One thing that can be frustrating to fans of the gaming world is that we have a severe shortage of film adaptations with any true value, or even any fidelity. The latter would drastically improve just with atmosphere alone.
Now, the best video games aren’t just addictive in concept anymore. They can have strong or interesting plot, epic orchestral scores, terrific voice acting—and thanks to technology—incredible graphics. And that’s going to change the way films are made. So let’s take a retrospective, since we have much to look forward to, as I list my top ten favorite video game films of all time:
10.) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
It’s a given that films based on video games are going to have loud, disconnected action. This is because there’s a huge gap from the engaging adrenaline of actually feeling in the middle of the given adventure and simply watching. Just watching gameplay can be dull, that’s why any show depicting it often has commentary as well.
This first selection in the list bears no exceptions to this rule, but because of its Indiana Jones style it doesn’t seem to feel the brunt of the crippling. The concept of time was again re-used in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, excluded from this list for poor acting and close-up slow motion battle. Where Angelina Jolie snugly fits into the role of Lara Croft as well as Matt Damon to Jason Bourne, Gyllenhaal hasn’t the proper charisma.
Moderately entertaining, this movie is the equivalent of a fireworks show, much like MichaelBay films. You turn your brain off, just sit there, and watch the big booms and dazzling effects. But this film also does the job well of at least attempting to smooth the barriers between live-action and video game, which all films in this genre are vexed by and in my opinion, hinged on the most.
Also, look for a cameo of Daniel Craig pre-Bond. How about that?
9.) Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
This is what I was just talking about. It completely abandons anything of the video games, but here I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the film as a huge zombie fan. So, maybe I’m biased, but even though this movie gets panned—a lot—it’s really got some intriguing action, and again, Milla Jovovich in a defining role whose ability to entirely distance herself from her actual persona into this badass type keeps you coming back.
There was a strange attempt to imply Alice was being controlled by Umbrella like a video game character, and her powers are really addressed a lot, but fun sequences like the infected dogs and birds hook me. As a movie-goer, and a zombie fan, I’m pleased—but as a gamer, yeah, that part of me is displeased too.
8.) Mortal Kombat (1995)
Here’s a guilty pleasure if I never saw one. This is the opposite of the above entry, here in total throwing out any possibility of attempting live action and relying wholly on nostalgia to fuel its plot (or lack thereof) by applying the main music theme and many of the characters in over-the-top and cheesy ways.
But the roster alone is enough to make you want to take a look. The movie also feels like Mortal Kombat, which is fair enough, but we realize that doesn’t really make for a very good movie. The only live-action adaptation is the far superior Legacy production by Machinima that blended story and gaming together almost…flawlessly.
See what I did there?
7.) Max Payne (2008)
This movie, well, there isn’t much to say. Mark Wahlberg plays a cop/criminal again, and to be perfectly honest it doesn’t really pull in either direction with the tug-of-war I’ve been talking about this whole time. It’s not a very good video-game movie, and it’s not a very good action movie, but it sits averagely between both. Sad to say, that’s actually better than I can say about the above films.
6.) Tron: Legacy (2010)
This movie astounded with a rather accurate visual effects face-replica of Jeff Bridges. But it made the mistake of thinking that the only thing that needed to be fixed with the original Tron was its outdated effects. It isn’t really based on a video game, technically, but it’s close enough.
Same will go for another entry below. But the truth is that despite all its cheese, it has fun with itself and doesn’t take itself so seriously. This way, we don’t either, and it makes the movie more enjoyable. Of course, (***SPOILER***) they decide to kill off Jeff Bridges and that’s a terrible, terrible idea. But the concept of falling into a video game world is just fun in concept, and that’s what makes some classic video games stick around, too.
5.) Silent Hill (2006)
Allow me to begin by saying Radha Mitchell is very good at what she does. She manages to carry this movie, which is only also improved by the atmosphere. Here’s another great example of a film that understands how to feel like its source material, the way Mortal Kombat influenced its movie. But then again we see that Silent Hill just doesn’t fit. It’s almost like videotaping a theatrical play. It doesn’t feel the same watching that recording. You have to be there.
4.) Resident Evil (2002)
Now here’s another movie where Milla is very comfortable with showing as much of her body as possible. Maybe her husband, the director, has a weird fetish. He’s also the guy that directed Mortal Kombat, above. How about that? This time he’s made a movie that despite taking a pounding critically, people watch anyways.
It was quite successful financially, actually. It’s likable and in your face with its blood. And over-the-top sci-fi clichés and convoluted plot don’t stop it from being a decent zombie movie with a delightfully strange story, which makes up for its lack of any real horror with heavy violence that entertains more than it bores.
3.) Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (2012)
Here’s Machinima at it again, outdoing studios with less money because they’re actually fans of what they’re dealing with. Let’s face it, everyone wants a Halo movie, and it’s really too bad Microsoft is too greedy. The financial cost of making the movie and paying Microsoft off wouldn’t even allow the studios to break even, so we’re left without anything. Until this.
While Legacy is an episodic, here we have a series that is one continuing story with an actual beginning, middle, and end, so it counts as a film. True, Master Chief’s voice is derpy in live-action, and Orenski’s shouts are just laugh-out-loud absurd, but with the real Cortana and stunning visual effects during its final climactic half hour, the film manages to put you inside the head of a real character and feel like the world of Halo.
It helps that the game is already very cinematic as is, with highly developed and intriguing cutscenes, a universe which has expanded beyond just the console. It’s easy to make Halo into a film, and Neil Blomkamp (District 9) was ready to direct. But since Halo will always remain in development purgatory, this is the best we’ll ever get.
2.) Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994)
Here’s everything Mortal Kombat wanted to be, albeit with animation. Still, this is an incredible work of art that includes a huge roster of characters who are all true to their game-selves, each likeable in their own way. Humor, great combat, and fair voice acting accelerate this movie far up this list, even though it’s never mentioned. Anywhere. I’m pretty sure not too many people even know about this.
But it’s a terrific representation of Street Fighter, both for the fans of its source game and Japanese animation. Street Fighter was always one of my favorite video games of all time. Favorite character? Akuma. Sadly he’s absent here. And when he does show up in a sequel later on, there’s much to be desired. But for now, everything you want from a Street Fighter movie is here. Unlike those awful, awful live-action films.
1.) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
This is it—it doesn’t get any better than this. I don’t know why it took so long for a plot like this to come around, but now that it has, it’s hit hard and it’s a home run. The Blu-Ray recently released, on March 5th, and it only proves just how visually rewarding it is in addition to a story that swells our nostalgia like few other things can.
The “Hero’s Duty” sequence is remarkable, and is actually the Aliens: Colonial Marines game I would have preferred. And likely, most of you would have preferred. The Go-Kart sequences feel so visceral and true to the game, and even quite better—which is unheard of in video game movies!
This movie may be based on a fictional video game, but all the generations are present and used in creative ways to create a plot that not only grows on you as it passes its first twenty minutes (which are very familiar) but has a wonderful aftertaste. The chemistry between its main characters is adorable and the massive collection of nods to games can go over even some of the biggest gamer’s heads just for references to forgotten classics.
Wreck-It Ralph is everything that fans of animation, fans of video games, and fans of movies want. It is the ultimate conclusion to decades of struggling to find the formula to successful video game cinema, and from here we can only move forward. And that puts a huge smile on my face.
So that’s that! The video game industry is one that moves fast, but in-between redundant releases, there’s memorable pieces of history that infuse with our very culture, instantly recognizable. It was a long way from the epic PC game MechWarrior with clans and punching a space bar for firing, to Halo 4—but the two crossed paths anyway.
Games are always evolving, and as they do, the movie industry more easily understands them. The two mediums are star-crossed lovers, and however many tragedies we’ve had (ahem, Doom? I’m talking to you), we’ve already got one classic in our hands. Things are looking good.
Thanks for reading everyone, and I’d like to thank the staff here at GotGame for allowing me to join their fantastic team! I look forward to writing plenty more for you fine readers and gamers. What are you still doing here? We have buttons to smash.