Don't give me the "it's escapism" defense. Escapism would be welcome. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is purgatory. It's not really even a movie. It's barely up to the standards of the narrative scenes between levels of a video game.
The success of the Street Fighter games already spawned one movie (a rather unequal showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia), but, in franchise terms, 1994 was a lifetime ago. This spin-off of sorts concentrates on the origin story of a supporting character. It might have been fun: Director Andrzej Bartkowiak's Cradle 2 the Grave shows a taste for absurdity, and his previous video-game movie Doom delivers shit blowing up at a base level. The Legend of Chun-Li follows the lead of Catwoman, Elektra and Aeon Flux by dropping its chance to create a female-led action film on a Grade Z script.
Things kick off when someone sends Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) the gift of a tattered scroll while she's backstage at her piano recital. She's summoned to Bangkok to learn to fight, and to protect her father's interests from a real estate developer.
The film's lack of personality means that viewers are always too far ahead of it. Even the fight scenes are an afterthought to paycheques. Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) introduces himself to partner Maya (Moon Bloodgood) with "Call me Nash"---a line that's somehow impossible to read in earnest. Still, Klein, with his grown-out and receding Nicolas Cage hair, and repertoire of coolest-kid-in-grade-six facial expressions, is charging this material for everything it's worth. By putting himself on the line, Klein understands that movies like this need to put on a show. Star Kreuk, by contrast, is a mannequin. She seems as bored by this movie as her audience.
Songs of broken hearts and first loves satiate the Jonas Brothers' core demo. But the band isn't true to adolescent feeling. There's a content void beneath its commercial shell. Watching Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, it's apparent why these three siblings are more pretentious than Hanson. On stage, Joe Jonas struts his Mick Jagger swagger, while brothers Nick and Kevin play their instruments dressed in suits and spray the audience with a hose, convinced they're giving the young girls who came to see them a rock 'n' roll experience. The songs have toe-tapping competence (though none are as infectious as "MMMBop"), but little mystery. The Jonases appear too sophisticated---they always seem to be speaking down to their fans.
Handsomely photographed, The 3D Concert Experience glistens in stage lights and the multi-coloured sparklers held by the crowd. The technology makes the show worthwhile for fans, despite the sound mix conceitedly allowing ticket-holders' screams to bury the music.
The cleanliness and refinement of the celibate act sells the potential of teen pop short. By trading fallibility for formality (excising the youthful excitement and fear of new desires), the Jonas Brothers never tap the passion of being alive.
For showtimes, see Movie Times, page 32.