Saturday, September 15, 2012

Top 5 Movie Guide: Films Based On Video Games

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we look to "Resident Evil: Retribution", which gets its release this weekend, and take a crack at some of our other favorite films adapted from video games. The Resident Evil series got its film debut back in 2002 when it seemed Hollywood was trying to take a jump forward with the production of video game based movies. The 1990's saw the first wave of video games-turned film, back when seemingly anything could get made. "Super Mario Bros." broke the seal in 1993, and along with it came films like "Street Fighter" and "Mortal Kombat". Sure, films like that hold a certain sentimental value for us, the most nostalgic generation to ever exist, but contextually speaking, these were not good movies.


The early 2000's saw the genre become mainstream, even with the previous decade's failures. Early on, films like "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider", "Resident Evil", and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" hit screens, and while critically these films didn't offer much more, they seemed a noticable step up in production values, and a moment that offered the genre a chance to move from their very humble beginings. But then a little-known German director showed up on the scene and ruined it for everyone. Uwe Boll has directed nine films based on video games in the past decade, and each one has seen noticeable criticism and backlash from fans and industry pundits alike. Some may enjoy the camp of his films, but for a genre desperately trying to legitimize itself, he's done everything wrong.

But for fans of the genre, it seems that hope may be on the horizon, as studios clamour to try and put big-budget adaptations together for franchises like Halo and World of Warcraft. Both have had big name filmmakers attached to their productions, and it seems that if these ever do make it off the ground, they may be similar in tone and scale to films like Transformers or Battleship (take from that what you will). But regardless, the genre is what it is for now. There are some fun titles available, but it's generally a category full more of nostalgia and silly camp than legitimate film quality.

Nonetheless, we try and narrow down some of our favorites below, so hit the jump for all of our picks!

Alex Schopp -
I should preface this by saying that outside of the Mario games and Tetris, I've never really played video games. So I have almost zero attachments to any of the franchises or characters out there. This might be the weakest list I've ever compiled, with a few of the selections more due to lack of options than a legitimate interest.

     1. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
I'm not sure why I ever loved this movie as much as I did, but it happened, and now it's so nostalgic that I still love it. The story barely coincides with the game, but the cast is great, and the set designs and makeup work is actually really cool. It's incredibly cheesy and most people hate it, but I say give it a watch if you haven't already.
     2. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
I crushed so hard on Angelina Jolie after this film; she was looking so good! That's still the best reason to watch this movie, but otherwise, while I don't much care about the plot, it's still a fun one to mindlessly turn on every now and then just as a background-type watch.
     3. Mortal Kombat (1995)
Probably the "worst" movie on this list, but it's so nostalgic. I still get pumped up every time I hear the theme song (fun fact: this soundtrack was actually the first CD I ever bought). Even though the production values were pretty low in a lot of areas, I still had fun with this one.
     4. Silent Hill (2006)
The movie is completely forgettable outside of a few scenes featuring some really neat and creepy imagery. If you haven't seen this movie, I'd say it's worth a watch at least for its art direction.
     5. Resident Evil (2002)
Do I even remember this movie? I do like zombies though, and this was probably at least the best done film of this franchise. Its inclusion on this list, however, is more about my overall lack of interest for this category combined with the overall lack of quality available.

Ben Foutch -
It should be noted that I only have nostalgic feelings for the #1 title. Aside from that film, the list in general is ranking the top five films of a bottom of the barrel genre. It resembles something that you enjoy or maybe even something that you could enjoy, but in the end it only gives you tiny pieces of that desire for entertainment, accompanied by a feeling of unfulfillment. Also, in order to qualify, the titles had to actually be adaptations from a specific game, even if it was just in name only.

     1. Mortal Kombat (1995)

     2. Silent Hill (2006)

     3. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

     4. Resident Evil (2002)

     5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)



Derek Clem -
I'm not really much of a gamer so I can't judge these movies on how great the adaptations from game to movie are nearly as well as I'd like to.

     1. Resident Evil (2002)
Most video game movies are liked because of how awesomely bad they are, but I legitimately like this movie.
     2. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
When I first saw this preview I thought it was live action. Looking at it today I can't believe how bad my eyes must have been. This is one of those nice background movies you turn on for atmosphere and don't pay any attention to it.
     3. Street Fighter (1994)
I like to think of this movie as an emotional character study of Zangief, showing his courageous journey from bad guy to good guy.
     4. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
When I first saw this in theaters as a youngster I remember thinking...this isn't what the game looks like.
     5. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
You watch this for comedic stylings of Chris Klein.

Nathan Hinds -
I think it's safe to say that of all the genre lists we will do, this is the weakest field to choose from. Is it really that hard to make a good movie based on a video game? So far, it is.

     1. Silent Hill (2006)
This is the only movie on my list that I actually think is a good movie. For me, this is the creepiest imagery of any film I've seen. If I had to pick one place, real or fictitious, that I wouldn't want to be stuck in, it's Silent Hill once that damn horn sounds.
     2. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Decent action flick, and Angelina Jolie is lookin' hot as ever in this movie.
     Wow this list is hard....

     Still trying to pick three films I thought were remotely good....

     Screw it, I'm switching it up mid-list. The last three are just going to be movies
     about video games.

     3. The Last Starfighter (1984)
It's probably been 15 years since I last saw this, but I liked it when I was a kid.
     4. Gamer (2009)
This was a good movie, nothing great, but the reason I was so happy it existed was because it was an end to the string of rom-com's Gerard Butler did after "300".
     5. Tron: Legacy (2010)
If you're gonna make a movie and not care about the plot too much, at least make the thing look great, and few movies look better than this one.

Andy Schopp -
No entries this week.

So those are the films we're looking at this week. Not a lot of variety (outside of Nathan taking the category into his own hands halfway through), but that shouldn't be too surprising for a genre that hasn't been able to get off the ground like the action figure and board game genres have in the past half decade. Obviously with one writer taking a pass this week, four selections was the most any film could receive, but still no film did that. Three different films did have three selections though: "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider", "Silent Hill", and "Resident Evil". All three of these were in the early 2000's wave of films when the genre was trying harder to be taken more seriously and appeal to larger audiences. Even though things didn't go in the right direction from here, these still seem like they might be the best films the category has to offer. They aren't amazing films, but they're probably your best options when first familiarizing yourself with films of this type.

Otherwise, we had three more films with two selections apiece: "Super Mario Bros.", "Mortal Kombat", and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within". Final Fantasy was a big deal amongst gamers when it came out, but due to the fact that it was all CGI, most general audiences didn't have much interest in it. It is the only fully animated film to appear on this list though, so if that's something you're interested in, this could be an option. Then we're just looking at a couple of nostalgic, guilty pleasure movies. Both I think can be enjoyed by new audiences, but tread lightly; these movies are extremely campy, but can be some fun if you let them be.

Not the strongest variety to choose from, but if you are interested in knowing more about the films in this genre, these lists should help get you going.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that this category has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!