Third Time's the Charm!7/10
I got to see this at the special premiere event held at select theaters across the US, and I'm glad I did! After one lackluster animated film and one downright disappointing live-action one, a film adaptation of the celebrated fighting game hits it out of the park. Rather than trying to force-feed the viewer as many of the 44-to-date major characters as they can while explaining the history of the King of Iron Fist Tournaments to people who may or may not have played/loved the games, this movie takes a different track. Focusing on a very limited cast of characters--yet a cast drawn from all the way across the history of the games--this piece tells a story which falls squarely within the universe of the games (as opposed to one merely "based on" them). Occurring between the events of Tekken 5/Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection and Tekken 6, this follows popular character Ling Xiaoyu as she is recruited by a powerful corporation to do some undercover investigation of a handsome high school student. Along the way, she encounters and befriends the quirky Alisa Bosconovich, unaware that she is on a similar mission--not to mention unaware of some other secrets Alisa is keeping. As the two work their way closer to the truth, dirty secrets, both little and big, about their employers are uncovered, and plots within plots lead inevitably to a generational confrontation which could potentially alter what it means to be human.
This movie has a fair amount of depth and character development. Thanks to the small cast, tightly focused story, and an understanding of what makes a good game as opposed to a good movie, the audience is treated to something special--learning who these people we fight with in-game truly are, and how they got that way. Characters were clearly selected because relationships which already existed between them could heighten the drama, or because they were foils for each other, allowing new relationships to form while informing the audience of important plot points. Don't get me wrong: There's plenty of action, and plenty of fights. Characters even use those wonderful combos players are so familiar with. The Nina/Anna encounters provide a deeper understanding of their relationship than we can get in-game--yes, even while they're fighting!--and avoids being reduced to cliche. And near the end is the battle royale that gamers all wished we could have seen at the end of Tekken 4, but the consoles lacked the power to make happen. It's glorious.
There are moments when it gets a bit campy, of course, but overall, the nice mix of characters, the nice mix of action and development, and the crisp, true-to-the-game visuals make this movie the unicorn of gaming: A game-based movie that's actually good!