The history of films based on video games is not a very happy or profitable one. Despite Hollywood’s many attempts to capitalize on the potential of this crossover market, it has miserably failed more often than not. For every success like the first “Mortal Kombat,” you have three times as many failures including “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” “Monster Hunter,” and “Max Payne.” The last few years though have seen a bump up in success though, thanks to “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,” “Rampage,” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” along with its sequel. So, in Hollywood, why not keep tapping that well with more and more games? How about “Streets of Rage?”
Yup, you read that correctly. A film based on the classic Sega franchise “Streets of Rage” is going into development with a script by Derek Kolstad, the creator and writer of the “John Wick” franchise. So at the very least, even though no one really asked for a movie based on this property, at least it’s being handled by someone who knows their way around an action film.
The “Streets of Rage” franchise has an interesting history though, largely because despite it being one of Sega’s most beloved franchises back in the early 90s, it was also completely abandoned by the game developer/publisher for decades. The first title was released for the Genesis (Mega Drive in Europe) in 1991 and was incredibly well received for its multiplayer beat ’em up gameplay and extremely memorably soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro. The follow up, “Streets of Rage 2” followed in 1992 and was even more positively received than the first. But then, after “Streets of Rage 3“ landed in 1994, that was the end of it.
Even though the third game wasn’t reviewed as highly as its predecessor, it wasn’t a failure by any stretch. For whatever reason, Sega just didn’t do anything with the IP. They were even approached by Core Design a few years later when the company wanted to license the franchise from Sega to make a sequel. They were denied and the resulting game was 1997’s “Fighting Force.” We still wouldn’t get an actual Streets of Rage sequel until 2020, a full 26 years after the last release. And for the record, not even this fourth game in the series was made by Sega. It took some team members from companies Lizardcube and Dotemu to ask Sega if they could license the property so that they could make the game themselves.
At the very least, they proved there was an audience for the game as the title has gone on to sell over 2.5 million copies according to Gematsu. Impressive as that is though, that’s hardly the fan base that Sonic the Hedgehog has. So while film production company dj2 Entertainment had that powerful branding and built-in fanbase with the blue hedgehog, Streets of Rage doesn’t exactly pack the same punch, even with a concept based on punching out members of a crime syndicate.
The perplexing aspect of this decision is how Kolstad has proven he can craft a world of his own with his own characters, as seen in “John Wick” and the Bob Odenkirk action film, “Nobody.” With that being the case, why tie him down to the Streets of Rage name, especially when the plot of ex-cops, turned vigilante who team up to fight a crime syndicate is generic enough to not need to be related to the game series. This is a case where name recognition may do more harm than good by constraining the story to be in line with a game that it really doesn’t need to have a connection to.
We’ll see if this project manages to get off the ground and keep you informed with updates as they eventually come in. For now, we can at least hope that it does the series justice, otherwise we might have to wait another 30 years for “Streets of Rage 5.”