We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10. Movie producers still have no idea how to make a quality movie out of a video game. They tried for decades to figure out how to make a decent movie out of comic books and it looks like they have comic books figured out (Ironman, Spiderman, Hulk--2008). There are some hopeful little glimmers on the horizon with Max Payne opening October 17, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2009).
So, here it is: the Top 7 Movies Inspired By Video Games. Quality can’t be a necessity, because then there would be no list at all. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the movies that came close (under the circumstances) to represent their namesake.
7. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider/Lara Croft: Cradle of Life
Recap: The blue blood adventuress, Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie), unlocks the secrets of ancient artifacts to save the world. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider games produced by Eidos and Crystal Dynamics.
Reason: The only reason the Tomb Raider films make this list is due to casting. Jolie is the perfect choice for Lara, and then they went and squandered her golden presence with a script written in crayon by monkeys. All they had to do was pick one of the games (hell, even Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness would have sufficed). Can you imagine Jolie exploring the wreck of the Maria Doria from Tomb Raider 2? Or exploring King Arthur’s tomb in Tomb Raider: Legend? Or taking out the T-Rex from Tomb Raider: Lost Scion/Anniversary? It is the gaming wet dream that will never be and that makes me deeply hateful.
6. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Recap: A scientist (Ming-Na—voice) and a group of soldiers (Alec Baldwin—voice; Ving Rhames—voice) fight to free earth from a plague of “phantoms.” Final Fantasy games produced by Square Enix.
Reason: The movie resembles the amazing game series without capturing any of the games’ vivid spirit. The film is by Hironobu Sakaguchi who also created the Final Fantasy game series, so it would appear that Mr. Sakaguchi never actually played any of his games. The games combine fantasy, arcane and hi-tech weaponry, magic, and martial arts and are so visually arresting it is actual living art. FF: Spirits Within makes the list for two reasons: 1) it tried, and 2) it was still better than Street Fighter or Mario Brothers.
Recap: A base on Mars is overrun by unfriendly zombie/monsters and a group of marines (Dwanye Johnson, Karl Urban) are sent in to kick some ass. Doom games by id Software.
Reason: The Doom games are a corybantic mixture of violence, atmosphere, and a really twisted sense of humor (at the end of the first installment, the marine returns to earth and discovers that invading demons decapitated his pet bunny, Daisy). The only person who could properly make this movie would involve a genetic mutation of Timur Bekmambetov and David Lynch. Since there is no such mutation (yet), the movie is boring, rambling, and blindingly unoriginal. It switches the invading demons to zombies and doesn't manage to capture any of the game's belligerent spunk. However, it gave us a first-person shoot-em-up perspective as an homage. Because Doom is slightly more representative of its namesake, we’ll begrudge it a spot at #5.
4. Mortal Kombat
Recap: Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) and Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) are summoned to a parallel world, where they must win a series of death matches in order to save the world. Mortal Kombat games by Midway Games.
Reason: Yes, this movie stinks. Yes, the sets are mostly cheesy. Yes, some of the actors are on the brink of snapping their fingers and saying, “Line.” And, sigh, yes, the movie was made at a time when women were supposed to be girly, and we ended up with an insultingly weak Sonya Blade and Kitana. But despite all this, the movie still does a better job of representing its namesake than the first three movies on this list. Does it do justice to the game? Of course not. None of these movies do. However, it does give us all our favorite characters (“Get over here!”), some fun fight scenes, and a constant change in scenery that plays up the revolving battlegrounds from the game.
Recap: An assassin, Codename 42, (Timothy Olyphant) is trained from birth to be the ultimate killer: swift, smart, and capable. His only flaw is his conscience. Hitman games by IO Interactive.
Reason: Olyphant is fantastic as Codename 42, because he can disembowel a bad guy and still come off as conflicted and vulnerable. The movie also captures the same brooding colors from the video game, including the occasional splash of vivid red amidst a sea of monochromatic gray. The film gets extra credit for the scene in which Codename 42 breaks into a hotel room and runs past two kids playing the Hitman video game—little love letters to the gamers are always welcome.
2. Resident Evil
Recap: The Umbrella Corporation inadvertently releases a chemical into a facility known as “the hive” and it turns the population into zombies. Highly trained operatives (Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Salmon) infiltrate the hive with the help of a mysterious amnesiac named Alice (Milla Jovovich). Resident Evil games by Capcom.
Reason: Resident Evil is fun. It recreates the same feel of some of the earlier games and presents a heroine (Milla Jovovich) who is a fierce warrior, whine-free. The movie creates the same bleak, sterile, menacing surroundings and gives us the same odd feeling of being both enclosed and exposed—simultaneously everywhere to hide and nowhere to hide. I could watch this movie over and over again and still get a kick out of it, whereas I saw Doom once; that was all I needed. This is why we are giving Resident Evil the silver medal. It helps us to forget the mess they made with Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
1. Silent Hill
Recap: A woman (Radha Mitchell) and her adopted daughter (Jodelle Ferland) return to the daughter’s birthplace to pinpoint the origins of her night terrors. They are both engulfed by the dark, hellish in-between world of Silent Hill. Silent Hill games by Konami.
Reason: Ah, Silent Hill. A rose by any other name wouldn’t lurch out of the fog and rip your face off: the bloody, gory, carefree mayhem that is Silent Hill. The movie recreates Silent Hill, utilizes the music from the actual game, and we get to spend time with all our favorite psycho mutant baddies: Pyramid Head, the nurses, the disfigured mannequins … it really brings a tear to the eye. In the movie, when Pyramid Head skins the ranting zealot, all the gamers jumped for joy, because this, this is Silent Hill (it’s also a solemn reminder why it’s best to be nice to gamers—we’re a scary bunch).
Note to the studios: botch Fatal Frame and we’re coming for you.
There’s the Top 7, now what should be in the Top 10?