Live-action videogame adaptations are a Hollywood punchline, and yet the industry keeps trying, bless their hearts. Tomb Raider is the latest example, and Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage will soon take its shot — neither are expected to shift the narrative.
Hollywood has produced dozens of live-action videogame movies over the years, but the industry has largely ignored TV, cable, or streaming as venues for this material. Why is that?
Limited budgets and lackluster visual effects are probably factors. Reducing the scope and scale of popular games like World of Warcraft, Diablo, or Destiny to small screens would require narrowing of storylines, characters, and settings to such an extent that the properties might be unrecognizable.
However, there is one videogame genre that seems ideal for TV: fighting games. Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter — long-running properties with devoted fan bases — are perfectly suited to the TV-Cable-Streaming mediums. These particular fighting games are pure simplicity: head-to-head brawls with flashy characters and flashier moves. Both properties have also taken their swings on TV in recent years (with mixed success).
Mortal Kombat: Konquest was a short-lived TV series in 1999; a sort of prequel story set in the videogame’s universe (it was not good, unfortunately). Mortal Kombat: Legacy debuted in 2011 as a YouTube web series and lasted two seasons. The latter was considered faithful to the source material, it also had reasonable production values and a recognizable star (Casper Van Dien), but it wasn’t much of an improvement.
Unfortunately, Street Fighter hasn’t fared much better on small screens.
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist was a 6-episode mini-series from 2014 that focused on the origins of Ryu and Ken, the videogame’s lead characters. Street Fighter: Ressurrection was a 5-episode mini-series from 2016 that expanded the roster and broadened the storytelling to focus on a crime plot… along with some poorly executed fireballs and other magic-ish moves. Both aired on YouTube’s Machinima channel, but neither really moved the needle in terms of validating videogames as viable TV series.
But as we all know, failure never stopped anyone in Hollywood. Drawing from that classic old chestnut: ‘so bad, it’s good,’ someone’s taking another run at bringing fighting games to life on TV.
Deadline is reporting that Mark Gordon of Entertainment One (eOne) has secured the rights to Street Fighter, and is planning a new TV series. Gordon has produced films and shows, such as Saving Private Ryan and Speed, Criminal Minds and Ray Donovan. He’s also hiring some of the folks from Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist to help realize his vision, which is interesting but not particularly reassuring. Then again, anything has to be a step up from what we’ve seen to-date. Right?
The new Street Fighter series will be based on Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, which was a videogame sequel itself. Several popular characters — Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun-Li — are expected to team-up against long-time mega-villain M. Bison and his Shadoloo crime syndicate. The concept sounds remarkably similar to the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie adaptation from 1994 — one of the worst movies of all-time (in my opinion), so they’ve got that going for them.
Gordon released these comments regarding his hopes and expectations for the show:
Street Fighter is a global tour de force franchise, having garnered immense worldwide commercial success and built a vast devoted fanbase that has only grown through its 30 year legacy… A particular strength of Street Fighter is the wide range of ethnically diverse characters and powerful women featured in the game. It will allow us to build an inclusive and engaging TV universe.”
Gordon brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the project, and he’s produced a bunch of high-quality films and series. So there’s reason to be excited (or at least cautiously optimistic). At this time no casting or crew has been announced, nor is there any information about a pilot, but we’ll stay tuned as this develops. A solid, videogame adaptation with compelling characters and action could draw a reasonable audience, depending upon where it lands — Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu would seem the most likely and sustainable destinations too.