Follywood 2: The Gamening

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Our Jonny did a little piece about games wot are based off of films. I thought it only fitting that this be followed up with a look at some films which are based upon videogames. Yes, I cast the sardonic NGB spotlight on this much maligned trend of taking interactive entertainment and turning them into decidedly non-interactive moving pictures starring recognisable faces. This is a non-exhaustive list so I’ve grabbed some examples from both ends of the spectrum of game to film adaptations (which ranges from “terrible” to “alright” – there doesn’t seem to be an “excellent” on this scale for some reason):

Super Mario Bros

A goomba… aparently…

Arguably the granddaddy of game adaptations, Super Mario Bros is a bizarre film to revisit in 2018. Certainly a strange one when it came out in 1993, mixing dystopian imagery and dark subject matter with a confused looking Bob Hoskins and remarkably scene chewing Dennis Hopper, Super Mario Bros is actually a curio worth watching. The directors certainly had a very specific vision for this film that didn’t really fit in with the Mario ethos but what the hell they were going to do it anyway (seriously, go read up on the making of the movie – it’s entertaining in its own right) and what we get is just so… odd… that you just have to watch it. But not with your kids. I made that mistake and they now hate me.

Street Fighter

“I am getting paid for this, right” – everyone in this photo

AKA the one where they try and pass off Jean Claude Van Damme as Guile. I used to think Street Fighter was another watchable mess but, in hindsight, it’s really not. Garish and stupid, it’s claws clipped from a proposed R rating to a PG-13 through reshoots and rewrites, it shies away from actually using the characters from the game properly by removing the idea of a martial arts tournament, replacing it with some stupid and nonsensical plot about a world peacekeeping army (I mean, I know there were G.I. Joe Street Fighter figures in the 90’s but that doesn’t mean you have to turn the film into that) and another scene chewing turn by the actor playing the villain, the Raul Julia as M. Bison, arguably one of the best bits of the film, and it’s really not that great an experience at all. Another one to check out the behind the scenes stories for, though, and it being Raul Julia’s last film (he was suffering throughout the shoot with severe cancer and died shortly after filming) adds a definite tinge of sadness.

Mortal Kombat

Kano’s dancing class was popular among the Special Forces crowd

Now THIS is a true example of a guilty pleasure. Mortal Kombat is, objectively, a bad film. Choppy editing and bland camerawork clash with a script full of hammy dialogue, but the overall “Saturday evening TV” feel and faithfulness towards the source material make it infinitely watchable. It presses MOST of the right buttons, from Shang Tsung’s evil island lair, to our three heroes, Lui Kang, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, and even the concept of outworld and a cheeky cameo from Shao Khan at the end. It’s a shame the PG-13 rating led to a lack of the games signature fatalities, but overall this is one of the better game adaptations. We don’t talk about the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, though. Seriously. That is one baaaad film.

Alone In The Dark

Three actors trying to figure out where their careers have gone

Disclaimer: I have not seen Alone In The Dark and nor do I want to. Directed by German auteur and hack, Uwe Boll, Alone In The Dark is frequently listed as a terrible, terrible example of a game adaptation. Boll made several of these, tackling such diverse gaming material as House of the Dead, Far Cry, Dungeon Siege and Bloodrayne. They’re all low budget, gory affairs that bizarrely attract well respected actors. Seriously, Christian Slater and Stephen Dorff are in this one, Statham is in Dungeon Siege (called In The Name of the King for reasons) and Ben bloody Kingsley is in Bloodrayne. They were also all made to much make use of a tax loophole that Boll got into a weeny bit of trouble for. He doesn’t make films anymore because all his films are terrible and no one really watches them. He also punches critics of his work. Oh. So… Uwe, if you’re reading this, love your films. They’re awesome. Please don’t hurt me.

Resident Evil

Alice, what’s the matter?

Oh Resident Evil – first you giveth then you taketh away. Back in the late 90’s, the late great George Romero, the granddaddy of modern zombie movies, was planning an adaptation of Capcom’s seminal haunted house videogame. Aiming for a hard R, Resident Evil was set to be a genuine scare-fest and a return to the zombie genre for Romero. Sadly the film fell through (which, given the leaked screenplay you can read online, probably wasn’t a bad thing) and the Resident Evil movie we eventually got in 2002, directed by B-Movie maestro Paul W.S. Anderson, was a campy, flaccid sci-fi with vague horror tinges – I guess kind of like how the game series eventually became before the recent Resident Evil 7 set things back to the hardcore horror roots. Still, the film was hugely popular despite being fairly pants, and spawned a total of six sequels – it’s really the only game to film adaptation to have that much of a franchise. There’s currently a reboot in the works, produced by Insidious and The Conjuring bod, James Wan, so hopefully that can recapture some of the horror that made the best Resident Evil games the classics they are.

Silent Hill

This is why you knock before opening public toilet stalls

Ahh, here we are – one of the few game to film adaptations that I genuinely like. Silent Hill actually captured the feel of the games with some genuinely scary bits and a great cast including Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean and Laurie Holden, reimagining the basic plot of the first game but putting its own spin on things. It’s well worth a watch but avoid the abysmal sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation, even if it has got Jon Snuuur from off of Game of Thrones in it.

Angry Birds

Red realised, to his horror, that he’d picked the chicken sandwich

Another one I was genuinely surprised by, my kids had a lot of fun with this one. Spinning a story out of a game where you literally rub your finger across a touch screen isn’t likely the easiest of things, but the team here manage to pull it off. Sure, it’s crass and faintly ridiculous but, guess what – it’s a kids film. Right? I know, revelations, it’s not made for adults. Who’da thunk it. The humour is carried by its cast of largely comedians, with voices from the likes of Jason Sudekis, Danny McBride, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph and Kate McKinnon and there’s enough nods to the games to keep fans happy.

Assassin’s Creed

Fassbender gives his opinion on Days of Future Past

Oh dear. Despite having a fantastic cast and crew, straight off a highly praised film version of Macbeth, Assassins Creed somehow is one of the most boring films on this list. In a story that essentially remakes the first game but has strangely been made canon in the most recent entry, Origins, Michael Fassbender is a rogue assassin, dragged into the shady Abstergo corporation to partake in Animus experiments with the aim of visiting his past lives to discover… stuff. Yeah. In a case of art imitating… art… the historic sequences play out much better than the modern day sequences, but the editing is all over the place, Fassbender seems eternally bored, Jeremy Irons chews scenery as the baddie (again) and Brendan Gleeson turns up to say a couple of lines. It’s a hugely wasted opportunity.

Warcraft

Oops – looks like someone spilled Anduin’s pint…

Another one I genuinely liked, although it didn’t play particularly well with critics, Warcraft hits all the right notes for fans of the game, visually looks like it should and actually tells a great, 80’s style sword and sorcery story to boot. Sadly it looks like the sequel that’s teased by both the ending and the subtitle of “The Beginning” that it netted for it’s UK release will not come to pass. Director Duncan Jones has since moved on and is now prepping an adaptation of 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper (be still, my beating heart!) and left fans with the impression that studio politics were the root cause of the lack of a more immediate follow up, rather than the films performance. If you want a popcorn fuelled Saturday night fantasy flick, though, you can’t go wrong with Warcraft.

Tomb Raider

“Hold still, you’ve got a fly on you. It’s okay, I’ll get it off…”

Take your pick! In one corner there’s the effortlessly cheesy 2001 film version of the cheesy original games, starring Angelina Jolie, a pre-Bond Daniel Craig and Chris Barrie from off of Red Dwarf (?), while in the other corner there’s the super serious 2018 Alicia Vikander starring adaptation of the super serious grimdark reboot game. They’re both okay (don’t go near the 2003 sequel, The Cradle of Life, though) and have their own strengths and weaknesses, but I prefer the tone of the original over the somewhat flat reboot.

So, there we go! Videogames as films! There are many – some are terrible, some are not so terrible. There’s more than we’ve discussed here, too (Tekken, for example) as well as a number of animated films – shout out in the comments what your faves are!

Writes and produces films at independent outfit Shortorme Productions. Records music under the guise of Stage of History. Gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum. Always on the lookout for something new and fresh.

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