This list is fraught with danger – because as we all know, films made on the premise of a successful video game usually turn out to be complete and utter rubbish. So we take this list with a pinch of salt – we’re not saying the films listed are any good, nor will they appeal to the masses; rather, by comparison with those of their own genre, these are the best of the bunch. If you’re up for a “video game movie” marathon, these would be our picks.
Here, with guns blazing and questionable female role-models intact, here are the best films based on video games… so far.
Wing Commander’s main claim to fame is the inclusion of a fairly decent cast (Freddie Prinze Jr and Matthew Lillard aside) in Jurgen Prochnow, Tcheky Karyo and David Warner – all of whom play supporting roles. The visual effects are barely coherent, the story is entirely incoherent, and the characters are as rote and generic as you can imagine. Wing Commander never pretends to be a great film (in spite of having the game’s creator as the director of the film!) but for sheer kitsch, corn and cheese, it can’t be beat as a bad-but-good video-game movie. Sure, it ranks 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, but since when has that ever stopped a crowd?
The Resident Evil franchise continues to draw in money at a frightening rate, and the 4th installment sees the return of series star, Milla Jovovich, who continues to remain the hottest actress to ever don a skin-tight leather outfit (possibly second to Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn as Catwoman) as she kicks, punches, shoots and blasts her way through the throngs of undead humanity now stalking the globe. Afterlife is a better film than either Extinction or Retribution, and a significant improvement on Apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever going to be considered a “great film”.
Looking back at Mortal Kombat as a film, one might wonder what possessed people to go out and see this thing. In the long history of video-game movies, Mortal Kombat is a horribly directed, badly written, terribly stupid film in its own right, but it does something only a select few video-game movies actually can do: it brings the sensibility of the game to the film. Kombat’s problem is its terrible visual effects and dire dialogue, most of which can be overcome thanks to the appearance of the Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived, Christopher Lambert (ha! See what I did there?) and several visually appropriate actors donning the garb and attitude of the characters they’re meant to portray. Kombat’s a heavy-metal trash-fest of the highest order, and a whole bunch of fun with the right mindset.
Critically lambasted as narratively incoherent (especially by yours truly), The Spirits Within boasts some admittedly stunning animated visuals supporting a truly terrible story. While the film features some great voice casting (watch for Donald Sutherland trying to sound like he’s interested in his character, or in the “plot”) and production design to die for, the story, which revolves around spirits of some aliens who steal human souls arriving on Earth and taking it over (or something) became too convoluted and stupid for Western audiences to understand. Tiresome plotting and constant pretend-twists to the film ruin what might have been a pretty decent action movie, had it been more focused.
French director Christophe Gans (who helmed the super-stylish Brotherhood Of The Wolf) made Silent Hill at least look and feel like it was ripped from the game: critics were right to dig at the story and the plodding nature of the narrative, but at least it tried. Geek babe Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) does her best “frightened but determined mother” in this one, while Sean Bean, Alice Krige and Laurie Holden co-star. Silent Hill is scary, atmospheric and well worth a watch in the dark sometime.
The second Final Fantasy film in our list, this one is at least a decent film. Fans of Final Fantasy will lap it up – it’s closer to the original games than The Spirits Within, by a long way – but non-fans might find it all a little confusing. Visually, this film is astonishingly awesome, although at times the characters and the narrative did lose me, but the sense of wonder and magic about the Final Fantasy saga is well and truly alive in this one.
Jake Gyllenhaal transitions into Action Hero for this mega-budget adaption of the Persia game franchise. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, one can expect explosions and grand, super-expensive visual effects and landscapes to appear in this film – and they do. The films is a bunch of fun, never to be taken seriously, with some great tip-o-the-hat nods to the games themselves. Alfred Molina plays crazy like nobody else, while Ben Kingsley gives us yet another memorable (for all the wrong reasons) Bad Guy who chews the scenery as well as the script.
The Rock (before he tried to become an action star named “Dwayne” – meh!) stars in this bang-on replication of the Doom franchise; Doom’s visual aesthetic is so true to the game it’s scary. The film even features a “first person shooter” sequence towards the end that, while not achieving what was probably intended, is a cool and intense nod to the game’s origins and legendary status. Sure, the plot is ridiculous, the characters 1-dimensional, and the direction more whizz-bang than one might expect, but Doom is – in the annals of video-game movies – one of the better ones.
The film that truly brought Angeline Jolie’s boobs to the masses. It’s hard to imagine the conversation that would bring an Academy Award winning actress into a film about a hyper-sexualised female Indiana Jones, but one could envisage that several dollar signs might have been incorporated into it. Tomb Raider is a wibbly-wobbly, wildly uneven film giving Jolie’s body a thorough workout, while also providing us a glimpse at a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig, as well as a rare on-screen pairing of real-life father and daughter in Jolie and Jon Voight. Nothing if not exuberant fun.
The grand-daddy of modern video-game films, Resident Evil is the perfect example of how to do it right. Pushing aside little things like story and character development, Resident Evil is pitched directly to the scare-centers of the brain, bringing the monsters and world of the Resident Evil games stunningly to life. The pounding score by Marylin Manson and Marco Beltrami perfectly accentuate the dark, frightening terror of the below-ground Umbrella complex, through which Milla Jovovich wears a tight red dress (yummo!) and runs away from monsters. Of all the video-game films available to watch, Resident Evil is the poster child for how to do it the right way. Pity about those sequels, though.