English Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Following hot on the heels of TEKKEN, the live-action movie and TEKKEN TAG for Playstation3 comes TEKKEN: Blood Vengeance, the hugely anticipated CG animated feature film. Produced by the studio behind Resident Evil: Degeneration and based on an original story by the creators of Ghost In The Shell. Set in the TEKKEN universe with its rich characters and history, the story focuses on the hunt for the missing student, Shin Kamiya, the sole survivor of a twisted experiment to unlock the secrets of eternal youth. Join Ling Xiaoyu and her friends as they race to find Shin before anyone else from the Iron Fist Tournament.
Growing up, I never "got" Tekken. The game series from Namco always sat below Primal Rage, Dead Or Alive, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter (in order of unimportance). For some reason I lumped it in with Soul Cailbur. Never did figure out why. So when I heard of Tekken: Blood Vengeance, I was somewhat lukewarm toward it. Nothing will be more awesome in the realm of video game to movie adaptations than the first two Street Fighter films; Super Mario Bros. doesn't count because it's Dennis Hopper, end of discussion. Plus Mortal Kombat the films, urggh! Add to that my bewilderment at the fact that nobody liked Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within but that Advent Children is popular and, well, Tekken would have to impress the hell out of me.
To borrow a line from Roger Ebert from his review of Rainman (1988) "...I felt a certain love for Raymond, the [Dustin] Hoffman character. I don't know quite how Hoffman got me to do it." In the same way, I'm not quite sure how the Tekken movie got me to like it. Even if you've never played Tekken, the movie won't make you feel stupid for having no prior knowledge of the games. There is some exposition but it doesn't go overboard. For the most part if you come to story naive, then the plot is very briskly paced. Boom - there are two different groups at odds with each other in Japan, the Mishima Zaibatsu led by Jin Kazama and the other, G Corporation led by Jin's father Kazuya Mishima. Boom - one group decides to gain an advantage by sending in young, naive school girl Ling Xiaoyu to a Japanese school to search for a student named Shin Kamiya. At the same time, she makes friends with Alisa Bosconovitch. Boom - the two groups square off to possess the young Kamiya. And that's about it, really, in terms of what you need to know. After that, it's best just to sit back and enjoy the extravaganza.
Most CG features that come out of Japan, I tend to avoid. I don't know if it's just the way Japanese storytellers seem to value the spectacle rather than the story, but most of Japan's CG fare leaves me cold. Tekken, by comparison, doesn't get preoccupied with with how it looks. It's not so much that it knows it is CG, rather that the CG is a means to an end. Truth be told, I'm happy with that. The fights are fast paced, with the fight between Ling and Alisa and the fight between Ling/Alisa and Nina's team being standout moments. There is a bigger fight at the end of the movie but I can't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the hand to hand fights get slicker and and in the back of your mind you're thinking "Christ, they've been blowing s%$t up left, right and centre! They have to finish the movie with an all out balls to the wall fight!" Hint: they do. Tekken, which seems to revel in it's ability to blow stuff up, does not disappoint. When the first thing in the film that gets trashed is a fuel lorry followed by a sibling fist fight, things...can only escalate. Which they do, frequently. So think of Tekken as a Michael Bay film but without the pseudo-patriotism. Or the ridiculous, ogling sexism. In fact, now that I think about it, the girls in this film do most of the actual fighting. Or maybe the creative team wanted hot looking girls to fight amongst themselves? Maybe I'm reading too much into all this.
Acting wise, the Japanese dub is the stronger of the two but I still find myself chuckling along with the jokes (and some of them are bad, really) with the English dub. Stalwart Japanese seiyu Maaya Sakamoto portrays Ling Xiaoyu while Carrie Keranen takes her on in the English track. Of the two, Carrie portrays more spunk but Sakamoto has better moments when Xiao is being quiet. As for Alisa Bosconovitch, while Yuki Matsuoka is a great voice for Alisa, Cristina Vee beats her hands down. There's just something beyond energetic with Vee's performance. And I don't like most English dubs these days so this is saying a lot. In terms of hidden gems, I was elated to see Mary Elizabeth McGlynn playing Nina Williams. Atsuko Tanaka does a great job as the Japanese version of Nina but Mary Elizabeth just oozes that indescribable sexiness that only she can pull off. On the bad guy side, hmmm, Unsho Ishizuka plays a herculean voice of a bad guy as Heihachi Mishima while Taylor Henry gives all-in-all a good take on the character. As for the rest, they were good but nothing that I could comment actively on. OK, I will say that Lee Chaolan's voice actors Ryotaro Okiayu and Kaiji Tang are perfectly matched. The whole nonchalant manner in which he presents himself is very endearing.
All in all, I enjoyed Tekken: Blood Vengeance. It's a rip-roaring adventure story where the storytellers straddled the line between pathos and farce and for the most part, succeed. While a lot of the characters from the franchise are represented here, the movie is essentially about Alisa and Xiao and how they find common ground with each other and also how their separate view points, when combined, form the emotional core of the film and do you know what? I'm perfectly happy with that. It's the perfect antidote to Advent Children and the nicest way of getting into the characters without having to play an entire franchise. I can recommend this without hesitation for anyone who wants a good movie for a rainy afternoon.