My Recipe for a Good Live-Action Adaptation

For the past few years, there were several releases of live-action movies based on Manga, Anime, and Video Games. It has been a hit-or-miss opportunity for every production wherein big budget doesn’t always equate to a great movie. Here, I’ll try to give my two cents on what it takes to translate these media properly. Just a disclaimer, I didn’t graduate from a film or literature related course. These are just purely my opinion, and I based them on the live action movies that I’ve seen so far.

Resembling Cast

It’s one thing to give an actor or actress a make-up and hairstyle to match the character that he or she is portraying, and it’s another thing to pick a cast member who looks just like the character, effortlessly. The latter is quite difficult to fulfill, but when the production pulls it off, it will leave a lasting impression to the audience. One best example I can think of would be Christian Howard who plays Ken Masters in Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist. One look at the guy, and you instantly imagine him executing a Shoryuuken. Beyond the looks, the guy can perform martial arts moves that are convincing enough to emulate the reference character.

Speaking of martial arts moves, picking Takeru Satoh was a perfect choice to play as Kenshin Himura for the Rurouni Kenshin movies.  He’s a trained athlete, and he can do some insane acrobatics combined with elegant swordsmanship. You can see on his execution that he’s the guy for the job. Don’t believe me? Watch this video…

As for an example of a bad casting, you can look no further than Dragonball Evolution. Among other things that this movie had done, the casting alone was a complete mess for me. Watching on mute will leave you confused who’s who. Even Piccolo who can be worked around through proper prosthetic failed to deliver.

Loyalty To Story

One big reason that the fans got hooked with the source material was probably the story. There were events that made the series memorable, and they are looking forward relive these moments. Of course, there are parts that need to be changed or omitted due to the constraint that movies can only run up to three hours, but it should be done in a seamless manner. Kind of like what was done in Death Note. The events were modified, but it still made sense to the overall story. I actually think that the L in the live-action was quite smarter than his anime/manga counterpart.

Now, if only the Tekken movie did not happen. Seriously, the good plot of the video game franchise was murdered by this B-Movie.  The monumental moment where Heihachi threw Kazuya on the cliff was not presented, heck even the story behind the devil gene was not there. Christie’s not using Capoeira, Marshall Law not using Jeet-Kune-Do (Blasphemy!), and the list goes on. The only thing that the movie did right was picking Lateef Crowder as Eddy, but hey, that’s for the Resembling Cast criteria.

Familiar Cinematography

It’s an awesome feat if you’ll be able to remember that shot that exactly captures the same image that you’ve seen in a manga or an anime. Such moments will give you nostalgic fun. Also, if the director can get a clearer view of highlighting the character’s resembling features and skills, it gives the viewers the feel that this medium had been loyal to the source material. Take a look at Rurouni Kenshin (yes, I really love the film, and I’m going to cite it more than once). You can see from the camera angles how Kenshin’s speed and agility were emphasized with beautiful rope works that enabled the actor to lean, bend, and high-jump like the original character.

I understand that the filmmakers have a certain liberty to play with a franchise in the way that they know best. However, I believe that it’s just proper not to ruin that franchise with such style. After all, it was the stuff that the source material was made of that gave it its popularity. Disregarding these factors may prove to be disrespectful to the fans. I hope they will learn from the indie and Asian movie scene on how to do things right. ‘Til then, I recommend the following movies for good samples of live-action adaptations. Enjoy! (~^_^)~

Good Live-Action Movies:

  • Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy
  • Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
  • Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe)
  • Gatchaman
  • Shinobi (Live-Action for Basilisk)
  • Kamen Rider The First and Kamen Rider The Next
  • Garo: Red Requiem

Review – Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist

Whether you’re looking for an impressive adaptation of the Street Fighter series or just looking for a well-made action movie, you can’t go wrong with Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist. This is a web-series released in Machinima’s youtube channel which features the story of the students of Ansatsuken (Assassin’s Fist), the martial arts used by the flagship fighters of the SF franchise, Ryu and Ken. This originally started as a Kickstarter project until four private backers provided the necessary funds for production, in turn canceling the project in the said website. Don’t fret. It may be an indie production, but it’s properly executed and will make you wonder why Hollywood can’t produce such good video game movies.

Courtesy of hadoken.net

Story

Before anything else, I’m just spilling the general synopsis here, but if you don’t want to know anything about the story, then feel free to skip to the next section. The story revolves in two timelines, the story of the brothers Gouki and Gouken, who trained under Gotetsu-sensei, and the story of close friends and at the same time, rivals, Ryu and Ken under the guidance of Gouken. The timelines are shown interchangeably with Gouken’s training days as the flashback. The highlight would be the secret of the Ansatsuken and the events from Gouken’s past that somehow will cross the paths of his two current students someday.

If you watched Street Fighter Alpha Generations, then you’ll be familiar with the storyline. Nevertheless, this has more focus with the training days of Ansatsuken practitioners, providing you with a fresher look on the history of these iconic characters. The pace of the series is just right, and with the story divided to approximately 11-minute episodes,  you’ll always witness a significant event or revelation and an ending that will keep you hanging and force you to watch the next episode (in a good way). Each character had enough exposure to portray a rich history behind them as well as some inner conflicts that they had to face. Some cool back story elements that they tackled include how Ken got his flaming Shoryuken, why their fighting style had a hybrid of western boxing, and why Gouki had a kanji of Ten (which means heaven) on his back.Though this series is not canon, I like how they came up with the idea of adding these details without departing from the original source.

Cast

To be honest, I don’t know anyone from the cast, and the only thing I know about them is that some appeared in their proof of concept video, Street Fighter Legacy, which I saw during the time that they released it. The movie uses Japanese and English language interchangeably. Surprisingly, Christian Howard who plays the role of Ken has a very good Japanese accent. He even got the intonation correct when delivering the phrases. I can say that among the cast, he’s the one who had the most resemblance with the character that he portrays both in appearance and acting. I had some problems with the old Gouken played by Akira Koieyama since his English accent is quite hard to understand. There are moments where I wished that he just speaks in Japanese for the entire series since i don’t mind reading the subtitles. Other than that, he got the aura of a typical martial arts master that you see in martial arts movies. It is notable that Joey Ansah who plays the role of Akuma (old Gouki) is also the creator and writer of the series. His appearance is totally loyal to the source material and I believe they used a dubber that really matches the video game voice. It was fascinating to hear him utter the same words that you will hear in the actual game, especially the moves that he executes. All of the actors and actress did pretty well in the acting department. For the Japanese cast, some English lines may sometimes get in the way of their acting, but not too much that it ruins their character portrayal. Most of the parts where they needed to convey more emotions used Japanese language which I think is a good call. The actors seem to be really trained in martial arts. You can see from their stance that they practice the art. They are able to pull of above-average fight choreography in a satisfying pace. Even the special moves from the actual video game were justified in their actions.

Courtesy of eventhubs.com

Production

The costumes are well made, really loyal to the source material. Akuma’s overall appearance is top-notch. As far as I know, this is the first time that Akuma is included in a live-action Street Fighter, and they nailed it. The scenery is beautiful, and they were able to find a good dojo to shoot to. There are enough places to do a great fight, but the grasslands beside the river is my favorite. The only place that was off for the story would be the night club. Seriously, a town in the middle of the woods is acceptable, but a modern night club seems too forced. The fight scenes are well choreographed. It may not have the complexity that you’ll see in Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa movies, but it was just right in terms of speed and wow-factor, thanks to the special moves. The camera transitions did not hinder the action scenes which is a sigh of relief for me. This part is something that gets me frustrated when I watch western action movies. The special effects are also good. Considering that this is an indie production, the output is pretty decent. The graphics for hadouken were fantastic. I remember I had goosebumps when Gouken demonstrated his Hadouken to his students. The series used actual music from the video game most notably, Ryu and Ken’s theme in two separate scenes. It fits perfectly for fight and training scenes.

Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is a great treat for all the SF Fans and a good entertainment for those who are looking for a new action series. This is what a live-action adaptation of a video game franchise is supposed to be. Loyal to the source material, well-written story, and well-planned execution. Based on my research, there are possible plans to continue the series that will be based on the World Warrior storyline with Scott Adkins being considered for the role of Guile. If this will push through, then I can’t wait to see it. For those of you who haven’t watched it, here’s the link to the entire series. Enjoy! (~^_^)~