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April 30, 2012

Shadow of the Colossus: The (Awful) Movie

(The following is an old, old, old man file I had stored away on my laptop -- but the principles still apply.  Read on and let me take you back to the simpler time of 2010...only...remixed, with images and captions and on a blog now.  So...not really all that different.)

Lucky, or unlucky?  That’s the biggest question here.  On the one hand, today I don’t have school thanks to a pleasant snowstorm.  On the other hand, that gives me time to scour the movie channels for something to watch.  As fate would have it, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li happened to be on.  I knew from the instant I saw the sublime SF logo mixed with text so bland even I could generate it (or anyone with Word, for that matter), I wasn’t just about to view garbage.  No, this was a rare opportunity – it IS a rare opportunity, because as I’m writing this, I’m watching the movie in question.

Oh great.  Lana Lang is back.

Despite being a part-time follower of the SF mythos, I had no interest in seeing the movie when it came out a year ago.  I knew it’d be bad – a special kind of bad.  It seemed impossible for so many screw-ups to appear in such a short time span.  For exa-

Oh crap.  Vega just appeared onscreen.  Or at least, someone like Vega.  His mask is all shiny, he’s wearing all black, and memories of Vega’s ASIAN actor popped into my head.  And – oh boy, Chris Klein just made his first onscreen appearance.  “Call me Nash,” he says.  As in Charlie Nash?  Hell no!  You put on the glasses and throw a sonic boom, and then we’ll talk.

“You just inherited a big problem,” he says.  I lol’ed.

Better to inherit a problem than that forehead.

Anyway, if I remember correctly, the movie has seen little to no success.  Not screened for critics; a low score on Rotten Tomatoes; fan outrage far and wide.  But that’s to be expected from a video game movie, right?  I mean…

Hold on, this guy’s looking at pictures of Chun-Li playing the piano.  I just threw up a little. 
I mean, if you’re looking for all the consistencies and parallels between the TV screen and the big screen, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment; ironically, this is part of the reason most people go to video game movies.  They want to see their favorite heroes come to life thanks to a little Hollywood magic, but the fact that the genre butchers our favorite franchises so much is an insult.

“Shadow-lao?” What – what is that supposed to be?  And for that matter –

No.  No, let’s move on.  What’s really baffling is that, if the data is correct, the man behind this movie (20 minutes in, and I’m already feeling regret) is slated to do work on the sublime Shadow of the Colossus.  I don’t really understand it at all; is he hoping that by scripting such a young franchise – one that doesn’t have the brand recognition of, say, SF – that there’ll be some sort of cushion for an inevitable fall?

Wait, wasn’t Chun-Li just rich a second ago?  Why is she so poor in Bangkok?  Couldn’t she have just kept some money and converted it into their currency?  Or barring that, isn’t her money already good there?  Why’s she scraping for every meal?  And stop with the damn voice-over!

Argh.  I can see it now…the Shadow of the Colossus movie is already starting to take form in my mind.  Let the nightmares begin.

The tagline?  Don't Look Up.

The Story
Game Version: Stab the hell out of sixteen giant monsters.  Simple and clean. 

...Except when they spew their ebony tendrils of pure darkness all over you.

All right.  To be fair, there was a bit more going on at the time.  The hero, Wander, is desperate to save his dead girlfriend, so he travels to a mysterious land to revive her.  Unfortunately, there’s a catch: according to the god of the land, he has to destroy the colossi and release their power (even though he’s told straight up that it might not work).  For those who haven’t played it – shame on you – I won’t spoil the ending.  Let’s just say bad things happen.

The original story was simple.  Subtle.  It gave you motivation, like a parent kicking her basement-dwelling son out of the house, yet there was something more going on.  Gentle like a spring breeze, but at times fierce like a hurricane.

I mean, come on.  You can’t screw up a story that simple, right?  Right?!

Movie Version: Stab the hell out of one giant monster, and complicate everything else.

SotC is like the endgame of Jenga.  At its zenith, with no room for anything else to be added or removed from the tower; one wrong move, and everything tumbles down.  Arguably, if I know movie clichés, then the sixteen colossi (admittedly, a lot of monsters to cram into a two-hour movie) will be toned down…and then, oversimplified into a much-hyped David versus Goliath story.

So where does the rest of the story go?  Wander’s past, undoubtedly.  What was he doing beforehand?  What was his village like?  How did he grow up?  We’ll be seeing that before anything else, but the problem lies in the potential for…shall we say, creative liberties.  There’s no telling how far the writing will go to flesh out a needless facet of Wander’s life that we never even cared about.  Not to mention the potential for missteps. 

"Gosh, I sure do love living in an idyllic field!  TIME TO MURDER THE INNOCENT!"

Case in point?  The Legend of Chun-Li felt it necessary to give Bison a backstory.  Why?  I don’t know – just to piss off the fans, I imagine.  It’s not something the fans asked for, who logically should be the number-one audience; it gives Bison reasoning that doesn’t really matter in the context of the movie; we sure as hell don’t need any sympathy from someone who should be wearing a cape and flying around the room. 

Forty-nine minutes in, I have plenty of reason to stand up and walk away.  Turning Chun-Li from an Interpol agent to a piano player and altering her story is like giving a bitch-slap to everyone who’s ever worked on a SF game.  And on top of that, what was the point of the dancing scene?  Was that Chun-Li trying to look sexy?  Yeah, you’re really gonna turn heads writhing like a snake in a muumuu.  

Key Scene: Wander and his rock band bust into a high school and start smacking around the hall monitors.

The Characters

Game Version: Wander, the hero; Momo, his girlfriend, Agro, his horse; Dormin, the watchers; the colossi.  And that’s it.  You don’t need anyone else; arguably, the colossi are the stars of the show, so we don’t need any stupid humans mucking things up.  And the world – the world itself, just like with any good story, counts as a character.  Sure, SotC’s world is quiet, grim, and unforgiving, but it speaks louder than any talking animal sidekick ever could.

Or maybe he just blew out his vocal cords from screaming in terror.

And on that note…

Movie Version: Agro can talk, Wander meets a new female friend, and there’s a jackass general in hot pursuit of our hero.

I’m no expert on the trade, but I think movies as a whole have never heard the adage “less is more.”  More characters mean more dialogue that could add more exposition that moves the story away from the game world and closer to the movie world.  So keeping in mind the need for creative liberties (as well as cashing in on those who have never heard the name of the game), it seems fair to add as many changes as they see fit to the characters.  SotC was never really big on dialogue, which is probably the first thing the movie would try to fix.  What better way to do that than to make Agro, the near-constant companion, talk? 

Yes, he'll do nicely.

And for that matter, how many lines did Wander have?  You could probably count the number on your fingers – that’s probably a major no-no in Hollywood’s book.  So expect Wander to become ten shades of annoying faster than you can say, “I’ve got nothin’ to lose.”

I could talk about Bison, Balrog, Vega, and Chun-Li, but I won’t.  No, the grievous error comes from the introduction of “Nash”.  He adds little to the story besides more needless exposition (not to mention being cringe-inducingly annoying and an all-around offensive actor), yet he’s one of the main good guys.  And Maya?  Who’s that supposed to be, other than someone for Nash to suck face with and walk around in a bra?

Key Scene:  Wander and his sassy yet seductive new partner Tata, after evading a slew of jar-headed soldiers, fall atop one another in the forest.  Agro’s response?  “DA-YUUUUUUUUUM!”

The Action

Game Version: You do little else besides catch lizards, gather fruit, and the aforementioned stabbing of colossi.  And that’s all you really need.

This is their game, not yours.  They’re big.  Much bigger than you, and much stronger – some argue that Wander doesn’t even really know how to use a sword.  Adding more tiny enemies for you to fight would cheapen the experience, and lessen the appeal.  The colossi are a bunch of prima donnas; they don’t want to share the stage with anyone, even if more battles could potentially stop Wander from completing his shiv-happy frenzy.

Life is so much better when you're devoted to stabbing.

And the action itself?  It delivers exactly what it promises.  You get a sword, and a bow, and a horse, and your easily-depleted climbing ability.  They weigh a thousand tons and can stomp you, shoot fireballs at you, throw you into the wind, and shake you off like a flea.  You do the exact same thing sixteen times – but it never gets old. 

And with that in mind…

Movie Version: Fights are applied liberally to the original story.  Incidentally, Wander is now a shirtless, muscular sexcicle that gets muddy in every fight.

I should probably mention that by now, I’ve stopped watching The Legend of Chun-Li.  Can you blame me?  There’s nothing even remotely appealing about it.  It takes itself way too seriously – considering that the source material featured spinning Russian bear wrestlers, flat-topped air-slicing Air Force colonels, and a jungle survivor who turned green after eating too much chlorophyll.  It’s a degradation in every sense of the word, with no good story, no enticing characters, no emotion whatsoever.  But worst of all?  Most confusing, most impossible of all?  The fights were boring.  The fights were boring, in a movie based on a game that relies entirely around fighting.  How is this even remotely possible?  I watched every fight scene intently, yet I can’t think of a single awe-inspiring moment in any of them that makes them memorable or even different from one another, and that’s pretty damn sad.  Not even the inclusion of the famous Spinning Bird Kick made an impression.    Although all things considered, the tip-off should have been when Balrog fires a rocket launcher.  He was so eager to stay out of another bland fight scene that he – wisely – stayed the hell away and just blasted those fools.  (As a side thought: wouldn’t it be funny if Michael Clarke Duncan turned out to be a hardcore Balrog player?)

Or maybe he uses Sakura.  He could be in touch with his inner schoolgirl.

In an effort to bastardize SotC for the sake of profit, I imagine that the action will take the “more is less” mantra up to eleven.  The audience isn’t going to tolerate more than three minutes of Wander riding Agro to his next destination (although in an effort to add screen time, that might as well get thrown in too); they came for action, and that’s what they’re going to get.  Only not against a colossus; no, there’ll be fights against humans.  Puny little humans, grunts, mooks – and they’ll be going up against handsome and hardened warrior Wander, whose tattered attire gives way for a bare, ripped chest barely covered by a thin poncho.  It’s a sickening thought, but an inevitability; just as Chun-Li was portrayed by a svelte actress (though to be fair, reproducing those thighs is impossible without a little “juice”) to satisfy the paradigm of a thin heroine on the big screen, so too will Wander be transformed into a battle-ready beefcake who gets into fights  on a regular basis.  In fact, would it be so far-fetched to assume that the whole thing will be a send-up – read: clone – of 300?  People liked that, right?  Why not copy it?

And what about the colossi?  The real stars of the show?  They’ll probably talk too.  They’ll probably be either boorish and stupid, or talk in dense, incomprehensibly cryptic clichés.  And however many of them there are, they’ll probably go down after a minute or two of fighting and ten minutes of capturing Wander’s physique at choice angles.  Considering what The Legend of Chun-Li did to its source material, it’s safe to assume that the colossi won’t even look like their game counterparts…though that part will probably be dismissed due to the use of “high quality CGI”.

A leaked photo of the SotC movie poster.

I think we’re all in agreement here.  Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t need a movie, especially not one crafted so haphazardly as The Legend of Chun-Li.  It’s only inviting disaster – a betrayal of the gamers’ goodwill, a smearing of the franchise’s name, an affront to the audience’s intelligence, and many, many more.  It was a story that told itself, with little, if anything else to be added; it definitely shouldn’t be handled by some outside studio by an entirely different medium.  I’ll go ahead and keep my hopes up for now, but when the first trailer surfaces, I may have to go on a stabbing spree myself.

Key Scene: Wander slays the last colossus with thirty minutes left in the movie, then decides to go after general jackass.  The general rides a mini-colossus like a mech, and the two proceed to have a knife-fight.

[EDIT: Incidentally, my brother would get Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li for his birthday that same year.  It was pure karmic retribution.]

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