What Is It?
Tekken: The Motion Picture is a 60-minute film that’s based on the video game of the same name. It was directed by Kunihisa Sugishima (Nabari no Ou, Speed Grapher), and features character designs by Kazuaki Yanagisawa (Shin Megami Tensei: If…). In the west, the film was released by ADV Films. As of publication, it hasn’t been re-licensed for distribution in the west.
Let’s see… video game show? Check. Something that merges 20 stories into an impossibly short length? Check. We’re already on a roll, folks!
That said, Tekken: The Motion Picture is an expanded retelling of Tekken 2. The story revolves around Kazuya Mishima, heir to the Mishima Zaibatsu, and part-time Vegeta cosplayer. With daddy issues. Really.
Seriously, though, when he was young, Kazuya was thrown off a cliff by his father Heihachi, and left to survive in the elements. Something about lions and cubs, and Shark Week. Anyway, Kazuya’s left to fend for himself, and feared dead, until he enters the King of Iron Fist Tournament that’s being held by the Mishima Zaibatsu.
At the same time, Jun Kazama, a WWWC operative enters the tournament with Hong Kong detective Lei Wulong. They’re not in it for the prize, though. Rather, they’ve entered to investigate a number of illegal activities which include, but aren’t limited to cloning, genetic engineering, and the creation of robotic supermen that will crush tanks with their bare hands.
And did I mention there are invisible dinosaurs? ‘Cause there totally are. Because Tekken.
No, really. What the hell is it?
Tekken was actually pitched as a pretty big deal when it was released. The film first hit North America in November 1998, about half a year after the release of Tekken 3. The dub was produced with a few of ADV’s more prominent actors at the time, including John Paul Shepherd (Mazinkaiser) and Claire Hamilton (MAPS, Iczelion). Possibly the most interesting thing, though, is the film’s soundtrack. Tekken employed a number of licensed tracks in its English adaptation, including The Offspring’s Meaning of Life, and Bonecrusher by Soulhat.
In short, this was not a cheap production.
Even with all of the flash and the attempts to make it into something more, though, Tekken was still just an anime flick based on a fighting game. Even worse, this “film” was little more than two half-hour OVAs spliced into one longer picture.
And, like most adaptations of this nature, the film suffered from a ton of systemic issues. The plot was nonsensical, the dialogue was awkward to a fault, and the characters were thinner than tissue paper. Motivations are never really spelled out aside from one or two main cast members, and just about every fighter seemed to need his or her five minutes of spotlight time.
While the dub had some talent behind it, its implementation was simply atrocious. The acting is inconsistent between characters, and runs the gamut from monotone to gratingly hammy. Conversations have little sense of flow, and it seems that characters talk at rather than with, one another.
Subtitle fans are in for a similar treat, as the film is dubtitled. Yep. Dubtitled. For the uninitiated this means that the film’s subtitles use the dub script. This means that, even though the acting sees a marginal improvement, the overall experience won’t change very much, and everyone gets to be unhappy. Hooray!
The character designs are ugly with little unifying style between them, and the animation is just plain stiff most of the time. To top off the shit sundae, the fight choreography is an absolute mess. The concept of pacing is nonexistent, and character movements are generally clunky and slow. The outcomes are predictable to a fault, and the very concept of an exciting fight is laughable.
Seriously, for a movie based on a game in which people beat the living tar out of each other, the fighting is just boring.
And you want me to watch this WHY?
Tekken is one of those films that defines the crappy cash-in. It’s that perfect storm of a massive license, a tiny production budget, and a western adaptation that just doesn’t work.
And, while the overall film is fairly dire, there are enough interesting scenes to give hope that things will improve. Really, the scene where Kazuya uppercuts dinosaurs to death is meme-worthy in itself.
Overall, though, it’s a title that manages to hit those rights notes of “so bad, it’s good.” The acting is just bad enough, and the writing is just the right brand of horrible that invites viewers to laugh and crack jokes through the showing.
When and how long should I screen this for?
Tekken is a fantastic middle of the evening feature, with a number of possible placements in your schedule. It’s a strong title that will work well before a palette cleanser, or before something like Wild Cardz or Knights of Ramune.
Length-wise, it’s best advised for the host to use his or her own judgment. Some crowds can see the film to the end, while others will be running for the doors by the midway point. If in the latter situation, start skipping ahead, and show the most absurd stuff, like Kazuya fighting the dinosaurs, and Lei getting his ass handed to him by a kangaroo.