Video Game Movies: The Good, The Bad, and The Hoped-for

by Patrick Emmel

Video game plots have come a long way. Way back in the ’80s (forget about the Atari 2600 days, there were no game plots unless you count E.T. trying to find the phone icon in a maze), the closest you would get to an actual storyline was a yellow circle missing a sixth of his head being chased by colorful marshmallows with eyes. Maybe you would get a glimpse of a short, pixelated Italian plumber saving a princess, and that was if you were lucky. Most of the time, the main plot was about “HIGH SCORE” and your need to attain it. Remember Burger Time? Can you honestly pretend to come up with a plot to that game while keeping a straight face?

Luckily, or unfortunately depending on how nostalgic you are, video games have evolved not only in graphics, but with intense storylines paired up with cinematic animation sequences. Beating the game finally means something, as you are blasted with 20-minute game finales to tie the story together. The sequences prompt the question, “Why don’t they make a movie out of this?”

Hollywood answered, and has kept answering, for better or for worse, for over twenty years. Today, we rate some of those video game movies: the good, the bad, and the ones we hope may come.

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5) Silent Hill

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One reason why some people don’t like public bathrooms.

The Silent Hill series is one of the most notorious horror video game franchises, with 9 titles under its belt so far. The audio and animation work for this survival horror RPG made it as scary as any horror movie you would see, especially if you turn all the lights out while playing the game in your basement during a thunderstorm.

The game, in many ways, was less a game than an interactive movie itself. Shooting demons is relegated to what other games relegate cinematic cut-scenes to: perks that are far between. Since the game had done most of the work creating a movie, it seemed only proper that a real movie would follow. The movie did the video game franchise justice as a whole, using subtle audio silences to scare the crap out of an audience when any noise was made, an intense CGI change-over from reality to “Otherworld,” and a Pyramid Head that should have spawned Halloween costumes worldwide. The problem with the movie was plot. It’s not that the plot was horrible. The movie plot was just going up against years of intense game plots that could never be caught up to in a single movie. Maybe a television series would do it justice. *Hint hint.*

4) Mortal Kombat

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Any fan of martial arts movies and video games instantly “stood at attention” when it was rumored that a movie based on the Mortal Kombat fighting game series would be coming out. The game didn’t have much of a storyline. People were just excited that they may get to see live-action fatality sequences involving fighters having hearts and spines ripped out and heads punched off or blown up.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t deliver in that regard, but it did improve the idea of what a fighting game movie could be: awesome martial arts duels reminiscent of movies like Master of the Flying Guillotine. The plot was basic, Christopher Lambert showed up, and we were entertained by the equivalent of an MMA iron man tournament. It was a formula that was lost in the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

3) Dead Space: Downfall

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In the Dead Space video game series, the visual elements of a survival horror video game once again became so intense that anything less than a live-action movie would be ridiculous. Well, ridiculous, you have a new fan, because Dead Space: Downfall was animated, and it still managed to deliver. A live-action film may not have been as special anyway, considering that it would have been compared to sci-fi horror standards like Alien and Event Horizon.

The movie is a prequel. This word is normally followed by groans of disgust by film fans, but for video game fans, it is one of the most beautiful words in the world, followed by the acronym “DLC.” Finally, the past of the Ishimura is fully revealed, and in just over an hour.

2) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

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When first-person shooters became a video game standard for role-playing games, there were two titles in the limelight: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. On the basis of Angelina Jolie’s figure, I’m glad they chose to go with Lara Croft.

With only two movies in the bank, the Lara Croft series expanded the world of grave-robbing that Indiana Jones began by creating a main character with…heart. But Lara Croft became more than that. With an arsenal that would make any weapons manufacturer drool and a car collection that would make Jay Leno faint,  Lara Croft became a female James Bond for more reasons than just the British accent. The movies became so good, in fact, that playing the game is considered by some to be anti-climactic.

1) Resident Evil

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I know what you may be saying: Milla Jovovich does not automatically make a video game movie #1. That’s true. It is especially true when Jovovich is involved in a movie franchise like Resident Evil, which took the game’s eerie, survival-horror nature and turned it into a horror-action movie, complete with enough slow-motion running to make Nicholas Cage blush.

They must have done something right, because Resident Evil is the title-holder of video game movies. Maybe it’s the insane-looking CGI monsters; maybe it’s the conspiracy storyline wrapped in the zombie revival craze that has hit movie theaters; maybe it really is just Milla Jovovich. The world may never know.

Next up, the BAD! —->

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