Tekken: A Gamer’s Review of The Film

Reviews of this film have spread like wildfire online. From facebook statuses to actual article type reviews, they all seem to say the same thing: it sucked and it sucked HARD. Many were very disappointed with the film mostly on its less than believable interpretation of the popular video game.

So citizens of the internet, here is yet ANOTHER review of the failure that is Tekken. Will it be any different than the other reviews? I plan it to be. Instead of a wall of text worth of complaints, I will do my best to cite the good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, despite all, I still managed to see SOME good in it surprisingly.

To start things off, I will say this: I ALREADY EXPECTED THAT THEY WOULD TAKE MUCH LIBERTY IN THE STORY AND CHANGE IT. I was even expecting a mutant of a film that had no connection to the video game. It’s a given in the first place. So I won’t bother discussing such in detail. I might for a different article however. So look out for that instead.

Next, this is just MY opinion. It’s not the opinion of the website itself. So if you have anyone you want to dish out complaints on for saying these things, take it to me.

So now I managed to lay those all up. Let’s get the ball rolling!

THE GOOD


1. Keeping the setting: From the looks to the feel

Tekken, as we know it, is based on a futuristic world of anarchy and chaos. Gone is the safety net of world cooperation as the rules of international relations have long been challenged and reduced to ashes. It’s different now. It’s every man for himself as those with the upper hand continue to gather more capabilities (military, political and economic prowess) than ever. The world is literally ruled by ‘Tekken’ —an iron fist, of tyranny. To maintain peace and create a balance of power between the powerful entities, the ‘Tekken’ tournament is held. It’s quite ‘The prince by Machiavelli’ if you think about it. (Yes, I had to specify the book since if you look closely at Machiavelli and his other works, the Prince is just one of which he put forward. There is more to him than the Prince but apparently it became one of his more popular works.) Though the man never said it but some other bloke did to summarize Machiavelli’s popular book, ‘The end justifies the means’. In Tekken, this holds true as violence has become the ‘means’ of its participants to reach their desired end.

Did the movie retain that?

I’d say yes but they simplified it much. With reason too.

They retained the scope of the affair however they did not magnify it. It was only briefly mentioned, mostly in passing. Examples of this would be the mentions of the background of the current line up of world fighters for Tekken. The physical set up was also smaller. It was confined to an area which they aptly called Tekken City, where there was a physical separation of the upper and lower classes via a wall. The concept of separation of classes reminded me of FF7’s Midgar. It felt apt however limiting.

Another logistical cramping would be none other than the arena of Tekken itself. Instead of actual, physical environments, we have the use of 3D digital imagery and props to being the feel of such arena. Sure, it showed the low budgetness of the film, it also felt apt. I never saw the feasibility of how they could realize those fantastic scenarios—it’s expensive and stressful for fighters I can imagine.

I loved their slums. It’s such a decadent place to be: lowest of the low, dirty and so full of lawlessness. I know it’s such a minor detail but I felt the absolute detail to note it.

2. The Relationship Dynamics of Mother and Son

Despite its huge significance to the plot, it saddens me how the game did not bother to flesh it out. Like many Tekken fans, I find that this relationship is one of the cornerstones of the entire story. Without trying to state the obvious, it is true that without Jun Kazama, Jin would not be the person that he is today. Jun’s presence began to wane since her death but her son is her legacy so to speak. Through Jin, she is still very much felt. As a matter of fact, I still find people missing her, some even in denial that she’s gone and wish that she would be back in latter instalments of the game. Jun Kazama is a fan favourite it seems. (I’d like to think that this demand is partly the reason why Asuka Kazama was introduced and added to the growing cast of characters.)

Brief as it was, I found the scenes between Jin and Jun very meaningful and bittersweet—considering the fact that even in the film, Jun was doomed to die. I loved the interaction between the two; it’s as I expected in my head and I’m glad to be able to watch it. As expected, Jun is portrayed to be a fiercely protective mother filled with concern and has a peaceful nature. She made it a point to pass this on to her son, who she hoped would continue from where she had started and failed to accomplish. In the film, Jin does—just not in the manner she had expected him to take.

I enjoyed the continued presence of Jun in the film, whenever Jin found himself in a tight spot during battles. It meant that the woman made a lasting impression on our protagonist. Cliche as it was, at least I got the treatment I expected and had hoped for in Tekken 3. It added further humanity to the character of Jin.

3. ‘Heihachi Mishima is Dead’: Video game References in the film

Yes, there were many video games references done in the film. They were not ideally executed but they were there.

My favourite would have to be the ‘death’ of Heihachi Mishima.

BOOM.


‘Heihachi Mishima is dead’.

Definitely my favourite scene in the movie.

Reference in question: Tekken 5: PS2 Opening

THE BAD


1. Plot Simplification makes the plot… Uhh, simple.

I take it that this was done to reduce the expenses during the filming process. Also, such that non-fans would be able to understand the story and get a grasp of what’s going on. You have to admit; having to gobble up the circumstances of Azazel, the Devil Gene and Ogre in one sitting and cramping that up in a 90 minute film is going to be VERY challenging. It’s going to be a mouthful for the casual martial arts film movie goer without a doubt.

However, I felt that it was very poorly done. Many was left to implications and for the views to tie in together which I found very sad. Not everyone goes to movies to exercise their brains. Most do so to be entertained and have a good time. Sadly, brain exercises aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

The simplifications was so imple that it came of so…simple, in a truly bad way. This interpretation of Tekken is so cliché and haphazardly put together. Really, I’ve seen better revenge and father vs. Son stories in my lifetime, thank you very much.

I saw the attempt at the humanization of the ‘curse’ (Better known as the Devil Gene in –game). Instead of using supernatural means to explain and personify the darkness of the human soul, they made it circumstantial in the film. Jin succumbs to the darkness through his desire for revenge and uses violence as a meant to an unacceptable end: avenging his mother’s death by killing Heihachi Mishima, fighting fire with fire so to speak. I found the portrayal and descent to ‘evil’ badly done. It was too fast and was done without enough importance. THAT happened to be the highlight of the film for crying out loud! It’s what made EVERYTHING happen in the first place. The film should’ve done more than to breeze through it.

I mentioned earlier how the setting was kept however it’s limitations being a good thing right? Well, it’s actually a double edged sword in my opinion.

Lul. Tekken is in America. Wasn’t that in Japan? :’D

One of the things I LOVED about Tekken was how huge the world felt because there was so many of them: characters, fighting styles and scenarios. It was just one big, bad world!

Above: Heaven’s Gate from Tekken 5: Dark Ressurrection

Below: Tekken’s nod to Heaven’s Gate ‘The Japanese Temple’

But the movie…chose to limit the big bad world into a small, cramped up space. Despite my glee at how realistic it was, I was crestfallen at how small they portrayed the world. I didn’t mind the small cast, I expected that. It would’ve been hard to manage everyone—it would have increased the chances of more characters being ignored and overshadowed. (Remember the second Mortal Kombat movie?)

In game, Tekken was a product of globalization and world relations.

I failed to see that in the film. Not even in passing did they make an effort to express that aspect of Tekken. Personally, I believe that was what made Tekken…well Tekken. It was the vastness of the scope and how it encompasses everyone in the fictional sense.

2. Tekken, both as a concept and a tournament, felt pointless

Really it did. As I had mentioned earlier, Tekken was as means to create a kind of balance of power via through the rule of violence. Depending on the intentions of the one in power, it could turn out for the worse or otherwise. But beyond that, everyone in the cast had a reason to fight for with some not really that reasonable than most. But at least there was SOMETHING to keep them going.

The film failed to flesh that out well enough to give character to the cast.

Only a few intentions were focused on and briefly at that: Jin (revenge), Christie (honour) and Bryan (supremacy). Everyone else? I don’t know what they were doing there in the first place.

Not to mention I didn’t quite get how the match up system worked.

We had 10 competitors but only saw a few fights. We never got to see Dragunov, Yoshimitsu and Bryan fight but they managed to make it to the semi finals. How did that happen? Then Anna never fought but disappeared as well. I thought Anna and Nina despite representing one company were separate fighters. Did that mean that since Nina lost, Anna got disqualified too? Makes no sense I swear.

Feels kind of shallow that way.


Tekken, as a concept, is about the rule of power in its strictest form—as the story has shown through violence and domination. It lives by the age old principle of ‘The survival of the fittest’.

I’m sorry Tekken the film, but it is not a means to end the chaos as you say. How dare you let Heihachi of all people say it too! Like he would truly give a damn about that sort of thing.

The moment I heard the ‘real’ (as far the as film was concerned) I paled. D:

I have to point out that this is not just the mistake of Tekken but the mistake of many martial arts films out there. It does not sufficiently lay down the grounds for fighting. It loses its meaning and makes it nothing more than just martial arts fanservice. (which sadly it even failed to serve us)

THE UGLY

1. Poor Characterizations: Do I know your character well enough?

Let’s start with the cast and their acting calibre.

Save John Foo and Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, none of them looked familiar. Either they were new or have been around for quite awhile but never got big ticket roles. At any rate, almost everyone did not do a good job at acting out their roles.

I’d have to commend John’s efforts at trying to lead and keep the movie together despite the mess that it was. Sure we’ve seen better acting but he actually tried his best. Kudos to you. Though I personally believe that he makes a better Ryu than Jin.

Some people also gave out semi-racist comments stating that they should have casted actors that paralleled the nationalities of their characters to be more effective. Many commented how it was insulting to get John Foo and Ian Anthony Dale for Jin and Kazuya since they were ‘white boys’. Frankly, I don’t think that matters. I’m going to have to rebut that and say that it’s not a case of nationalities here but a case of better casted actors. Nationality may help but it does not necessarily equate to a better actor. A good example would be Robert Carlyle who is SCOTTISH but managed to play an EASTERN EUROPEAN to a T (to the accent if I must say!) for the mini series ‘Human Trafficking.’
Aside from the fact that there is no obvious parallel between the in game and film personas, that’s a given for video game adaptations in the first place. Don’t even bother telling me how different 2D is and 3D is because I know. That’s also a given too. (It’s hard to find exact fits of characters and actors in real life so compromises must be made. Sometimes it can be very far off at times.)

Another lul. Nina practices Aikido. Check. But Anna practicing Koppo? Something is very wrong here.

Beyond the look of these characters, allow me to look into the fighting styles of the characters—another distinction each character has that makes them what and who they are.

I take it that the reason why the choreo wasn’t so good was the lack of martial arts training from the actors? Maybe. I’m not so sure. But it was bad. Very bad. People don’t move that slow when they fight; even the most languid of martial arts doesn’t work that way I’m afraid.

Tekken goes MMA~!: L-R Kung fu expert Marshall Law doing a Belly to Belly Supplex with Jin during the Open Call fight in a cage. Sergei Dragunov, trained in military style sambo (which does not capitalize on kicks of that sort), doing a jumping kick, Capoiera champ Eddy Gordo doing a jiu jutsu hold after executing a capoiera kick to put Raven down.

Or if they did have some martial arts training, it wasn’t a fit for the role they were going to portray. I don’t know about you but Jin did more wushu than aikido and karate (the root forms of his parents’ fighting styles) which kind of bothered me in a way. It also bothered me that practically everyone performed a wrestling move despite their supposed backgaround. Then the one I had expected to do a wrestling move died too soon. (I’m looking at you Dragunov) AND OH NINJA NINA AND ANNA. I think I lol’d so hard there. When did a Koppo and Aikido martial arts fighters become ninjas? ONLY IN TEKKEN THE MOVIE!

Some info from my friend: when I was half ranting/discussing about my points for this article (I usually do that so I can expound on my ideas and get some second opinions), he theorized that the actors casted who were martial arts fighters did not perform the moves of their characters. Rather, they performed the martial arts they knew.

Case in point: Anton Kasabov who is a three time martial arts champion who practices Jeet Kwon Do. It comes as no surprise that he’d be really good at those jumping spinning kicks ne? (Pic taken from his Facebook Fangroup album)

I also didn’t enjoy the weapons time fighting for some characters. They didn’t bring out the best out of them at that time. If anything, it brought them down and didn’t even make the fight exciting. Heck, they were even using weapons that didn’t parallel their characters at all. Or they simply didn’t exist in the game.

Friends, in-game the naginata was a women only item. Sure men use them in real life as well however in video games where practically everything has meaning and is given some kind of subliminal message, it is definitely a weapon you give to women really.

So seeing a man use a naginata can feel somewhat wrong especially if it’s a video game or an adaptation of it.

The only person who had their martial arts change that I didn’t mind and ACTUALLY appreciated was Christie. Instead of capoiera, she did Brazilian Jiu Jutsu, a relatively new and popular mixed martial arts. I have to tell you, mixed martial arts also has its own category of sports competitions which are quite fun and breath taking to watch. If you guys have time to get off your computer games, look into it. Really worth watching I tell you!

I feel that if they were at least able to preserve the fighting styles of the cast, it would have been saving/good point for the film. Also, if they showed the characters pull off their signature moves. It’s a fight film after all: characters have distinct fighting stances, styles and moves.

So for those who watched Tekken even without knowing Tekken, I’m pretty sure they were not less than impressed with the awful martial arts. So yes, even as a martial arts movie, it failed to appease my appetite.

But alas that was not the case.

2. WHERE ARE MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS?!


I had no plans to address this but I decided to do so to suffice the rage of fans who felt that the cast was inadequate.

True that. But hey, low budget film is low budget. It’s hard you know?

But for those looking for Lee Chaolan, Hwoarang and Paul Phoenix , I actually found them in the movie.

Wait… WHAT. But they weren’t there!

…They were. However, they were fused with their anti-thesis characters in games thus creating the mutants you saw in the film.

Likes Chicks. Drinks fine wine. Hates his father for not letting him take over Tekken. IS THAT YOU LEE?!

Kazuya Mishima + Lee Chaolan = Film! Kazuya Mishima

Jin Kazama + Hwoarang = Film! Jin Kazama

Steve Fox + Paul Phoenix = Film! Steve Fox

With the loss of the supernatural circumstances that made Tekken, it lessened the need for characters as well as removed aspects of some characters. There was no need for characters such as Xiao Yu, Asuka Kazama and Julia since there was no devil gene in the first place. There was nothing to summon, quell and hope to get rid of. Etc. You know what I mean. Many characters were simply found to be unnecessary to the plot simplification and thus dropped.
For those lamenting the lack of parallel between the film and video game, kindly remember the plot changes also necessitated the change of characterizations.

The loss of the devil gene meant Jin had nothing to worry about passing on accidentally to any future son or daughter. Hence he had every right to be a tramp and fool around. Right, he even had a girlfriend waiting for him outside of Tekken city. What a shining example of hope you are.

So to answer the question of where they went, here’s your answer: THE PLOT ATE THEM.

3. …Is it me or there’s a possibility of a part two?

Past the credits for the movie, we find Kazuya escaping into the back after everything has been concluded. Then we are brought back to the time where a Jack (yes, that’s a Jack believe it or not) who is about to execute him and upon hearing Heihachi’s voice (I take it a voice prompt command), it stops and pauses.

HELL NO.

CLOSING

Considering the long line of video game adaptations and how they failed to appease the appetite of both video game fans and martial arts film enthusiasts. You’d think those who were behind Tekken would have learned from their mistakes and create something better from that point on. However, that did not seem to be the case. It’s such a shame considering that we’ve already had the Tekken: The Motion Picture which was an anime take on the events of Tekken 1 and 2 which also failed to appease the tastes of fans. It capitalized on romance and much plot than actual fighting. The plot was also very, very weak. Here we are again with yet another weak plot but with real people.

I will argue against people saying that the plot of Tekken to begin with is not strong enough for an actual film. it is actually one of the better structured fighting games out there. The plot of Tekken is rich with plotholes I agree but through time, consequent chapters and supplementary stories have managed to cover it up and managed to make the story so far make much more sense. Compared to other fighting games, it has depth and reason without being too cliché and easy to predict. I didn’t see the ending of Tekken 6 coming at all. If anything, I was quite surprised at how it turned out that I applauded the producers in my head for such a treat. So seeing how most non-video game interpretations of the video game barely reach the level of the game is very disappointing.

As a martial arts enthusiast, the film FAILED to make me happy. If anything, I felt that the choreo was weak. At least keep the excitement and awesome of the choreography then at least I could say Tekken is still worth watching for the fight scenes, alas that is not the case.

So what’s my verdict? It fails twice: as a video game adaptation and a martial arts film.

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