Check out the trailer for upcoming movie The King of Fighters. The English film is based on a popular fighting game series from Japan. Directed by Gordon Chan and star Maggie Q, Sean Faris, Ray Park, Will Yun Lee, Monique Ganderton, Bernice Liu, Francoise Yip, Hiro Kanagawa and David Leitch.
I love watching film adaptations of video games, especially those that I am familiar with. Most of these films suck though; some are unwatchable for people who don’t know about the game(s), and a few are horrible even for a nerd. I have to keep my expectation low for a chance to enjoy the films.
This doesn’t look like the game
The King of Fighters (KoF) doesn’t look promising. The styling is way off to begin with; the actors look nothing like the characters in the game, not even close. It seems like a cheap effort.
This is how Maggie Q and Ray Park should look like, as Mai Shiranui and Rugal Bernstein…
The film may still do well in box office. The Street Fighter movie in 1994 was panned by critics but grossed US$100 million worldwide nonetheless. Street Fighter (SF) had Jean-Claude Van Damme as main lead though; probably not a superstar but still dwarf the KoF actors in terms of popularity.
Off course, not all video game adaptations are successful. The Legend of Chun Li from earlier this year is a bomb office bomb, among others, but that’s another story. Back to King of Fighters…
The cast is probably the lesser concern, as the KoF production background is a bit odd overall. It’s branded as an American film, but the main investor is a Taiwanese company, the director is from Hong Kong, and filming primarily done in Canada. Most (if not all) of the notable cast are North American-based though, so it’s not wrong to say it’s an American film. It’s just a very unusual combo.
Also, the KoF game is popular in East Asia but its global reach is lesser than SF, especially in western market. All these factors – the cast, production, and the game itself etc. – probably contribute to the fact that no major US film distributor has pick it up yet, and thus the release date is still pending.
Worst case scenario is straight to DVD, but I think it has better chance in Asian cinemas. The game is huge in Asia after all, and Maggie Q has some marketability in this region. Bernice Liu may bring in some fans too; she’s known in Chinese drama circle but only has a small role in this film.
Update and verdict
I am writing this update (context below) in 2013, after watching the movie on TV by chance.
The King of Fighters went direct to DVD in the US indeed. It did show in some Asian cinemas but didn’t perform that well. It’s also baffling that the film of this quality actually cost US$12 million to make (and promote), which makes this a box office bomb with a return of around US$2 million.
It’s a poor film, and the worst of all is that it really has nothing to do with the original video game.
While it’s common in live action films that the plot is not in sync with the game, the KoF movie is at another level, as the characters have almost no connection whatsoever beside the names. The styling and action choreography are way off, which is a huge sin from the fans’ perspective.
To be fair some of the fighting sequences are fine independently; director Gordon Chan is famous for action films after all. Just that most of those combats are not related to the game, and I can’t recall seeing any of the characters’ in-game signature moves in the movie.
And how difficult is it to make the costumes? I’ve mentioned this in the original post and extra pissed after learning about the production cost. Cosplayers have done it with aplomb over the years, but the filmmaker couldn’t manage it with a US$12 million budget? There’s no excuse for that.