In the 1994 flick Street Fighter, we never learn what the "M" in M. Bison's name stands for. To me, that "M" means "Masterpiece." Why? Raul Julia's superlative performance as the lunatic dictator makes the film ever-so-watchable 16 years later.
Before I launch into my love letter to all things Bison, let's talk a little bit about Street Fighter, which is the big-screen adaptation of Capcom's arcade smash Street Fighter 2. In the game, a roster of martial artists compete in a global tournament for a semi-explained grand prize. Adapting Street Fighter 2 for the multiplex sounds like a no-brainer: simply mix a pinch of Bloodsport with the emotional theatrics of Over The Top, and slap in those Hadoukens during post-production.
Easy, no? However, the year was 1994, and Hollywood wasn't accustomed to making movies based on video games. Remember, few people saw the flamboyant failure that was Super Mario Bros., and the only people who saw Double Dragon were befuddled janitors who had no popcorn to sweep up during the film's credits.
Early video games movies drew heavily on science fiction tropes (i.e. alternate universes, genetic manipulation, apocalyptic scenarios) that had zip to do with the original games. For example, Super Mario Bros. (the game) was about a plumber versus a dragon from some mycological Narnia. Super Mario Bros. (the movie) was about the P.I. from Roger Rabbit battling a totalitarian T-Rex dictator. Similarly, Double Dragon (the game) was more or less West Side Story with lots of punching. The movie featured a battle with a mutant scrotum man.
These scifi trappings obfuscated the fact that audiences were watching gaming films. Remember, game films were still a novelty in the early 1990s. Gaming's prior overtures into mainstream media could be excruciating (there were also awesome moments; see Captain Lou Albano's PSAs). The science fiction window dressing gave game films the veneer of Hollywood legitimacy. You can see this trend today with board game movies — why the hell is Peter Berg's Battleship movie about an alien invasion? Ridley Scott's Monopoly movie was about parallel universe at one point. So yes, to go mainstream, 1990s game movies made their own bizarre celluloid mythologies.