Tekken: Blood Vengeance (2011)
Animation by Digital Frontier
Tekken: Blood Vengeance is a new feature-length CGI animated 3D movie based on the popular fighting video game that screened around the US for one night only on July 26th. I haven’t the foggiest notion what anything in this movie had to do with the video game aside from it using recognizable characters from the game that frequently got into kung fu fights.
Rival clandestine organizations use a schoolgirl and robot disguised as a schoolgirl to go undercover at a high school to make nice with a handsome teenage boy who was involved in some sort of genetic experiment infusing him with something called the “demon gene” that has given him superhuman powers they all want. These organizations are run by another student experimented on out for revenge and a father and son destined to fight each other as all members of their family are destined to do because something about their bloodline makes them instinctively want to destroy one another.
I believe some variation of the line “I must end this bloodline” gets uttered about 5,000 times during the last 15 minutes alone.
When I bought my ticket for a Tekken animated movie, I never expected it to begin with a half-hour of high school hijinks or culminate with fighters transforming into sci-fi versions of “Devilman”, the emergence of a fiery Godzilla-sized demon composed of supernatural wood beings formed from the debris of a destroyed pagoda, and a dichotomized fembot pulling an Iron Giant after the tears of her human best friend magically recharge her power supply. I guess going to see a Tekken movie, I kind of expected a film based around a martial arts tournament like in that godawful live-action Tekken movie that just got dumped straight to DVD.
The movie opens as a busty blonde named Nina kamikazes her motorcycle into an 18-wheeler, blowing up a city highway overpass. Somehow she comes away from this unscathed. From the flaming wreckage emerges another woman, Anna, dressed in her finest Mata Hari wear and looking none the worse for wear. They fight until Anna’s soldiers force Nina to retreat. Anna cackles and explains how all of this was merely a distraction that worked perfectly. A distraction for what I do not know, and since the movie completely moves on without ever bringing up the matter again, I don’t think the people making it had any idea either.
Then we meet Ling Xiaoyu, a perky Chinese schoolgirl living in Japan (with no parents it would seem) who rides a panda bear and is secretly a kung fu master working for one of the organizations targeting that teenage lab rat. She is sent undercover to make contact with, seduce, who the hell knows, the young man and immediately befriends a strange classmate also smitten with the young man named Alyssa Bosconovitch.
Alyssa dresses like a cosplay courtesan and possesses a child-like innocence when it comes to understanding matters of love and friendship. Alyssa, naturally, turns out to be a transformable robot programmed by another clandestine organization also after the young man run by a former student Ling used to be friends with. Alyssa nearly kills Ling with a combination of robot fu and chainsaw arm blades. Their friendship only grows stronger from there.
Ling will turn against her employers to save Alyssa from them on the grounds that Alyssa is her friend and she owes her for saving her life. Convincing a “friend” with chainsaw arm blades to your throat not to cut your head off probably doesn’t exactly sound like someone saving your life to me. Except in the skewered logic of this wacky film, that’s exactly what it constitutes.
You want skewered logic? This is a movie based on a fighting video game that repeatedly has characters denouncing fighting. Figure that one out.
Two thirds of this movie is built around Ling and Alyssa’s relationship, and the last third keeps them mostly on the sidelines while three men who have barely been in the film yell at each other and fight non-stop. Then the movie just ends without really resolving much of anything. One guy is left standing, and a myriad of subplots are left dangling. Goodnight, everybody!
The longer Tekken: Blood Vengeance (which, for the record, contains no blood) went on, the more stupefying it became and the more convinced I became that the writer (“Cowboy Bebop” scribe Dai Sato) had no interest in making a Tekken and was merely experimenting with the forum to create an entirely stream of consciousness motion picture using every anime cliché he could cram into it short of tentacle rape.
Tekken: Blood Vengeance has to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen on the big screen in a long time, but that’s not to say I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was constantly laughing at the endless array of unexplained character quirks, muddled motivations, baffling dialogue, barely lucid plot twists, extreme melodramatics, gratuitous schoolgirl upskirt shots, and those peculiar moments where Ling’s behavior around Alyssa sure made it seem like she wanted to be much more than just best friends.
The animation may not have been on Pixar level, but it still looked fantastic and fully captures the kinetic action of the game’s fighting. There’s a third act three-way battle royal that is possibly the best animated fight scene I have ever seen.
On the other hand, the dubious English dubbed voices only further exacerbated how inane the dialogue was, most notably the character of Jin, a young Japanese fighter with an American sounding voice deeper than Michael Clarke Duncan.
I got the biggest laugh from any movie all year during a particular dialogue exchange punctuated with lines so unintentionally homoerotic it had every last person in the packed theater howling with laughter.
“You’re after my body.”
“You want me to unleash the demon inside of you.”
“I will take you both on but I know I won’t last long.”
Did I say unintentional? There’s no way the subtext of that dialogue was unintentional.
3 out of 5