TOP 10 Best & Worst Films Based on Video Games
A few weeks ago I was watching the series finale of Breaking Bad, which by the way might be the best TV series I’ve ever seen. During a commercial break I saw a movie preview for The Need for Speed featuring Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad) which is slated for release in Spring 2014. When I saw this, it had me thinking: What in the hell happens in any of The Need For Speed games that is worthy of using that title for a movie? But maybe it’s not a take on the video games… after all, that term “NEED FOR SPEED” has been around for a long time. But after some research, it turns out that this title is intended to be a game-to-move adaptation. A little odd. But oh well. We’ll see how it is. Aaron Paul is one hell of an actor and I mean that sincerely.
But now I’m curious about other game-to-movie titles and wanted to touch up on just a few. This list covers 10 of the BEST and WORST video game-to-movie titles ever released. They are in no particular order because many of them are up to interpretation as to how terrible or how “good” they are. Sometimes the worst technical movie could be really enjoyable to watch! Just read on and you’ll see what we’re talking about!
Mortal Kombat (1995)
This movie is pretty funny, even though I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be serious. My friends and I laugh over and over at the intro as they scream “MORTAL KOMBAAAAAAT!” over the New Line Cinema logo and then the wild and crazy techno music kicks in. It’s just… ridiculous. Mortal Kombat the movie is a take on the video game franchise from the early ’90s. The game was crazy, and I STILL remember the commercial of some kid’s mom forcing her son to eat soap for playing Mortal Kombat. That was all they needed to make us kids go crazy and try to plot a way to get our hands on $50 to get this game without our moms knowing! But what about the 1995 movie…
Mortal Kombat the movie is a loose adaptation of the game. The story is about 3 martial artists who are summoned to a mysterious island to fight in a tournament to save the world. The plot isn’t bad and is pretty entertaining, but why did this movie fail to really garner any positive reviews? Probably because of the mediocre special effects, embarrassing acting, terrible costume designs, and poor execution by the director and producers. The acting is just… atrocious. Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame is the lead in this movie. Rumor has it that Jean Claude Van Damme was handpicked for the lead role, but turned it down to make a DIFFERENT early/mid ’90s fighter game-to-movie title known as……… STREET FIGHTER.
Either way, Christopher Lambert is not a good actor. Neither is Bridgette Wilson (Billy Madison). The acting and the script kill this movie for me. I can’t take it seriously. SO… I QUIT trying to take it seriously and now I love this movie. It’s a pretty funny movie and great for laughs! I like the fight scenes, as I’ve always been a fan of the martial arts. Put Mortal Kombat on next time you have some friends over for beers. Just have it play in the background and everyone will share a laugh.
MORTAL KOMBAT ANNIHILATION (1997)
The sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, makes the original looking like Citizen fucking Kane in comparison. (Who the hell cares about Citizen Kane, I just said that because old people think it’s the best shit EVAR.) I actually don’t hate the first movie as much as some of its detractors, though I wonder why a franchise notorious for its blood and gore was given a watered down PG-13 approach. I mean I do get it because kids were the target audience, but I still think the idea is a bit strange. For what was a low budget film at the time, the acting could’ve been a lot worse, most of the special effects were handled realistically, and the fight scenes are all done very well. I thought they did a nice job at condensing and adapting the story line for film, and overall I’d actually call Mortal Kombat one of the better game-to-movie conversions. Mortal Kombat Annihilation (MKA) however, is a whole different story.
Robin Shou (the actor who plays Liu Kang in both films) signed a 3-picture deal, and from what I understand the idea was to tackle the first 3 games in 3 films; one is the tournament on Earth, two would be the Outworld tournament, and three would’ve wrapped up the story with Kahn’s invasion of Earth. For whatever reason, MKA decided to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. As a result we have characters flying in and out of the story, random entrances and even more random deaths, and a complete bastardization of the story line.
It’s obvious that MKA was attempted to please fans with the inclusion of characters such as Rain, Sheeva, Motaro, Ermac, the younger Sub-Zero, and Cyrax among others, but many of the characters serve absolutely no purpose except for the die hard fan (me) to quickly identify them before watching their deaths. Seconds after Rain’s introduction, he’s knocked into a fire pit (which incidentally is the exact same cut used for Baraka’s death later on); Nightwolf shows up long enough to teach Liu the animality to lackluster effect, and Ermac (I think) says something along the lines of “Kabal and Stryker have been destroyed.” The film is riddled with moments like this while we follow a disjointed journey by our “heroes of Earthrealm.”
James Remar gives an exceptionally awful performance as Raiden. Lambert injected some humor and whimsy into the role in the first movie, but Remar is constantly delivering lines about togetherness and hope and humanity and other awful shit. When he’s not handing out preschool ethics, he’s getting his ass kicked and flying backwards through walls. Some God. Shao Kahn is an equal disappointment; the omnipotent warlord of the games is reduced to little more than a brutish thug of questionable intelligence. The cherry on top is American Gladiator regulars Lynn Williams and Deron McBee as Jax and Motaro. In the original film we at least had some solid B-movie regulars like Ashby, Lambert, and Wilson, but MKA is filled with unknowns…and for a reason.
If you make it to the end, you’ll be treated to some wonderful surprises, particularly where it is revealed that Kahn and Raiden are brothers and their father is…SHINNOK. What the fuck? Sickening. Shinnok is the Luciferian ruler of the Netherealm in the games and none of this family shit is ever mentioned. In fact Shinnok has nothing to do with the events of MK2 or MK3/UMK3/MKT which is somewhat what the film attempts to depict. The games have such a rich mythology of their own that I can’t imagine why the hell the writers resorted to cheap plot twists and other nonsense.
Fuck this movie.
House of the Dead (2003)
I won’t bother going into as much detail about House of the Dead as I did MKA, because frankly it’s not worth it. House of the Dead stands as not only one of the worst video game-to-movie adaptations, but truly one of the most embarrassing pieces of celluloid to ever exist. The notoriously inadequate filmmaker Uwe Boll (known for the equally horrible video game adaptations Alone in the Dark (check out Kitters’ assessment below) and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale) churned out his finest scrap of cinematic garbage back in 2003. This guy has some serious issues. It seems he actually believes he’s creating watchable films with the strictest adherence to their gaming source material that should more than please serious fans of said games.
I got interested in zombie films before the mainstream latched on, probably 10 to 12 years ago, around the time House of the Dead was released theatrically. At the time, us zombie fans were generally limited to the most low budget of low budget films, and indeed had to dig around first in the 80’s (Return of the Living Dead, Video Dead, Dead and Buried), then make our way to Italian flicks (Fulci, Argento), and eventually hunt everywhere in between before making our way to zombie-ish creatures (Frankenstein) and then tackling horror as whole from the genre’s first film in 1919 (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) and the eerie and unsettling origins in the silent 20’s (Nosferatu, The Golem), to the Universal films of the 30’s and 40’s (think Lugosi, Karloff, Rains, Cheney Jr.), up through Hammer’s productions in the 50’s and 60’s (Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), on into the slashers, revenge flicks, and other monster-less malevolence of 70’s gore (early Craven and Carpenter; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), right up to the franchises of the 80’s (Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, Child’s Play) that would survive for a decade or more on the fringe of popular culture. Before post-ironic drivel like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland had ingratiated themselves into the mainstream, I was busy uncovering Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Cemetery Man, Shatter Dead (easily some of the sickest shit you’ll ever see, well, along with Troma’s Unspeakable) , and the limited edition coffin-shaped box set of The Blind Dead quadrilogy. Fuck you if you don’t know that shit and tell everyone you’re a fan of zombies. I’ve seen Buttcrack, have you? Hell, I fucking own Buttcrack! I’ve got CHUD II: Bud the Chud on a Region 2 DVD for christ’s sake, and a hacked region-free DVD player to watch it on!
That was all relatively elitist, self-aggrandizing, and snobbish, but my point is that in the early 2000’s, there just weren’t a plethora of zombie movies being made with moderate budgets anywhere even near the major studios. So when House of the Dead hit DVD, it didn’t take me long to check it out. The plot is mostly formulaic with more holes than Uwe Boll’s head. Nothing much sets this movie apart from the countless other horror movies with slick cover art and budgets less than a year of my college tuition, except that sequences from the fucking video game are actually spliced into the live action footage. Seriously, one minute everyone is fighting or dying or whatever and the next you’ll see a quick clip of good ol’ 6th generation FPS. This goes on, and on, and on, and on. It’s not even just a tasteless touch used once or twice, the film is peppered with these clumsy sort of fight montages with the video game mixed in. It looks like an 8th grade film project. It’s even worse trying to stomach this absurdity on top of what is already a remarkably bad movie.
Since House of the Dead, Uwe Boll has held such distinctions as being the only director/writer to ever have an online petition against him making another film. He got his ass kicked in some kind of boxing thing with a fan or critic or some shit also. Anyway, no need to even touch or get near this movie. It’s about as bad as horror gets, and if you know anything about horror, you know that us horror geeks have extremely low standards.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Based on the video game of the same name, Prince of Persia the Sands of Time is a 2010 action/adventure movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Sir Ben Kingsley. The video game was a smash success Ubisoft title in 2003 and saw a multi-platform release. Critical acclaim was high and this game is still highly regarded as revolutionary for its intuitive controls and wide open graphics. The animation, story, controls, and character-building are all highlights of the game as well.
For a movie to follow in its footsteps is a true challenge. Jake Gyllenhaal is a fine actor, notable in great movies such as October Sky, Donnie Darko, Brothers, and Jarhead to name a few of my personal favorites of his. Sir Ben Kingsley is most widely recognized for his truly unparalleled performances in the classics Gandhi and Schindler’s List. With the 2 of them leading the way, what could go wrong? Mainly the movie just cost way too much to make. With a budget of $200+ million dollars, they practically backed themselves into a corner and required considerable viewership to make their money back. I think they accomplished a decent amount with $200 million, but I think they could have done better. Most of it was spent on computer animation, which was absolutely beautiful.
So what went wrong? A mediocre, and often confusing, plot led to befuddled critics and lukewarm pre-release reviews. This led to subpar box-office sales, which left negative opinions about the movie before most people ever took a shot on it. I love movies like this. The action is great and the adventure is surely there! The traveling aspect is really great too. I enjoyed this movie for the most part and I can’t quite grasp why people were so negative and down on it. I mean, people outright bashed this movie. Mostly fans of the video game were pretty harsh. But as a stand-alone movie, it’s not the worst out there. Although Prince of Persia was a box office failure, it’s worth a watch at least once. You might enjoy it.
Street Fighter (1994)
After our brief hiatus from Mortal Kombat, I wanted to talk a little about the film adaptation of Street Fighter, a title that NerdBerry mentions above. Critics really disliked the film, but I loved it as a kid and still do glean some enjoyment from watching it time to time. Overall I think it does an even better job of succeeding as a film than its main competitor, Mortal Kombat. MK (the game series) relied so heavily on mysticism, magic, and other supernatural/extra-dimensional elements that it was difficult for a low budget film to effectively harness the essence of the games. Street Fighter, on the other hand, works well as it depicts a quasi-world war with a modern and identifiable setting.
I can’t say I’ve ever kept up with the Street Fighter story line to any appreciable extent, so it isn’t quite fair of me to comment on this aspect of the movie. However I do feel that the writers did a decent job of connecting all of the characters, be it canon or not. I think a few players are thrown into the mix with little to no development in a 102 minute film, such as the Dhalsim/Blanka subplot, the inclusion of E. Honda and Balrog as members of Chun Li’s news crew, and the almost negligible presence of T. Hawk and Deejay. Still, most of the combatants will be easily recognized by even casual fans of the franchise during the Street Fighter II days. Characterization is a little on the low side, but there is a clear picture of who everyone is, who they’re against, and how they connect to other members of their affiliation early on.
The martial arts sequences aren’t nearly as polished as those in Mortal Kombat, but what Street Fighter lacks in refinement it makes up for with variety. Less of the episodic nature of the Mortal Kombat tournament framework is used, and instead we have a fairly smooth narrative with generally appropriate ups and downs with regard to action scenes. Costumes contribute largely to the effect as well, and several characters are portrayed to a tee. Zangief, Sagat, Vega, and M. Bison look like they came straight out of SF II.
I don’t find Jean-Claude Van Damme to be a very impressive actor, nor have his martial arts skills ever particularly caught my attention. He gives a wooden performance as usual, but even if he was half-decent, Raul Julia completely overshadows any of the other actor’s contributions, giving perhaps one of the best performances of his career, and sadly, also his last. He embodies the hokey, over-the-top, yet also totally menacing style fit for any maniacal warlord. There aren’t many moments in film quite as awesome as Julia’s cry of “GAME OVER!” following what he believes to be Guile’s demise.
All things said, Street Fighter is certainly watchable and a decent movie in it’s own right, even if hindered by less than stellar performances and dialog that will take the paint off walls at times. It’s a great film to have on hand for anyone into mindless action or as an interesting way to recapture a sliver of childhood. And furthermore, any Raul Julia fan ought to see him as M. Bison at least once in their lives.
Street Fighter may have been an awful movie, but it was quite a profitable movie with a relatively small budget of just $35,000,000. That’s odd though because I figured it probably costs AT LEAST $5 billion dollars to get Jean Claude Van Damme in your film. But what do I know… I’m just a video game nerd. Anywho, the movie supposedly exceeded $100,000,000 in box office and video sales, so that’s a plus. Good for them. Good for us that they never made Street Fighter II Turbo or some shit. Like The Cubist mentioned, it’s not the worst movie ever and there is some that one can take away from it. I think it’s worth a watch every so often for nostalgic purposes or a good laugh.
ALONE IN THE DARK (2005)
Alone In The Dark – A Science fiction action horror film that was loosely based on Infogrames’ popular game Alone In The Dark. It was directed by Uwe Boll and stars Christian Slater as the supernatural detective Edward Carnby and Tara Reid as the scientist assisting him. The film was shunned by critics, and was a box office failure. It is often regarded as one of the worst films ever made. They are absolutely right too.
Okay now here are the similarities between the film and the game. The lead character is Edward Carnby. The game has an ending that takes place on the morning after and is open-ended, showing a mysterious cab driver pick up Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood and whose destination is unknown and then the film also has an ending which takes place in the morning when something mysteriously startles Edward Carnby and Aline Cedrac. The kidnapping of the orphaned children in the film is similar to the kidnapping of Grace Saunders from Alone in The Dark 2. That’s pretty much it.
Lastly I want to mention some of the Awards and nominations this film got, because it just shows how bad this movie is. For the ‘Stinkers Bad Movie Awards’ title of Worst Picture: they won. Worst Actress went to Tara Reid. The movie won the Worst Special Effects title. It got nominated for Worst Song for the song “Wish I Had an Angel” and Uwe Boll won the title for Worst Director (for at least the 67th time). Now for ‘Golden Raspberry Awards‘ Uwe Boll was nominated for Worst Director but didn’t win (John Asher won for Dirty Love). And Tara Reid again got nominated for Worst Actress but did not win (Jenny McCarthy won for the film Dirty Love). But this movie is hands down worse than Dirty Love! So it’s safe to say it was a bad movie, but the video game series were really great games that would make you freak out a bit.
Check out The Cubist’s review of the original Alone in the Dark for the 3DO!
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
This is one of those movies that I loved as a kid and I still think isn’t half bad! It’s just… not that… good. I think the concept of taking the most popular video game franchise ever and successfully making a live-action movie was an impossible task from the get-go. It’s guaranteed to piss off more people than it would please. Even if you had JJ Abrams directing! Okay, maybe JJ Abrams could do it… but ONLY him. Did y’all see what he did with Star Trek?! Anyway, I digress.
Super Mario Bros. stars Bob Hoskins of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame (can’t forget he played Shmee in Hook, either) and John Leguizamo (of, um, some sort of notoriety I’m not sure of) who play Mario and Luigi respectively. Together they have to fight their way through sewers and underground worlds in an alternate universe with evolved dinosaur-things (led by Dennis Hopper as the King Koopa man himself) to save the world from invasion and destruction. It’s a generic video game premise, so it is appropriate here in this movie.
The acting isn’t bad by any means. But the special effects are cheesy and the cinematography is questionable, at best. Some of the decisions made is really a joke. Just look at this picture here! Ridiculous! There are some decent Mario elements incorporated throughout the movie, but there’s just something missing. Something that makes this feel like an oddball sci-fi movie instead of a live-action video game about Mario and Luigi! There was so much more they could have done, but like I said before… It’s an impossible task. The expectations of the audience will always be far too high. The only way to successfully make a Mario movie is for it to be a cartoon and to be aimed at kids. I truly think that’s the only success to be had. The MOST successful way would be to make a 3D Computer Animated movie about Mario! Because then it would be the closest thing to the current video-game style.
That’s my 2 cents. I personally enjoy about half of Super Mario Bros., and the other half I’m just sort of scratching my head saying “ugh… what?” It’s worth a view though. Bob Hoskins is really one of the most underrated actors of the ’80s and ’90s. He does a decent job here. He could have sounded a lot more Italian though instead of being all New Yorkish.
Who can forget this pile of monkey shit? Oh wait, the entire world. That’s who. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m sure Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, would LOVE LOVE LOVE to forget about this title that just looks like a straight up doodoo stain on his resume. And Karl Urban? Who… are you…? Nobody cares about you. So whatever. This movie is just littered with wannabe nobody actors that you’ll hopefully never have to see again. Except for The Rock. I actually love his movies. But anyway…
In 2005, Doom was released with wide anticipation and equally wide disappointment. Doom is one of those games that lives on as a legend. A sort of Grandfather to 3D run n’ gun / action games. Even young kids today brag about the original Doom and try to talk it up like they’re familiar with it. But not that many people today can actually say they’ve played the damn game. So for some people, the movie is really just a horror / science fiction movie. And to be truthful, ALL MOVIES made after video games should be stand-alone and not have to lean on the video game franchise for the audience to understand.
In all truthfulness, Doom is not the worst movie ever made. In fact, from a technical standpoint, this movie does an OK job on all fronts and was executed fairly well. The problem for me lies in the script and some of the acting. There needed to be some more character development prior to the awkward brother/sister conversation where we have to listen carefully to really try and gather some feelings and emotions for these guys. The Rock is just, well, The Rock in this movie. His character is a hardass and he’s pretty ruff n’ tuff n’ stuff too. But whoever trained these actors to be the military soldier-types could probably have used some real military training himself. It’s not too terrible. And they probably had a military consultant on-board. But they could have trained the actors a little longer. That’s all I’m saying.
The script is sort of boring but it does borrow decently from the video game. The set is pretty nice too, taking advantage of dark lighting in a top-security laboratory to set the mood and ambiance of something bad about to go down. Of all the bad and decent things in Doom, the absolute BEST thing in the entire movie is near the end when the camera takes a first person perspective of the main character (Karl Urban) and he takes the BFG (borrowed directly from the game) and a chainsaw and starts blasting / sawing his way through this lab. The special effects in this scene are done quite nicely and really pay homage to the original Doom titles. I was extremely giddy the first time I saw this scene. This movie can be found on DVD at a real bargain price. I don’t think it’s worth a lot of money, but it’s worth watching for THAT SCENE alone. It truly is.
Other than that, Doom was a commercial failure and shed the supposed upcoming star, The Rock, in bad lighting. Fortunately for him he came out unscathed. I’m not going to say what I would usually say (which is: “stay far away from this movie”) because I think this title is worth a watch at least once in your pathetic little video gamer life. Enjoy, er, um, sorta.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Simple premise, right? Get some hot actress with big tits, put her hair in a pony tail, give her some guns, and BOOM! She is now an archaeologist… Or something. This movie adaptation is directed by action-movie specialist, Simon West (Con Air, The General’s Daughter, Expendables 2, etc). Based loosely on the video game of the same name, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The plot of the movie is entirely over the top and ridiculous. The planets are about to align or some shit, and some crazy society, known as the Illuminati, want some talisman that would give them the ability to control time. Too bad they don’t have the friggin’ key for this thing. But Lara Croft does. She found this key hidden in her mansion, and later discovers that her father (Jon Voight, who apparently is her real-life father too). Then boom. The Illuminati steal it and now she has to recover it to save the world.
Standard typical ridiculous storyline. It’s actually not that bad. It’s kinda cool. But it’s just a bit too much. And to make matters worse, you have to listen to Angelina Jolie’s mediocre British accent for 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s not that great. It’s not that bad either. Just like this movie. The saving grace of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is the special effects. There are some great action sequences and good computer effects. We can’t forget about Jon Voight, who is a great actor (unless he’s acting in a movie with Ice Cube and JLo……..). Check out The Deer Hunter from the ’70’s or the new Showtime original series Ray Donovan. His acting is masterful.
Overall, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider does a terrible job of following in the footsteps of the classic and revolutionary video game. The movie isn’t the worst, and would probably rate somewhere between 4 and 6 on a scale of 1-10. But it’s just… I don’t know. Hard to watch. I’m all about those tits though. “I need a cold shower.“…
Resident Evil (2002 – present)
Resident Evil has been a commercially viable film franchise for over 10 years now with a total of 6 movies and likely more to come. Although the series hit the scene before zombies became a cultural phenomenon, it’s still a pretty unsatisfying set of “horror” films. It’s been a long time since I played a Resident Evil game…I think it goes back to the PS1 maybe? Regardless, I remember the darkened corridors, lifeless buildings, and lumbering zombies. The game was dripping with atmosphere and is probably one of the first “horror movie experiences” I ever had with a game. Fast-forward a few years and we’ve got a film.
I don’t think I bit right away, but as I began gathering up what few zombie movies existed after my freshman year of college, this most certainly fell into my hands. At the time its action-horror hybridization was new to me; unfortunately it would become a genre I am now altogether too familiar with. Instead of the zombie outbreak happening amidst a group of unsuspecting folks, the audience is introduced to a team of commandos from the beginning. With uneven acting and a script that reads more like a goofy made for TV cautionary tale the horror elements that are present don’t seem to fit in well.
Much of the viewer’s focus is placed on the main character, Alice (Jojovich), who was created purely for the film series. Since Resident Evil she has played other similar roles in the vein of superhuman woman (The Three Musketeers, Ultraviolet), but something about her doesn’t connect. It’s obvious that the filmmakers want to sexualize her with all the tight clothing, but nothing could be more unsexy. Her character is supposed to be somewhat detached and emotionless, but it comes off as boredom. Its difficult to really root for her throughout any of the 6 films, and Jojovich can’t seem to figure out the difference between a badass and a bad aCTREss. Her performances become more stilted the more she strives for being an uncompromising savior.
I think these films might be a little more tolerable if it were someone different in the lead role, but even then it’s difficult for horror and action to effectively meld together. Neither element is addressed sufficiently and something about all these films always feels out of place and dreadfully artificial. CGI is used to a fault, especially when it comes to the organic process of decomposition. As far as I know, Resident Evil is the most successful film franchise adapted from a video game, but then again, look at the competition it’s up against; not necessarily a magnificent achievement.
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