The most popular fighting games among many fans are no doubt the Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Tekken franchises for their gory violence and stylized martial arts gameplay. Hell, they were so popular that they all got adapted to the big screen…with mixed to negative results. While many may look fondly back on 1994’s Street Fighter and 1995’s Mortal Kombat (for whatever reason), 2009’s Tekken is often forgotten about. And that’s probably for a good reason.
After the Terror War, several corporations rule over different parts of the world, with the most powerful being the Tekken Corporation. As entertainment, Heihachi Mishima (played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), head of Tekken, creates the Iron Fist Tournament: which is basically like modern-day UFC. Jin Kazama (played by Jon Foo) is a young man living in the slums who dreams of competing. However, his mom, Jun (played by Tamyln Tomita) forbids him from competing. After his mom is killed by a SWAT force, Jin blames Heihachi for the death of his mother and seeks to confront him by fighting his way up Iron Fist.
First off, the film looks boring. The sets are generic as hell, looking like a bland dystopian hell scape that has been featured in so many other films. Also the world must have stopped spinning in this setting because we never even see daylight once in the film. There is little distinction in locales and nothing that fits the franchise it adapts. No cliffs or volcanos for Mishima to be thrown off of, no old dojos, temples or ruins. There is an arena though, but that is basically it for shared areas. Uniqueness in general is pretty much absent in this film, unless it is taken from the games.
Speaking of the games, don’t watch this film with any real expectation of loyalty to the games. Those who have played the games probably figured that out with the plot synopsis but it still must be said. Unlike Mortal Kombat (1995), which is 90% loyal in its portrayal and even ended up having the games follow it, Tekken (2009) instead follows the games in costumes….sometimes. Jin, Heihachi (though not as exaggerated), and several of the fighters (Eddy Gordo, Brian Fury, Marshall Law, Raven (although he is in white) are quite accurate to their game counterparts. Even Kazuya, while having facial hair, honestly still looks the part. However, many others look nothing alike, like Miguel or Steve Fox.
Unlike Mortal Kombat (1995) and Street Fighter (1994), Tekken (2009) takes itself way too seriously, not including most fantastical elements of the games. The Jack Robots look like generic henchmen with Kendo masks. King, the wrestler in a tiger mask is absent, along with the animal characters, such as Kuma, the bear trained by Heihachi, the Panda, kangaroo and Velociraptor. Additionally, the Mishima family tradition of throwing members off ledges, and the “devil gene” causing Jin and Kazuya to turn into literal devil monsters is also absent. However, a post-apocalyptic U.S. corporatocracy controlled by a Japanese company rather than dozens of absurdly rich and powerful American companies is so believable; especially with the Mishima Zibotz–whoops, sorry–I meant the Tekken Corporation in charge and not sounding like someone using a Japanese word they don’t understand to sound cool.
One strength I will say is that Heihachi and his son Kazuya, the true villain, are good enough. Kazuya is a complete prick and Heihachi is an arrogant self-centered bastard. When Jin confronts Heihachi later on, rather than showing a remorseful side he is still an asshole. That is one of the stories’ best parts that feels the most like a Tekken film. However, the rest mostly plays like any story of its type. Jin is a moral hero, secretly part of a powerful lineage with an evil father. He has a film-only love interest back in the slums…while also having a love interest in the tournament. He has multiple family members and a mentor figure connected to one of his parents die. And he always is getting beat up before his mom flashback shows up so he can win the fight. This happens in EVERY ONE of his fights!
When Kazuya is shown to be displeased with his father, we all know what is coming next. The betrayal is accurate to the games, but is much less interesting primarily because unlike in the games. Heihachi goes down after around ten minutes, like any other fake final villain character. The game inaccuracy just adds salt to the wound as if they were more faithful, the film would have been so much more interesting, with the final fight being a three-way brawl that would probably have someone tossed off a cliff at the end.
For a film that’s adapted from a fighting game, the fight choreography is really monotonous. All of the fighters are supposed to have different and distinct fighting styles, however, they all fight the exact same way in the film. Jin Kazama himself is supposed to possess a unique fighting style based on his family karate, but he still fights like a standard kickboxer. The only fighter who actually fights differently is Eddie Gordo, who is played by Lateef Crowder, an actual Capoeira practitioner. Unfortunately, Eddie is only in one scene and he was quickly defeated.
This shouldn’t come off as a surprise to anyone that movies adapted from video games do not work, and 2009’s Tekken proves that. Unlike some video game films that, while still bad, are at least enjoyable, Tekken (2009) is too boring and lifeless, due to taking itself way too seriously. Honestly, a better Tekken film would be to just watch the game’s endings on YouTube, it would at least have some humor. Fans of the Tekken games, just sit this one out. I’d rather be kicked in the balls instead of watching this again.
Co-Written by: Owen Gonzalez