Cursor to Script: Top Ten (OKish to Good) Game Movies
With the recent news of Tetris seriously being considered for the box office (no, seriously), it got us at T.A.P. thinking about video game-movie adaptations. I mean geez. They don’t have the best of track records. But there have been a few that have edged into the realm of a decent watch. Some more than others. So here’s our list of the 10 greatest video game to film adaptations. Slim pickings, but we made it work:
(10.) Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
Sure, this film was an improvement from the first Tomb Raider, but honestly anything would be. As sensational and titular Angelina Jolie looked as Lara Croft, the search for Pandora’s Box must have held the secrets to an engaging script, because in the end no one was brave enough to open it and have the secrets revealed.
(9.) Max Payne (2008)
Right off the crazed curtails of Matrix ‘Bullet-time’, we were pretty psyched about seeing the film-noir Rockstar game immortalised on film. In the game, we have Max Payne seeking bloody revenge for the death of his wife. There were some corporate misdealing involved in her death and he takes out everyone involved. But a lot of key character motivations in the game either were made to recede into a footnote (death of his family) or ignored all together (devils and valkyries anyone?) Very stylish neo-noir film, and as such makes for decent viewing, but the direction at time feels forced, and other elements that were iconic in the game were totally ignored, namely the end scene where Max Payne is to kill BB by shooting cables down and over his escaping helicopter. Not to mention a near pointless slo-mo shot of a typical point/ shoot/ kill. Not very climactic.
(8.) Mortal Kombat (1995)
The co-production from Midway Games and Threshhold Entertainment was the first time we got to see the cursor-free Beat ‘Em Up version of the game. Cheesy visuals (it was 1995, so we can overlook that) with even cheesier dialogue and poor-acting that says “I learnt my lines last night while taking a dump on the toilet” (that cannot be overlooked)- Mortal Kombat. Nevertheless, it remained true enough to the base material that reviews to this day teeter-totter between modest praise and overwhelmingly bad reviews.
(7.) Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
Cloud is an ex-mercenary whose forced out of retirement when the city’s orphans infected with the GeoStigma virus start disappearing and becoming brainwashed by a mysterious trio. Well, a lot of mother gaia, we-abandoned-nature-so-nature-is-pissing-down-righteous-revenge. Krado is pretty much boss throughout, but with long-winding scenes punctuated by the random action sequences, it becomes a bit tedious to watch at parts.
(6.) Final Fantasy: Spirits Within (2001)
A scientist with a group of military types desperately tried to ward off an alien invasion of phantom alien thingies. Based on the Square Enix’s renowned game franchise Final Fantasy, the visuals were mind-boggling. To the point you had to do a double take and remind yourself that the film was 3D, not live-action. The narrative felt a bit drawn out or muddled in places, especially if it’s you first time experiencing the Final Fantasy’s extensive catalogue, but the visuals should keep you enthralled somewhat. Still possibly the most expensive game movie in existence, which took 4 years to make, it’s sad that all that expenses amounted to nothing more than a little fizzle and puff of smoke on release in the box office.
(5.) Resident Evil: Damnation (2012)
Visually speaking this 3D animation kicked up the franchise a notch, which was very welcomed after Resident Evil: Damnation and, even more so, the quick narrative down-spiral of the live-action film franchise. Capcom and Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan pulled out all the stops with great renders and superb action sequences that will keep you entertained. Big ‘boss’ bad guys were huge and intimidating on screen. Eastern European pro-goverment and rebel conflict, chemical weapons and shady institutional dealings all help cement the fantasy into reality. But as it is with most video game films, the narrative becomes too fractured by to many frequent and long action sequences… as entertaining as they were.
(4.) Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994)
The greatest fighters in the world all make there relevant appearances, but the difference between this film and say Mortal Kombat is the way in which they try to create a narrative with interweaving elements that we learn are connected. Not just saying having one big tournament. Chun- Li teaming up with Guile is on a mission to dismantle M. Bison’s Shadowlaw, a international crime syndicate. And Bison is on the hunt for Ryu, the greatest fighter in the world to ciphen his fighting ability. He does this by brainwashing Ryu’s brother-from-another-mother Ken to bate him in… you see my point.
The animation, based on the famous Street Fighter Capcom game, is lithe for the most part, particularly the final Guile and M. Bison fight scene, and with the narrative being ambitious as this one, it certainly gets great marks for effort.
(3.) Hitman (2007)
The egg head ‘Organisation’-trained assasssin on the screen was a decent watch despite the Eidos game-movie not being received with great fanfare at the box office. Agent 47, played by Timothy Olyphant, pulls off the sleek-dressed assassin well. The sequel may have gotten cancelled, the film is to be revamped in the near future.
(2.) Resident Evil (2002)
What’s there not to like about the first Resident Evil film? True to the zombie horror based on the Capcom Survival Horror game of the same name. The corrupt corporation element and the awesome narrative device in the form of the creepy AI called Red Queen (what’s more creepy than a girl’s voice with a british accent telling you your going to die in an underground facility chocked full of zombies). Oh, yeah and there is Michelle Rodriguez.
But as the franchise ‘progressed’, the ‘fear’ element was erased, so horror became more an undertone to the sci-fi monster element. There is no doubt who will survive and who won’t anymore. Maybe another unchecked symptom of the T-Virus.
(1.) Silent Hill
Trepidation, impending doom, a narrative that felt like a script writer actually sat down and did some research. The visuals created a calm yet ominous atmosphere that transformed into a horrific terrifying piece that payed homage to the original survival horror game. From Pyramid head and his big-ass blade to the creepy girl and faceless nurse thingies… you know, the stuff of nightmares. Tension was always present, intensifying into climactic sense of dread when fog turned to darkness, keeping true to the nature of the game. Truly a rarity in Video-game movies. Which is why one has to ask why Silent Hill 2 sucked sooo bad?
So there you have it. Top 10 (good) Video Game/movie adaptations. The fact is this should be an easy thing to do in terms of scripts, as, unlike comics you have more of a clean site to construct your narrative on. The most you have to worry about is making sure your actors are easily identifiable as characters from the game, maybe keep significant narrative milestones that are integral to game’s narrative. The reason I think they get it wrong is, well the people writing and directing these stories are not truly familiar with the material. To give a comic or game film justice, I truly believe you have to have an tactile appreciation for the source material.
The majority of game movies on our list that stand out are the ones in the Survivor Horror genres. These tend to be more successful as films on the mere fact that they are the embodiment of what real gameplay is like: immersive and a true test of mettle. Obviously with games to films, adaptations are needed to ensure they work as film narratives, but filmmakers should take care to keep true to the source materials narrative milestones. But that’s easier said than done it seems.