A few years ago legendary movie critic Roger Ebert proclaimed that “video games can never be art”. Like many of you out there, I don’t agree with his views and for me the best games are a culmination of most of the art forms we know: visual, literary and performing. The best movies are also a culmination of those same arts with the only big difference being that you can’t interact with a film. In some games you can make your own story, something not possible in a movie.
So on paper video games and movies should go hand in hand since they can be so similar at times, right? Unfortunately thanks to a lot of extremely awful video game movies and just a few above average ones, that has never really been the case so far. As a gamer I do hope this will change at some point in the future but for now all we can do is rant and maybe vote with our wallets.
With the releases of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D and Wreck-it Ralph (which doesn’t actually 100% qualify here) it was about time we looked at just how popular these game adaptations have been over the years at the box office. Expect a few surprises in the following top 10 which is based on the worldwide grosses of these films, unadjusted for inflation.
10. Mortal Kombat (1995) $122.1 million – How do you make a fighting game with little to no story into a live-action movie? Well you take director Paul W.S. Anderson (who has quite a few more entries in this top 10) and turn one of the most popular arcade games of the time into a mindless action flick that can be best qualified as a guilty pleasure. It’s really sad that to this day this remains one of the most faithful game adaptations, probably why so many Mortal Kombat fans still love it.
9. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) $129.3 million – Based on the popular Japanese video game series from Capcom, this was the 2nd live-action flick. Like Mortal Kombat, this happens to be an utterly stupid film that you can only enjoy as long as you don’t forget to turn off your brain. Sadly after this one the series went all over the place as far adaptations go. While the first Resident Evil was clearly based on the game Resident Evil 2 and Apocalypse on Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, good luck trying to find a game for the rest of the films.
8. Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (2000) $133.9 million – Right off the bat you guys should know that I am completely oblivious to Pokemon. After never touching a game or watching any movie, I was extremely surprised to see this so high on the list with so much money. So what do I know about the film. Well it’s an animation, one of those hand-drawn ones actually, and a sequel to the 1999 first Pokemon film that we might find further down the list.
7. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) $147.7 million – The 3rd Resident Evil film is for me personally, probably the worst of the bunch. Extinction has just about nothing to do with the game series or the previous films. Sure, there are zombies in it and a few familiar characters from the games, but that’s about it.
6. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) $156.5 million – The better in every way sequel to 2001’s Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life was nowhere near as popular as Paramount wanted it to be. So because of that Angelina Jolie was forced to hang her tomb raiding shorts for good – a sad day that was for males around the world. On the video game adaptations scale, this one was above average.
5. Pokemon: The First Movie (1999) $163.6 million – Got to be honest here, I did not expect to see that yellow overgrown rat twice on this list. In total there are 15 Pokemon movies, but only 5 were ever released in the US as each made less at the box office than the one before it. They are still big business in Japan though, with the 14th film making over $50m last year.
4. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) $217.5 million – The 5th and latest Resident Evil film continues to follow the adventures of Alice in her ever changing world. At this point it has become a game of guessing which thing they borrowed from the more recent (and often enough just as bad story wise) Resident Evil games. Is it still fun? Sure, but looking at what The Walking Dead does (on TV no less), you can’t help but feel disappointed that Paul W.S. Anderson and his team lack the ambition to move the series past the mindless dribble it has become (and this is coming from a fan no less).
3. Lara Croft Tomb Raider (2001) $274.7 million – Released at the highpoint of Lara Croft’s popularity, this adaptations is for the most part true to the roots of the game series. Having rising young star (at the time) Angelina Jolie play the titular character was a good choice even though her English accent could have been better. If you are 12 then this film is for you. For everybody else it’s a below average (and sometimes average) video game movie which, apparently Roger Ebert gave a positive review.
2. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) $296.2 million – This was the return of Paul W.S. Anderson in the director chair and besides 3D, he didn’t bring much to the series in any way. I went in expecting 2002 Resident Evil or its sequel Apocalypse and instead got more fan service and cheap spectacle than anything else. While I found this just as stupidly fun as the ones that came before (guilty pleasure, what can I say), I think it’s high time Paul W.S. Anderson handed the series to someone more capable and less scared to try different things.
1. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) $335.1 million – With Disney behind and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, this stupidly expensive flick was supposed to be the one video game adaptation that was more than just average, dare I say a great film. Darn you Hollywood and your ways. Throwing money at something until hopefully it works is NOT the proper way to make a movie. To say that I was excited for this film, based on one of my all-time favorite games, would be an understatement.
Prince of Persia had all the ingredients to become the next big thing for Disney but that did not happen. Sure, it’s still the most popular video game movie to date, but when you spend $200 million (which was beyond dumb) on a movie, you expect more money in return. When you are Disney, you expect even more. So an above average film with a lot of potential that could have turned into a moderately successful series ends up shelved because it could not meet the ridiculously high financial expectations the studio had for it.
With video game adaptations we’ve had our fair share of disappointments. Actually for the most part that’s all we’ve ever got. That’s probably why whenever we hear of another game being turned into a movie the reactions vary from “nooooooooooo” to “huh?” at best. Can this change in the future?
While not exactly adapted from a video game, animation Wreck-it Ralph, which opens this Friday, definitely shines a becon of hope over this troubled sub-genre. Then there’s also that upcoming Assassin’s Creed adaptation with Michael Fassbender, where Ubisoft (the French game studio behind the series) has full creative control. Who knows, that great video game adaptation we’ve been waiting for might just be around the corner, that or I’m way to optimistic.
So what is your favorite video game adaptation?