King of Fighters
Author: Rita M. Augustine
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:A mysterious group of fighters, vying for the “King of Fighters” title, have to band together when they discover one of their own has begun to kill warriors one by one.
Synopsis:MAI SHIRANUI, a gorgeous young woman, gets ready for the evening. After a shower, she puts on a Bluetooth-looking earpiece. The earpiece transports her to another dimension — the “King of Fighters Tournament” dimension, where she enters an arena to fight a huge man called MR. BIG. He’s a formidable opponent, and Mai suffers some intense damage, but she ultimately wins. Mai is transported back to her bathroom, as if no time has passed at all — except she’s bloody, bruised, and exhausted. IORI YAGAMI (Japanese, early 30s) shows up at Mai’s apartment and complains that she isn’t ready. He’s surprised that she was called up to fight but is proud that Mai’s advancing to the next round.
As Mai and Iori drive through Shanghai, they’re being monitored by CIA agent TERRY BOGARD. His superior, SMITHSON, calls to complain about Terry busting the budget on this operation. Mai and Iori arrive at a gala at the Shanghai Museum, celebrating the opening of a new Japanese treasures exhibit. Mai wonders if it’s safe to show the Yata Mirror, the object that creates and sustains the KoF dimension. CHIZURU KAGURA, mid-40s with a “panther-like physicality,” is the visiting curator from a Japanese museum. Iori knows her from the tournament. He introduces her to Mai, who recognizes her from when she was recruited as a fighter. Chizuru briefs Iori on how she’ll introduce him and his contribution to the exhibit — the Yasakani-No-Magatama jade necklace representing the Yagama clan, another vital component in creating the KoF dimension — and Mai asks about the “third” treasure, a sword. If Chizuru represents the mirror and Iori represents the necklace, where is the sword’s represnetative? Iori mentions the Kusanagi clan died out a decade ago and whispers that the sword on display is a fake. Chizuru explains the elaborate folklore of these objects as Mai, Iori, and the captive audience watch.
Two of the bouncers, KoF fighters, are killed. RUGAL, an enormous, dark figure moves into the museum. Everyone, including Terry and Smithson watching on the monitors, are baffled by this development. Alarms blare as Iori explains to Mai that Rugal was banned from the tournament. Chizuru fights Rugal as he disables the security equipment shielding the artifacts. Once Rugal grabs everything, he stabs her with the fake Kusanagi sword and she collapses. Mai stays with her while Iori chases Rugal. Terry chases Iori, but he’s cut off when Iori and Rugal move into a locked room filled with Chinese porcelain artifacts. They fight, and Iori grabs his necklace as Terry and his men pound on the door. Terry takes the sword and mirror and disappears into the tournament dimension just as Terry bursts through the door. Terry demands to know where Rugal went, but Iori refuses to say. Iori sees Chizuru’s blood all over Mai’s dress and asks if she died. Mai admits it’s touch and go, but she’s in hospital care now. She says Chizuru mentioned that the Orochi, a spirt that controls the KoF dimension, would “use” Rugal — to do what, she wants to know. Iori tells her the Orochi is locked away in the alternate dimension and wants to come to our dimension. He knows of only one way to stop it — the real Kusanagi sword.
In downtown L.A., KYO KUSANAGI (half-Japanese, mid-20s) hangs with his friends at a bar. When he sees two middle-aged men hitting on his impressionable friend, YUKI, Kyo assaults one of them, while the other breaks a shot glass and threatens to cut Kyo’s neck. Kyo disarms and throws the man into a glass wall, cutting his own hand in the process. As Kyo waits for a paramedic to help him, he realize he’s late, so he leaves without treatment. He drives a motorcycle to the Kusanagi Estate, a mansion in the hills. His father, SAISYU, lies comatose as Kyo reads poetry to him. The next morning, Mai and Iori arrive at the estate. Kyo’s asleep as Saisyu’s nurse leads them into the bedroom. Mai’s earpiece rings suddenly, waking both him and Saisyu — amazingly, Saisyu has leaped out of bed and is moving to attack. He fights with Mai, surreptitiously grabbing her earpiece. Saisyu rushes the three of them, and it takes the effort of all three to push him away. As he tumbles to the floor, he answers the earpiece, disappearing into the KoF dimension.
Saisyu and Rugal fight. Rugal kills him with minimal effort, claiming he’s saving him from the Orochi. Saisyu, dying, returns to our world. Kyo’s horrified. Saisyu whispers, “Stop Rugal.” Kyo questions Iori and Mai about this. Their answers confuse him, and Iori is surprised to learn Saisyu hasn’t told Kyo anything about the family’s KoF legacy. Enraged, Kyo throws them out. He notices Mai’s earpiece lying near Saisyu’s body. At a Shanghai hospital, Terry and his computer geek, MISHI, hack into Chizuru’s computer just as she regains consciousness. Terry explains who he is and what they know — everything about KoF — and asks about Rugal. Chizuru explains that the Orochi uses Rugal as a pawn to gain power, which is why they banned him from the tournament, but that obviously didn’t stop him. On the computer, Mishi learns everyone is now assigned to fight Rugal, and he’s killing each fighter one by one. Terry asks if they can cut off the signal to the earpieces, but she said they’re all independent of each other, tapping into the dimension rather than a computer network. Chizuru offers to put Terry in touch with the designer of their earpieces, but he turns up dead. The longer the Orochi keeps Rugal in the tournament dimension, the easier it will be to take over its body and break free of the mirror. The only thing that can stop it is moral strength and the Kusanagi sword — Rugal has neither.
Kyo visits his father’s grave and notices Mai and Iori spying on him. He gets the drop on them, ambushing them and demanding the truth from Iori. He blames Iori for Saisyu’s death, showing the earpiece as proof. Mai tells him it’s her earpiece and that Rugal killed him — just as he’s killing anyone else who responds to his calls. Mai and Iori offer to tell Kyo everything they know; Kyo offers the same in return. Iori notices some sexual tension between Mai and Kyo, and as he gets jealous, a strange, liquidy mirror substance envelops his eyes momentarily — the Orochi. After Mai explains everything, Kyo mentions he met Iori once before — the night his father arrived home in his comatose state. Saisyu had told Kyo about attending a special tournament, and that he’d explain all on Kyo’s approaching 16th birthday. He never got the chance. Instead, the Orichi enveloped Saisyu, forced him to tie up Kyo and drop him in the ocean. Kyo glosses over the details of his escape, only mentioning that he saw Iori and Chizuru standing over the water, performing a sacred ritual under the assumption that Kyo had died. Later, Iori stares out their hotel suite window with mirrored eyes. The mirror substance drains as Terry arrives and, after mentioning the rash of KoF-related killings, asks Iori, since he designed the corresponding computerized ranking system, to reprogram some earpieces so they can go in after Rugal. Iori notices two names on the ranking list — VICE and MATURE, two women. We see them readying for a real-world wrestling match when they both get earpiece calls. They go to the tournament dimension — but it’s a ghost town. Eventually, Rugal reveals himself, eyes covered with the mirrored substance. Rugal hands them the Kusanagi sword, and they try to fight him.
Kyo suddenly flashes on what happened to the real Kusanagi sword. Mai gets an earpiece call. Mai doesn’t answer, but it doesn’t matter — Vice and Mature are in the real world, working for Rugal and lurking in the shadows. Iori works on reprogramming the earpieces Terry provided him — he makes it work. Kyo and Mai fight with Vice and Mature, whose eyes are coated in the mirrored substance. Iori and Terry stumble upon the fight and join in. After they dispatch the two villains, Iori gets into an Orochi-induced jealous rage over Kyo and Mai. Terry calms the situation, introducing himself to Kyo. Vice and Mature return to the KoF realm, where Rugal tries to destroy the Orochi with the sword — realizing for the first time that it’s a fake.
Iori helps Kyo train as a fighter and harness the fire power his clan possesses within the tournament. Iori gets a little too emotionally invested in their mock-fights and admits that, at one time, Rugal had enough influence over him to allow the Orochi to take over. Iori fought it back, but he fears that because of the clans, they were born to be enemies. Kyo disagrees. They see a shimmer — and Rugal suddenly appears in the real world. Rugal wants the real sword. Kyo and Iori fight him. Kyo burns Rugal with a torch, causing mirrored liquid metal to cover his arm. Rugal crushes Kyo’s arm before the Orochi forces Rugal back into the other dimension. They take Kyo to the hospital, but while the doctors are away, Mai and Terry shove his arm back into the socket and Mai covers it with a strange herbal paste, completely healing him.
Iori catches Kyo and Mai getting a little too close and attacks. Terry tries to stop him, noting that Mai’s one of his agents. This enrages Iori, who suddenly believes their entire relationship is a lie. Iori activates the earpiece and disappears. Kyo dives into the ocean to get the sword. He brings it to Terry and Mai. Chizuru arrives in Los Angeles — turns out she’s Kyo’s aunt, shocked he’s alive. The four go out to an alley and disappear into the dimension — only nothing’s changed. They’re still in Los Angeles, invisible but able to interact with (and hurt) passersby, indicating the Orochi has nearly broken free. They all fight Vice and Mature. Iori keeps Kyo from getting to Rugal, while the others are distracted by dozens of Orochi-possessed zombies. Rugal shows up, fully covered in mirrored substance. Eventually, Kyo aims the sword at Iori, who remembers the good times with Kyo and vanquishes the Orochi possession. They all turn to Rugal, with the treasures in hand, and beat back the Orochi. They return to the real world, but Rugal does not teleport with them. They hold a funeral for Chizuru, who was killed in the battle. Mai goes to get a cake from the car; after a few moments, she honks the horn noisily. The others run to investigate, find the car empty and covered in Mai’s blood. He spots the same shimmering area he saw before Rugal appeared in the universe, knowing it’s not just a mirage.
Comments:This script is chock full of convoluted, barely-coherent mythology that bogs it down so much, there’s not a whole lot left to grab onto in terms of compelling drama. Every conflict reaches for an epic level of conflict and importance, but when you strip away all the goofy fantasy stuff, it’s mostly just petty jealousies and something resembling ‘roid rage, which makes the script unintentionally amusing when it’s trying to be deadly serious.
Probably the worst aspect of the story is the utter non-ending. This is not your everyday “set the stage for a sequel” final scene — this is a story that lacks resolution. It seems to resolve when they use the sword to eliminate the Orochi’s power and pummel the hell out of Rugal — but he stays behind in the other dimension, meaning the Orochi’s power will start to grow again. Meaning the story isn’t over, which is solidified when somebody (one assumes Rugal) grabs Mai and pulls her into the other dimension. It’s a ridiculous, frustrating cliffhanger that will leave audiences unsatisfied. The story could easily resolve while leaving enough material (like the Rugal red herring) to generate a sequel, so why keep the story chugging along, ending at what seems like a random moment?
The characters are quite inconsistent in their behavior and knowledge, and not just because of the Orochi’s power. Kyo knows nothing until the plot requires him to know something; Mai is revealed to be a secret agent for Terry, even though that adds no additional dimension or drama to either of their characters. Iori’s big, emotional change at the end is caused by the magical power of a sword, which weakens his character quite a bit. Early on, Chizuru mentions that moral fortitude can fight the Orochi, so why can’t Iori flash on Kyo’s kind words, without the influence of the sword, and motivate him to fight the power? I’m still trying to figure out what Terry and Chizuru really add to the story, other than exposition and token appearances by additional characters from the video game upon which this script is based. The others’ elaborate histories contribute significantly to the plot but never, ever add depth to the character. How does Kyo feel after being drowned and left for dead by his father and relatives? How did he work through that to the point that he’s supporting his father, sitting at his bedside every night? Questions like these have nothing to do with the plot, so they go unanswered.
The confrontation with Rugal is also a little bizarre. Thin as they are, the characters realize the Orochi controls Rugal — sure, he might be weak-willed and weak-minded, but he is not the problem. Yet, they spend the entire third act running around talking gleefully about how they want to kill him. Thanks to a few scenes demonstrating Rugal’s desire to fight against the Orochi, he unintentionally becomes the script’s most complex, interesting character (despite barely appearing in the story). All of these characters understand the difference between the Orochi and Rugal, so it makes their basic plan (“Kill Rugal!”) seem a little cold-hearted. None of them consider the moral complexities of the situation or try to find an alternate solution that would reduce the Orochi’s power and let them save Rugal. It’s one of the rare instances where it’d a ruthlessly evil antagonist would actually benefit the script.