The Legend of Chun-Li isn't just a movie, it's proof of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: everything can always get worse, even the Street Fighter movie franchise.
The Good Old Days, and The First Time This Has Ever Been Described Positively
Street Fighter was written off as the worst thing to happen to video games since the thumb-eating venereal spiders; but The Legend of Chun-Li was made to make sure we ended up like everyone else who insults Van Damme: in pain and regretting it. Legend is measurably worse than Van Damme's effort in every way, and I know because I measured the game, the movie and Legend in various categories. Also: I can no longer smile, and now think "action" is a noise people make when they sneeze.
Game: A Chinese expert martial artist Interpol agent
Movie: A Chinese television reporter
Legend: A Canadian pianist
In Street Fighter, Chun-Li pranced around like a seven-year-old pretending to hit people, giving her seven years more martial arts experience than Legend's Kirstin Kreuk, whose entire acting history of violent encounters is "wanting to sleep with Superman." While that does demonstrate incredible physical bravery it falls a bit short of being an Asian martial artist in important categories like being Asian and knowing martial arts.
She spends the first half-hour undergoing advanced Michael Jacksonification, morphing from an incredibly Chinese child to a skin tone that has only been achieved by Asians who are dead and under a flood light.
One of these kids is not like the others.
The script doesn't help, taking her to Hong Kong, Bangkok street markets and an Asian cyber-cafe where she's the only non-Asian person in sight, and a clear foot taller than everyone else.
Also: If you're casting Chun-Li and have to choose between acting and kung fu abilities, play the game. Compare the number of monologues and kicks to the face. In the game, Chun-Li can levitate while doing the rotating splits and kick you exactly one thousand times in two seconds. In the movie, she's a classical pianist, and there's exactly as much action as that implies. She throws punches like she's showing off a manicure and kicks like she's trying to shake tissue paper from her high-heels.
They'd have been better off if they hired a gigantic Russian man in a speedo--at least he'd look like someone in the game and be able to fight.
Game: Psychically powered crime lord travels the world collecting mortal enemies like Pokemon
Movie: Campy comedic actor with hoverboots demands Dr-Evil-scale ransom
Legend: The Lucky Charms leprechaun deals in real estate
Raul Julia acted like his whole movie was a pantomime and displayed so little knowledge of the game that he probably thought a joystick was something you rented from a Thai ladyboy. But at least he was obviously enjoying himself. Raising the total number of people enjoying the movie to "One," or "One more than Legend of Chun-Li."
If Legend's piano-playing Chun-Li was hit by a pussification ray, Bison seems to have been built out of spare parts from a vaginoplasty clinic. Neil McDonough is so unbelievably wimpy-looking; he played Bruce Banner in the 1996 Hulk series remake and a red-shirt in Star Trek, two characters who were specifically meant to convey the idea of "easily defeated wimp." The same insane casting director who hired a Canadian to play Chun-Li also hired a midget to play the final boss and told him to act Irish. There's such random nationality reassignment in this movie, you're half expecting Zangief to crop up chanting "U-S-A U-S-A!"
That little munchkin looks like he could be beaten up by his own wineglass.
McDonough's Bison is such an unbelievable pussy you couldn't even use him in a porno without adding two fire trucks and an explosion to balance him out. He's meant to be the ultimate unarmed combatant and the only people he punches in the entire movie are a chained-up secretary and an unborn fetus. This is actually smart since he appears to have mistakenly received all his martial arts training from a sign-language instructor. They use every trick they can to make him look threatening, from perspective shots to (I wish I was kidding) playing an actual tiger sound effect every time he does anything, but it's still about as threatening as a cuddle party.
Game: Authentic original language (in Super Street Fighter IV)
Movie: Jean-Claude Van Damme!
Legend: EVEN WORSE!
Van Damme's motivating speech is rightly famous, just as the Hindenburg is a well-known aircraft.
If accents were computer equipment Van Damme would be the world's most powerful electromagnet. But McDonough somehow manages to top him in every scene, remembering a different Oirish stereotype with each line, and mauling it with the fury of a thousand Hadoukens. He's about as Irish as the Queen setting fire to a the Guinness brewery and far less fun to watch.
What's truly tragic is that someone went to all the effort of teaching Kristin Chinese. She switches between location-specific (if appalling) Cantonese and Mandarin, meaning there were clearly expert Chinesologists on set but every time they said, "You know she's white, right?" they were sued for racial discrimination. Her tongue does more violence to the language in one sentence than the rest of her body does to anything else in the movie.
Game: Random collection of master martial artists
Movie: Random assholes with the same names
Legend: Random assholes
If your Street Fighter scriptwriter delivers a single character who isn't in the games, punch him in the face. I guarantee he won't know enough about violence to block it.
It's not like they don't have enough to choose from.
Street Fighter: Van Damme might have turned World Warriors into a collection of scientists and sound-men, but it at least remembered
A) to actually put them in the movie
B) to put Kylie Minogue in pigtails and a tight top, which to this day remains the only reason I let the casting director survive.
Legend introduces two new characters designed solely to piss the viewers off: one's an Interpol agent, another's a police officer--both things Chun-Li's character was supposed to be instead of a pianist. "Nash" looks like Danny DeVito's character in Twins, but if Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves were the parents. But detective Sunee manages to be the most distracting thing in the film. She's played by Moon Bloodgood, which adds inventing a Street Fighter character less violent than the actor's real name to the film's list of impressive accomplishments. Together they are the worst cops ever.
If she works the vice squad it's entrapment.
Legend also features Michael Clark Duncan as Balrog. You might remember him from the game as the giant boxer, a sport that if you'd recognize as relying on the ability to punch. Or you'd know that if you didn't make this movie, in which Balrog uses a combination of wrestling moves, shoulder-charges, pistols, the steel pipe from Commando and, at one point, a rocket launcher in a desperate quest to avoid ever actually touching someone with his fists.
While the filmmakers get every character wrong, Duncan's Balrog suggests that they were actually trying to get it wrong, possibly as a part of some large scale conspiracy to make the Mortal Kombat franchise seem not horrible.