There are good comic book movies, and there are bad comic book movies. There are good Stephen King based movies, and there are bad Stephen King based movies. But when it comes to video game movies, there are bad movies, and mediocre, or passable movies. As years go by it’s becoming more and more acceptable for acclaimed directors to tackle the famously illusive genre. But video games do follow storylines, not unlike a book, and they have characters, and with video games becoming more and more cinematic, it’s only a matter of time before somebody makes a truly decent movie based on one of them. Perhaps it’ll be the next Tomb Raider film starring Alicia Vikander, based on the reboot series of games… only time will tell.
Until then, let’s take a look back at some of the best and the worst of video games on film.
ASSASSIN’S CREED (2017)
Dir. Justin Kurzel
We reviewed Assassin’s earlier this year, and the film sits high on this list because even though it was somewhat under par, the acting and effects were good, and as we said, the scenes that are set in the past are really breathtaking. There are people who hail this as the great video game movie, but we’re not them. The cast are good, and the ideas are all there, but doing it a bit better to the game next time would make it more enjoyable.
MORTAL KOMBAT (1995), MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION (1997)
Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson, John R. Leonetti
This is a pretty pants film, we’re not going to lie to you, but you cannot fault that epic theme tune. It’s become the laser tag anthem of the world and still manages to find it’s way into bad nightclubs, most weddings and bold funerals. Christopher Lambert, he of Highlander fame, is probably the big name here, but really it’s the over the top killing and nonsensical plot that take centre stage. It’s not very good, but it is incredibly camp and stupid and therefore massively enjoyable. It’s also a film by Paul W.S. Anderson, which shows that he really must skip the cut scenes when he plays games.
As for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, there’s nothing to say about this film except the brilliantly awful line “mother, you’re alive?” “TOO BAD. YOU. WILL DIE!” That’s all. There’s nothing else to see, hit the below, and that’s the movie. Forget the rest. We’re done talking about it.
The Silent Hill Series
SILENT HILL (2006), SILENT HILL: REVELATION (2012)
Dir. Christophe Gans, Michael J. Bassett
Silent Hill is the high watermark of survival horror games. The series may have faltered in recent years, but at its height the series was engrossing, heartbreaking and downright scary. The first film, based loosely on the first game, has several big flaws. It swaps the protagonist from loving single dad (a rarity in mainstream media) to driven married mother, because in director Christoph Gans words “he was a feminine character”. Why? Because he loved his daughter? Alright then. But the film does create the right mood and feel that the game had; the creatures are scary, even if the scares give way to an overly complicated flashback plot that bungles the mythology, and the boring subplot with Sean Bean doesn’t work very well.
The first Silent Hill film is not perfect — it’s decent, really creepy, far from perfect — so when they got a whole new crew to make a sequel in Silent Hill: Revelation, it could only be good, right? Wrong. Michael J Bassett, who made the fairly enjoyable Solomon Kane, sucks all the life out of a game which is essentially about earth bound hell. Taking probably the second best game, and the most enjoyable, Silent Hill 3 as his inspiration, Bassett half continues the story of Sean Bean who is running from a cult with his teenage daughter, Adelaide Clemens. The film is a leaner, shorter film than the first, but it’s still woefully dull, short of scares, and tension between the cast shows that they are all clearly embarrassed. Kit Harrington looks like a puppy, in a bad way, while Malcolm McDowell is so hammy we recommend those of kosher faith keep well away, Carrie Ann Moss should know better, and the whole thing limps to a dull climax that makes no sense. They should have scrapped a proper sequel and done a movie of Silent Hill 2 the most devastating story told in the series.
Dir. Andrzej Bartlkowiak
Doom isn’t a great movie, actually it’s fairly pants, but it resembles the amazingly cool Doom 3 which is a great game, and has a cracking cast. Dwayne Johnson is hardcore action man on Mars along with the likes of Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dexter Fletcher. The film is a mishmash of weird ideas that don’t entirely work, but the first person shooter set piece is absolutely perfect and is a highlight in a film that is ambitious but not entirely successful. That said, Dwayne Johnson as a villain? That’s inspired.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider
LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001), LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE (2003)
Dir. Simon West, Jan de Bont
This year we get to see Alicia Vikander as the Indiana Jones with oestrogen which takes it’s cues from Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider which go the Batman Begins route of a gritty retelling of our favourite tomb raiding British aristocrat in her early years. But before then, Angelina Jolie donned the big boobies and thigh holsters of the teenage wet fever dream girl in the Tomb Raider movies. Filled with bad early 2000s visual effects, hard to follow action and club music (Absurd by Fluke plays in the opening – for shame!), the only really saving grace is that Jolie and her father Jon Voight both seem to at least have a little fun, and it’s always nice to see Chris Barrie get work.
The Cradle of Life is a better film than the first Tomb Raider, mostly because it has a better central mcguffin, a better villain and has a better director on board. Simon West, who did the first movie, is not great. Although Con Air is great. Jan De Bont has previous experience with adventure films, having been a DP on Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. He also directed Speed, a that is a great film. The Cradle of Life is poorer because ultimately the best ideas are wasted here. The fight between Ciaran Hinds’ Reiss and Jolie’s Croft is a brutal couple of minutes but it should be longer, and the idea of Pandora’s Box being a real thing is great, but it’s wasted in favour of Jolie and Gerard Butler macking off together, and a big, weird rampaging monster. Poor show.
Dir. Duncan Jones
Duncan, son of David, once rightfully known as Zowie, is not a dumb man. He made Moon, which was brilliant. He also made Source Code, which was really good and enjoyable, but his long gestated adaptation of World of Warcraft on the other hand is a long, thudding, dull parade of poo. All the human characters look bored out of their minds, all with beards and long hair, while the design of the orcs never really allows you to relax into their world. The mythology is also jumbled; sure it’s faithful but as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice showed us, being faithful to the book doesn’t necessarily make a good film. There’s little appeal in the war, and it spends far too much time building up for sequels. At least, however, it remained faithful and respected the source.
STREET FIGHTER (1994), STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI (2009)
Dir. Steven E. de Souza, Andrzej Bartlowiak
Downsides: Jean-Claude Van Damme is crap, the film is boring, the action doesn’t work, and there’s nothing in the film of worth. Plus sides: Ming-Na Wen is great, Simon Callow got paid and RAUL JULIA IS A TREASURE. But that’s it. The games weren’t that great, they were always discount Mortal Kombat games, the film is pretty much the same.
And then we have Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Starring Kristin Kreuk, who played Lana Lang in Smallville, Neal McDonough replacing Raul Julia, Chris Klein that smug douche from American Pie (and that’s coming from a different smug douche called Klein), Michael Clarke Duncan who was once nominated for an Oscar, Moon Bloodgood who needs more vowels, and Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, this is possibly one of the dullest movie ever made. Who wants to watch Street Fighter but without a hammy Raul Julia and Jean-Claude van Damme? No one.
FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2001)
Dir. Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
You cannot fault ambition. The ambition to turn Final Fantasy into a film is a ballsy move; the games are mental, and for a series that is called final, they crank out a lot of games. But with this being the first entirely mo-cap film, it has its heart in the right place. Before Gollum, before Caesar, there was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a muddled film with impressive visuals. Credit to Ming-Na Wen, who’s performance almost gets her character out of the uncanny valley. The cast also includes Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland, James Woods, Keith David and Peri Gilpin. You can’t fault the ambition, but you can fault the plot, which is messy.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (2010)
Dir. Mike Newell
Right from the off, the games are great. Each one got better. Frankly, whilst The Sands of Time is a good game, Warrior Within is better, and The Two Thrones is godlike. But, it’s set in pre-history Persia, so when Mike Newell, fresh off success with the fourth Harry Potter film, decided to go the old white wash route, it didn’t work so well. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina do have heritage that is towards the middle east, but in a film called Prince of Persia, to have Jake Gyllenhaal (doing an English accent), Gemma Arterton, Toby Kebbell and Ronald bloody Pickup playing people from the Middle East? That’s racist. The film is also a chore to get through.
Hitman, and Hitman: Agent 47
HITMAN (2007), HITMAN: AGENT 47 (2015)
Dir. Xavier Gens, ALeksander Bach
Timothy Olyphant is a perfect paradox. He’s bloody gorgeous, but with an edge. He never sits well as a clean cut hero, nor is he seething with evil. So, a film where he is nominally the hero but one who kills a whole bunch o’ people is surely, perfect material. It isn’t. In fact, really, Olyphant looks best in the west. Justified and Deadwood have cemented that, and for him to not be doing a Red Dead Redemption or Gun film is foolish. He’s a perfect fit. Whereas here, he tries to cut it as a Jason Statham and it doesn’t work.
And then there’s the sequel. When your sort of sequel, sort of reboot film has to wait almost ten years before getting made, you know it’s pointless. Yet, Hitman: Agent 47 came along in 2015. Rupert Friend is just awful in the role of Agent 47, miscast in a role that would really need someone like a Keanu Reeves type action star as opposed to someone more at home in heritage British cinema. Zachary Quinto lacks charisma in his role, Thomas Kretschmann is bad, and in the end, even the always reliable Ciaran Hinds isn’t able to save this mess of a film.
The Resident Evil Series
RESIDENT EVIL (2002), RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE/EXTINCTION/AFTERLIFE/RETRIBUTION/THE FINAL CHAPTER (2004 – 2017)
Alexander Witt, Russell Mulcahy, Paul W.S. Anderson
Paul W.S. Anderson once directed a movie called Event Horizon, that is essentially the best version of a Doom movie we will ever get, even though it’s not. In the form of this his ego is so inflated it’s awful. At one point George A Romero, king of zombies, was hired to tackle the horror-survival game and wrote a faithful adaptation of the games, instead Anderson shoe horns in an awful role for his girlfriend Milla Jovovich then bungles the horror for terrible CGI fights and bad versions of the series actual characters. The first film isn’t the worst movie ever made, and it’s made by being in the early days and still managing to do impressive things.
All the follow up Resident Evil films sort of merge into one big mess made up of CGI, noise, and Milla Jovovich running around, with very little plot. They deserve respect simply because the money they took in is just bloody amazing. I mean, to ring this much crap out of a series that really is just people doing their best “see if I was in a zombie movie i’d do this” on a computer, boggles the mind. As it is, Milla Jovovich is kind of a good kicker of asses (though Alice is no Leeloo), and some of the support – a very camp Iain Glen for example – are good fun. But the plot makes zero sense, keeps going on about conspiracies and ranks as one of the dullest action series ever, and we include Underworld is that list. You want to experience Resident Evil properly? Theres a VR version of the new game, and it’s pant-browningly scary.
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ALONE IN THE DARK (2005)
Dir. Uwe Boll
Alone in the Dark was an influential and bloody terrifying video game, it clearly is the grandaddy of works like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, and then later Alan Wake, Until Dawn and The Evil Within, but this film is just damn awful. Christian Slater is