Video Game Movies We Hate the Least
We live in a world where movie magic is constantly improving, and with that someone always starts to wonder what some of our favorite media would look like as a movie. There are plenty of successes where books and comic books are concerned. One only has to look at 2013 for a handful of examples. The prevailing loser of all adaptations, however, is video games. We can list about a dozen of bad video game adaptations (coughUweBollcough) just off the top of our heads, even more if we had a complete list in front of us. Why is that? Why can’t we get this sub-genre right?
Super Mario Bros. (1993), starring John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins, is significant for two reasons: it broke open Pandora’s Box and unleashed the possibility of video games becoming feature films, and it was universally panned. Out of so many video games, Hollywood chose the Marios. Never mind the high fantasy Legend of Zelda, which had more story by that time than two plumber brothers jumping and smashing their way through different worlds to save a princess. Whatever.
There are a few gems in the myriad of bad video game movies, though. They’re listed for the fact that each one is still pretty watchable after the first viewing, and that somehow someone understood the atmospheric tone each game lent.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Say what you will about this movie, but Lara Croft: Tomb Raider put video games back on the map for feature films. And if Angelina Jolie wasn’t on your radar before, she is now. The early 2000s marked a meteoric rise in the quality of film effects and over the top stunts. We can thank The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for all of that. And what perfect subject matter to use all of this than a globe-trotting tomb raider visiting exotic locales rife with giant stone statues coming to life to kick your ass?
Was the movie perfect? Hell no. The plot was barely cohesive, and you can tell director Simon West was trying to jam in as much imagery that the video game is known for than putting in an actual story. The emotional side that they did manage to squeeze in felt so ham-fisted that it just fell flat. Not even an actual father-daughter duo with Jolie and Jon Voight could fully salvage the dialogue.
Why don’t we completely hate it? The action sequences are top notch (bungie ballet fight!), Angelina Jolie still makes a perfect Lara Croft, and future James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, is in it. If they ever decide to revisit Lara in the movies again because of Crystal Dynamic’s reboot, we would certainly be the first in line to buy a ticket.
Silent Hill (2006)
Director Christophe Gans is a fan of the Silent Hill games. So much so that he approached Konami to request rights to make a movie. A lot of us were surprised by this movie. It contained several elements Silent Hill fans recognized. Fan service abound! But functional fan service. Gans’ passion for the games is apparent through the visual and artistic style throughout the film. The atmosphere he created just worked. Too bad for the clunky dialogue.
Aside from the spectacular and atmospheric visuals and creepy makeup, the violence was what really got to us. Dark Alessa unleashing literal hell on the citizens of Silent Hill in the church was so disturbing, you couldn’t look away. Rapey barbed wires are never a fun time. Oh! And we’re pretty sure this is the first (and only?) movie in which Sean Bean doesn’t die. His fate in the sequel is debatable.
Red Faction Origins (2011)
Red Factions Origins never made it to the movie theaters, but it did have the distinguished honor of being a SyFy production. Sharknado this movie was not. Thank the old gods and the new. SyFy is notorious for letting just any regular schmuck make a movie, even way back when the spelling of its name made sense. Movies or mini-series with decent production and acting are far and few between. Just off the top of our heads, we can only think of Tin Man and Neverland. Red Faction Origins has the prestigious honor of not only being a video we hated the least, but also a SyFy movie we didn’t hate, period. Sure its story of redemption is a bit formulaic, but it at least made you feel like you weren’t wasting your time.
Fans of THQ’s Red Faction series will be able to recognize the amount of respect the movie gives to its source material. Thanks to writer Andrew Kreisberg, the story of Origins was compelling enough to keep us engaged, and it ties in nicely with Red Faction: Armageddon. Like Silent Hill with its soundtrack, Origins takes certain elements from the original games such as actual game footage. Origins admittedly felt like SyFy’s attempt to introduce us to a future on-going series like with Battlestar Galactica’s feature-length pilot. Speaking of Battlestar Galactica, director Michael Nankin and composer Bear McCreary lent their respective talents to this adaptation as well.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (2012)
I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge Halo fan — I’m still not. However, Forward Unto Dawn got me to play pick up the controller to play Halo 4. Forward Unto Dawn also did not make it to theaters. Instead, it was presented as a web-series on Machinima Prime that was later turned into a feature-length direct-to-home video. The decision to highlight just the human cadets instead of Master Chief fighting aliens the whole time was a good choice. It lent more humanity to an otherwise standard war, shoot-em-up medium.
By this point, we’ve seen tons of live-action Halo shorts, each done with just as much superb detail and emotion as the next — our favorite being “We are ODST.” There are very few scrapes with this movie, particularly with the acting in the first half. That, however, changes as the film ramps up to dangerous levels and forces the actors to emote in such a compelling way that we can’t help but catch some feels. Forward Unto Dawn gave us all a glimpse of a great video game adaptation.
Okay, Wreck-It-Ralph isn’t really a video game; however! it’s a movie about video games. It also happens to feature tons and tons of classic video game characters and references, so it might as well take its proper place on this list. Some famous cameos include Bowser from Super Mario Bros., Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, Chun-Li, Cammy, and Blanka from Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Blinky, Pinky, and Inky from Pac-Man, the Paperboy from Paperboy, the two paddles and the ball from Pong, Dig Dug, a Pooka, and a Fygar from Dig Dug, The Qix from Qix, Peter Pepper from BurgerTime, and so much more. There’s even a Konami code reference — because what good is a movie about video games without the Konami code?
What Wreck-It-Ralph does so well (because it’s a Disney cartoon), is add an element that somehow hits close to home within its characters. In Ralph and Venelope’s case, it’s a couple outsiders fight their way to the forefront and come into their as fully realized characters rather than story fodder for someone else.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)
It’s not easy adapting video games, because for whatever reason, closely following the original storyline is hard to translate onto the silver screen for a general audience. But at least they have a more cohesive story than fighting games. Story in fighting games are like wisdom teeth: totally useless and downright painful. Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil movies) directed the first Mortal Kombat back in 1995, starring Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Talisa Soto. It was…okay for 1995. But it had about the same grit as The Super Mario Bros. movie, and that is a damn shame.
MK returned to the live-action format in 2010 as director Kevin Tancharoen’s proof of concept for a new movie series. The first official trailer came in the form of Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which was a seven-minute trailer featuring Michael Jai White (Bronze Tiger, Arrow) as Jackson “Jax” Briggs, and Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager) as Sonya Blade. The following year brought a series of webisodes, retitled as Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Tancharoen’s version of the franchise had all of our favorite characters, but with completely different origins. Each character was treated with a bit more realism than their video game counterparts — all things considered, it was for the best.
Legacy’s approach made each character and their respective stories more accessible. Most of the mysticism characteristic of the games was mostly stripped away to make room for grittier, more violent visuals. Youtube uses the PG-13 rating very liberally. There are still “F” bombs dropping left and right, blood and guts strewn about like a Peter Jackson horror flick (okay, we’re exaggerating a little bit with this one), and ultra badass fight scenes that should make any Vin Diesel movie sit in a dark corner full of shame. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out Season One and Season Two on Youtube right now.