Video game movies are considered by critics to be the worst type of movie Hollywood can make. Need proof? It’s a tie between 1993’s “Mortal Kombat”, and 2006’s “DOA: Dead or Alive” for the highest rated live-action video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Both stand tall with a high (all things considered) rating of 34%. Yet as gamers we continually give Hollywood the benefit of the doubt, praying that one day they’ll get it right. But why has it taken so long to make a universally accepted video game movie? Is it because filmmakers lack passion for the source material? Or is it because it’s hard to translate tens of hours of gameplay, and video game mechanics, into a 90-minute movie? Whatever the reason, video game movies time and again fail to live up to their computerized counterparts. However, while this sub-genre has its fair share of stinkers (I’m looking at you “Street Fighter”… both of you), there are adaptations that actually resemble a movie. Keep in mind, there’s still hope with adaptations of both the Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed franchises currently in development. But until then, these are the best Hollywood has to offer.
The Rock, back when he could fit through doorways.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a bad movie, but I’ll be lying if I said it wasn’t a little fun. This movie is completely dumb, yet it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. When playing the games, who the hell cared about the story? It was all about killing genetically mutated monsters. This movie had to go through the motions of telling a story (if you can call it that) in the first half, but the second half played more like a video game. Literally. The protagonist goes into first-person mode and starts annihilating everything in his path. The only thing we could see as the audience was the weapons he welded. A very stupid, but bold move for the filmmakers, as a convention like that is better left in video games. On the other hand, they get points for creativity.
“Angelina Jolie: Womb Raider.”
Before “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”, Hollywood thought, and treated, video game movies like a joke. The budgets for these movies were non-existent, and they cast nothing but B-List actors and below. Then along came Angelina Jolie, and at the same time Lara Croft was the current wet-dream fantasy of every video game nerd. So, it made sense to cast Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in the big-budget adaption. They both had big lips & DD-sized breasts, but one was British while the other feigned it (at least she was better than Kevin Costner). The movie, though unbelievable at times, was done in the spirit of the games. The early games didn’t have much of a plot to begin with; they were mainly about exploration. This movie tried it’s best to capture that feeling, and could of done a lot worst (see the sequel).
I have a certain disdain for the live-action Resident Evil movies. The biggest offender has to be “Resident Evil: Retribution”. A movie that contained characters so wooden, you would think they were crafted by Tim “The Effin Toolman” Taylor. However, “Apocalypse” was the only one that tried the most to be like the games. Its story is a combination of games “Resident Evil 2” and “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis”, with some bullshit mixed in between. Everything was fine: Raccoon City was infested with Zombies, Jill wore her outfit from RE3, and Nemesis was an actor with heavy make-up (for the most part) and he said nothing but the word “Stars”. It gave the filmmakers a chance to right the wrong that was “Resident Evil” But they made the Alice character a God, and once she entered on a motorcycle through a church’s stained-glass window, it was all about alice and her abilities. This began the gradual progression towards a more action-oriented Resident Evil (the video games would soon follow suit). And for that reason “Apocalypse” and I have a love-hate relationship. Regardless, it’s the best one so far.
Yeah, okay, “Persians”.
Critics can say what they will, but “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is one hell of an adventure movie. Okay, so they cast Caucasian Jake Gyllenhaal as the Persian prince Dastan, but the filmmakers were trying to draw in audiences (especially females). The games were good, but didn’t command a following large enough to cast an unknown actor of Persian descent, so I for one forgive them. Aside from that, the movie was solid. Director Mike Newell brought the same professionalism and quality to this that he brought to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley lose themselves in their roles. And Gemma Arterton looks radiant whenever she’s on screen. The thing that bugs me the most is that people call this a failure. Really? Even with its $200 Million budget (Jerry Bruckheimer is an inefficient producer, I’ll admit), it’s $329 Million worldwide gross speaks volumes. And that’s not including DVD and Blu-ray sales.
Please don’t forget International Nurses Day.
Not only is “Silent Hill” the best video game movie thus far, it could also stand on its own as a pretty good horror movie. Everything about this movie is spot on; the atmosphere is picture perfect, the music is moody, the acting is decent if not good, and most importantly it sticks to the game. The story is influenced by the game, and while not as engaging, it does provide for some genuine scares, and wraps up nicely (if you ignore the sequel) without leaving the audience feeling gypped. I would say the best part of the movie is its monster designs. You have notable ones from the game like the Grey Children, Bubble Head Nurses, and of course Pyramid Head. And a few creepy ones created specifically for the movie like The Janitor. Some of the symbolism is lost, such as Pyramid Head being there purely to antagonize as opposed to being an incarnation of someone’s mind designed to punish them, but his real-life counterpart looks much better than his game version. Speaking of visuals, this movie is simply beautiful to look at; the transition from the normal Silent Hill to dark Silent Hill is amazing. Everything looks gritty and dirty, but in a good way. And I can only imagine how long it took to apply the nurse makeup to those actresses (who still looked sexy… What’s wrong with me?). Granted some of the monsters reek of bad CG, but you have to believe if they had a bigger budget they could of added a lot more realism to them. “Silent Hill” is far from perfect, but it stands as an example of what video game movies should at least try to be.
I wanted this list to include only live-action video game movies, but as a HUGE Final Fantasy and Resident Evil fan I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention these overlooked gems. “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” looks better than most CG animated movies do today, and it was created over 10 years ago. The voice acting is also top-notch, employing the services of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland, and James Woods to name a few. But the unlike the games, the story was pretty weak. Then again, each game in the series spans 60+ hours, so this was already at a narrative disadvantage due to time constraints. But despite its short comings in the narrative department, it’s hard to complain about anything else. Visually, this movie is a masterpiece.
“Resident Evil: Degeneration” is what the live-action movies wish they were. Familiar, faithful characters, an excellent setting, and a story that could be adapted into its own video game. Was it really that hard to get it right? The animation was fluid, the voice-acting was above average (no “Jill Sandwich” moments), and it really captures the feel of survival-horror. It’s not a great adaptation, but it comes extremely close. And it even got me thinking: maybe Resident Evil is meant to be a purely CG experience.
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