and overall terribleness of early superhero movies did. Maybe there have been some diamonds in the rough that could show: how to make a good movie based on a video game. Maybe in all the badness there is a hidden blueprint to turn bad into good.
We now come to the final of the Tekken films, Tekken(2010). It is unique among the films since it is live action and completely out of continuity. Tekken: The Motion Picture and Tekken:Blood Vengeance you could argue are adaptations or take place in between games. Tekken(2010) uses the trappings and characters of Tekken but transports it all to a dystopian future where the world is controlled by the 8 “Iron Fist” corporations, the biggest being the Tekken Corporation . This is actually not a terrible thing and perhaps the most interesting thing done in the movie. A quasi-unique setting still doesn't help that this movie is decidedly B level and has all the makings for an Mystery Science Theater 3000 video.
Now set in a dystopian future Tekken(2010) generally follows the story of Tekken 3, which introduced Jin Kazama, son of Kazuya Mishima, to the franchise. Living on the wrong side of the wall, Jin has to battle for survival by running illegal contraband to freedom fighters, who he doesn't really believe in. Other than the terrible environment he is a normal rebellious teenager who doesn't think Tekken is that bad. That is until the Tekken Corp. tries to kill him and kills his mother. No longer burdened by his mother's wishes, he goes on a quest for vengeance and enters the Iron Fist Tournament.
You can’t have a dystopian setting without some sort of rebellion or chosen one there to save the common man. The movie almost jokingly acknowledges this by referencing Jin as the guy who needs to stand up and fight every 5 minutes in the first part. (Un)Shockingly he becomes the “Chosen One”, after he defeats Marshall Law(Cung Le) he becomes the “People’s Choice” to enter the Iron Fist Tournament. Of course Jin doesn't really care to be the People’s Choice or Champion, he just wants to kill a Mishima. The chosen one trope goes really well with tournament movies but it felt like it was there since that generally goes along with these types of movies, not that it was important to the world or Jin. In the end Jin just walks back the Anvil and becomes a hermit, I guess. The fact he becomes the People’s Champ is paid lip service and nothing seems to come from it. Maybe if there was a subplot about the resistance it would make more sense or if Jin seemed to care. For how much I’ve talked about the dystopian setting they really didn’t do much with it other than using it for sets.
As far as martial arts and action movies go, that basic plot of revenge is good enough and it almost is here to. But Tekken(2010) isn’t just a random revenge martial arts movie, this is Tekken movie. With that name comes certain requirements, like the Iron Fist Tournament and crazy generational conflicts between father and son, as well as crazy characters with their own backstories. You can’t just do a revenge storyline and the movie becomes overwhelmed by the other convoluted stories found in Tekken. The use of the Iron Fist Tournament eventually gets lost and dropped towards the end with focus going to father son conflicts. The tournament is over matched by the necessary exposition to the crazy generational conflicts, which really didn’t require that much explanation. Towards the end the tournament just seems to be dropped in order to get to the climatic Kazuya Jin fight. What happened to the other fighters? We are shown a couple of fights but are never given a bracket or montage of rounds going by. Anna Williams is there and waves at the camera and doesn't really do anything other than that. Other fighters like Raven seem to become more important and then just disappear. It wouldn’t be that surprising if the there was 15-20 minutes cut from the movie.
Fights and fighting are the reason you play Tekken and is the reason you would watch a movie based on Tekken. Largely these fights are pretty good. It isn’t brutal Bourne style combat but works for the setting. Still Tekken(2010) manages to find a way to screw this, the one good thing up. About half way through the film the movie stops being Tekken, hand to hand combat no killing or weapons and becomes a mix of Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat with the inclusion of fighting to the death and weapons. In the names of raitings! It didn’t need these additions and stopped making Tekken(2010) unique. What really kills the fights though is the cutaways from the fighting. Seriously I don’t need to see the faces in the crowd,bar,fighters or anything else. If it isn’t a cutaway to the crowd it is Jin flashing back to some sage training advice from his mother. Or even worse we get flashbacks of the movie that happened not 5 minutes prior. The constant cutting away from the action messes up the flow of the fight sequence and hinders any attempt at storytelling with the fights. The way it is cut in some of the fights, choreographed by Cyril Raffaelli feels more like he decided that these moves would look cool and these would look cool but nothing really unifies it together. There is a distinct lack of transitions, the fights are just segments of moves that are kind of entertaining.
Fighting games have a very large and colorful cast of characters. They all have their own unique looks and moves. Tekken(2010) did manage to keep this uniqueness on both counts something previous films failed at. Those movies where animated though not live action. The costume design in Tekken(2010) looks like a bunch of people wearing cosplay. And not even good cosplay. They all look ridiculous as the act around a dimly lit “gritty” seta. This isn’t saying the movie needed some sort of Nolan-esque logical grounded reason for why Christe wears those pants or Jin’s power gloves but an attempt at realism would be nice. Did Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa really need to have Wolverine hair but turned up to 11? The juxtaposition between the colorful costumes and dim setting make this movie really look B level. Not the Asylum Films cheap CGI or the bad acting. The costumes make the movie look ridiculous.
Tekken(2010) did have an interesting conceit for the many levels found in fighting games. In the movie they simply project the environment around the arena and add bits of props. A nice homage at least.
Unsurprisingly the acting isn’t what I’d call good. It isn’t terrible but passable enough to make you not want to fast forward. Ian Anthony Dale is the most watchable thing on screen playing Kazuya Mishima as a mustache twirling (if he could) villain obsessed with taking control of Tekken Corp. from his father. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa knows what type of movie he is in, he played Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat, and chews scenery as the stoic, old world mysticism, Heihachi Mishima. Tagawa was very terse with his line reading constantly growling his lines at his son and anyone who will listen. John Foo has largely been a stuntman and he fulfils that part of his job well. The acting part doesn't go as well, Foo makes Jin appear to be meek and his quiet vocals make it hard to see how anyone would be interested in or able to hear him. Jin is a major character in the franchise and definatly not what Foo put on screen. The rest of the cast is largely ok they aren’t that important and there to just fill costumes in the end anyway.
Tekken(2010) offered some interesting ideas on how to do the tournament movie. The low budget and odd visual stylings make this movie decidedly B level. If someone were to say hey “They are making a Tekken movie” this movie looks and is what you would expect.