the artistry and psychology of gaming


The Hall of Shame: Worst Movies Based on Video Games

The Hall of Shame: Worst Movies Based on Video Games

This article is related to two previous installments on the Controller and the Lamp. Read the the other articles here , here, here and here.

The movies you’re about to read about in this article have two things in common. Firstly, they’re based on video games. Secondly, they suck. I’m going to discuss why they suck, what they missed, and why the movies were doomed to fail.

1993: Super Mario Bros

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 13%

Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel, Roland Joffé  and Dean Semler. The huge list of directors shows why this movie sucks. Athough both Jankel and Joffé  are great directors; it’s hard to assume that a movie which had to have 4 different directors, 2 of them uncredited, would be such a gold. The cast seems promising, with Bob Hoskins as Mario and the late and great Dennis Hopper as King Koopa (aka Bowser). But all the talent goes to waste. The film narrates the story of the Mario brothers, Mario and Luigi, who live in a country ruled by King Koopa. They have to rescue Princess Daisy (not Luigi’s chick, this is supposed to Peach/Toadstool). The film received mainly negative reviews. It was a box office bomb, returning only $21 million of its $48 million budget.

What did they miss? The fact that the whole value of Mario series depends on one thing only: gameplay. Yes, the premise of the series is entirely unfit to be turned into a movie, and attempting to inject serious undertones into the game makes it only look ridiculous.

1994: Double Dragon

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 0%

A classic junk-movie. (I’m not using classic in the positive sense of the word). The creators of this movie didn’t even try to make it something other than a disaster. This film was directed by James Yukich (who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, this shows how important he is) and stars Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf as brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee. After a massive earthquake, Los Angeles is turned into a new city, “New Angeles”, and everything is post-apocalyptic. I’m not going to bother you with the rest pof the story, as I’m not planning to create the illusion that there is a story. The movie failed at both box office and reviewers miserably. A staggering 0% at Rotten Tomatoes shows that not one single critic liked this movie. And you can at least bribe some of them, can’t you?

What did they miss? You might think that the game has no story and therefore unsuitable to be adopted into a movie; but as this article on illustrates, the backstory of the game is pretty interesting. You still can’t adopt into a movie though; too much action. So yes, you can’t have a two-hour fighting movie. It’s boring and it sucks.

1994: Street Fighter

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 13%

 Written and directed by Steven E. de Souza, the game is a very unfaithful adaptation of the famous video game. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Guile who is a very questionable choice for a hero. I know he’s a favorite and all but in no ways he has the potential to be a hero. Kylie Minogue is Cammy and she seems to be the only correct casting choice, as both are famous for having the best asses, one among the singers and the other among virtual fighters. The most baffling choice is of course Raul Julia as M. Bison. I mean, just look at the guy! He’s skinny, weak, and pathetic. More looks like a clerk who will be choked to death by a monster in the first 10 minutes of the show rather than a dictator planning to conquer the world. The writers have tried to inject some humor into the game and I admit, I smiled and laughed at some points. But overall? Not funny at all.

What did they miss? Everything. The writers simply looked at the list of the character names and said “hey, let’s make a movie about these freaks”. You simply can’t adapt a fighting game into a movie. If you do, it’ll have to be an independent picture judged by its own merits. This one has none.

1995: Mortal Kombat series

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 35%, 7%

The director of the first movie was Paul W. S. Anderson is a video game adoption guy. He’s not as hated as Uwe Boll, since fan reception to his work was never as severe. Well, looking from an artistic point on view, he should be. However, the first film in the series sold well at the box office and a few critics liked it, so it was a “good” movie only in the sense that a benign cancer is a “good” disease in comparison with other types of cancer. Anderson declined to direct the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which was not well received by critics or fans. And I can repeat what I said about Street Fighter. A fighting game will never make a good movie, unless that movie is completely independent. But that’s even truer about Mortal Kombat series. Their hyperbolic, fantasy-like approach to everything will make the games feel like a special though crazy ride, while the same premise would seem juvenile and ridiculous in any other form.

What did they miss? The ability to choose a good source.

1999: Wing Commander

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11%

This one might have been a bit different as if was created by the original creator of the game series, Chris Roberts. However, you have to remember that the franchise is a groundbreaking space combat simulation computer game and the gameplay mostly revolves around fighting in the space. The game series themselves are quite mediocre, with an OK gameplay and a very cliche and simplistic storyline. Plus, the movie isn’t even that faithful to the game. There has been many other spin-offs as well; an animated television series, a collectible card game, and a series of novels; all being mediocre and passable. However, this movie is particularly a failure. The film has been shunned by some fans for changing the visual style of the games. The most notable alteration between the games and the movie is the appearance of the alien race Kilrathi. Although the movie’s Kilrathi keep their feline characteristics, they lose their iconic fur entirely. Plus, the actors bore no resemblance to their in-game characters. Wing Commander was hated by critics and was a major box office flop: the total domestic gross of Wing Commander’s theatrical run was half its budget. Chris Roberts never directed another motion picture, which is the only good news.

What did they miss? I don’t want to repeat myself, therefore here I point out something new. Think about it. How many alien invasion space fighting sci-fi movies are out there? In the realm of cinema, the genre is simply exhausted. Now, in video games there are many ways to breathe a new life to this dead, buried and rotten premise; a fantastic gameplay maybe. But why would anyone want to see the alien movie number 7,858,984?

2001: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 19%

The main function of this film is to give a chance to Angelina Jolie fans to see her with the least possible clothing for a non-porn movie and watch her kick ass. So, if you’re not an avid Jolie fan, a poor boy who doesn’t have any better outlet to satisfy his urges, or Brad Pitt himself, you have no reason to watch this film. Commercially it was successful. The film held the record of highest grossing video game adaptation until 2010. The critics however disliked the film and bashed it. The general mood of the critics can be summarized in a quote from Rotten Tomatoes: Angelina Jolie is perfect for the role of Lara Croft, but even she can’t save the movie from a senseless plot and action sequences with no emotional impact. The movie is nothing but a fraud, as it presents no real plot, and only mashes fighting sequence after another, and the sexual undertones are at the same time hidden and offensive, as they are juvenile.

What did they miss? To me, the biggest disappointment is related to the character of Lara Croft herself. To me, she was always a charismatic video game heroine, and sexy at the same time. She was intelligent, tough, powerful and witty, and she loses all that in the movie.

2002: Resident Evil series

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 34%, 20%, 22%, 25%

Now, what can make a fundamentally dumb premise of a great video game even dumber? Insert an even dumber amnesiac heroine played by Milla Jovovich for the same reason (I mean petite sexuality, of course). Of course, none of the films are very loyal to the games and that’s understandable since again the plots of the games are unsuitable for a movie. There are many references to the game within the movie and the fact is that the plots of the original games (sorry, RE fans) are also somehow mediocre and shallow, and the main characters are again mostly generic and coincidental. The movies seem close enough to the game and that’s part of the problem. If you like Resident Evil games it’s most probably because of their gameplay and not their stories, and the movies fail to be anything but generic, shallow and stupid without the groundbreaking gameplay of the games.

What did miss? The games are praised because of their innovation in the Survival Horror genre. Two games in the series, Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4; have shaped the controls and the graphics and the feel of the genre. However, the movies are pure cliche and no innovation.

Uwe Boll Movies

Rotten Tomatoes Rating:
2003: House of the Dead: 4%
2005: Alone in the Dark: 1%
2005: BloodRayne: 4%
2007: Postal: 8%
2008: Far Cry: Not rated
2008: In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: 4%

This is the inevitable Uwe Boll entry in this list; and as you know he’s a director who specializes in creating crappy video game adaptation. He is often cited as one of the worst directors of all time. And let me reassure you, he’s so terrible he will make Ed Wood look like Ingmar Bergman. House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark appear on the IMDb’s Bottom 100 films list. In a review of Alone in the Dark, Rob Vaux states that the movie makes other “bad” movie directors feel better in comparison: It’s okay, they’ll tell themselves, I didn’t make Alone in the Dark. His movies are famous for being extremely sloppy and hastily made; for example in one scene a dead character rises up and walks out of the stage. He shamelessly steals his ideas from other movies and finally he received a Worst Career Achievement award at Golden Raspberry Awards. Well earned, man, well earned.

What did they miss? House of the Dead? Since that game is junk in itself, (again, sorry to the fans), nothing, a z movie representing a z game. Alone in the Dark? Remember what I said about Street Fighter? That the creators have only looked at the cover of the game? Well Boll hasn’t even done that for this game. The movie and the game simply have nothing in common. BloodRayne? I haven’t played the game so I don’t know. Postal? It’s the only masterpiece he has desecrated, (so far), and it has shown he has no understanding of the insane humor and the social commentary behind the game.

2006: Silent Hill

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%

I personally was totally looking forward to this one. Not only because I’m an avid Silent Hill fan, but because this game had a huge potential. First off, SH series are among the few games which are suitable to be adopted to the silver screen, and they are ripe with potential for both cinema and literature. Secondly, people involved were great talents. Akira Yamaoka, the legendary musical composer of the series, was one of the producers, and also it was written by Roger Avary, former Tarantino partner with whom he had made his greatest masterpiece (Pulp Fiction). The director also had one good movie in his resume (The Brotherhood of the Wolf). All my hope was in vain, though. The movie was given mildly positive reviews by the critics, some of its aspects were praised and some of it were shunned. So we can say that the movie was a generic, average horror.

What did they miss? Well, the movie at least tried to remain faithful the game’s themes of religion, psychology and occultism, and to its aesthetic visuals. However, it more feels like constant philosophizing, as it’s really hard to incorporate such themes effortlessly.

2007: Hitman

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 14%

So… we have a balded killer who was cloned? Cool, let’s make a movie about that! That I believe was the whole extent to which the producers of this movie knew about their source material. They even have the audacity to add a chick to the plot. The film has almost no story, and tell me, is Agent 47 silent? Nope, he’s one bald James Bond. His stuff includes killing enemies in hordes, and exploding things up. If the movie 47 played a game he would get the “please just stop playing” rating. The actors do not make any sort of effort to put any bit of life into their characters. There are many problems with the movie but that aside, the games have also almost no plot. This doesn’t mean that movie creators cannot take the basic premise and go with it.

What did they miss? Well, my biggest disappointment is the fact that there’s no trace of the unique character of 47, on whose shoulder the whole game rests.

2008: Max Payne

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 16%

Marky Mark plays the role of one of the greatest written and iconic video game characters of all times and while he’s at it, he takes a huge dump on it. The film was absolutely hated by the critics and it brought a Razzi nomination for Wahlberg. The film is simply visual effect after visual effect, and instead of toning things down in adaptation, what a movie normally should do, it exaggerates things and makes everything ridiculous. The Valkyrie demons flying? What the hell are those things? The film replaces the sincere, solemn and sad tone of the game with frenzy and never realizes that Max Payne is loved not for its visual effects and bullet time only, but mainly for its deep and personal characters. Max is the character who makes the game important, relevant and relatable, and nothing is worse for a movie than playing him badly.

What did they miss? The soul of Max Payne himself. The creators didn’t know what the game was about, stripped the game of its art and replaced it with action.

2009: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 17%

Let me quote something from the famous critic Leonard Maltin in his annual Movie and Video Guide. He’s talking about the first Street Fighter movie: “Even Jean-Claude Van Damme fans couldn’t rationalize this bomb, a more appropriate title for which would have been Four Hundred Funerals and No Sex… It does, however, seem like Citizen Kane when compared to The Legend of Chun-Li.” This one might be the worst movie based on a video game ever made. Watching it was the most painful cinematic experience in my life. (And I live in Iran, and I’m forced to watch Iranian movies from time to time). I have no idea why this movie was called a Street Fighter. Main characters like Rio, Cammy or Ken are absent. Instead, stupid new characters are introduced, who could be easily omitted from the plot. Chun-Li is a classical pianist and seems to have no knowledge of martial arts as her fighting is extremely sloppy. M. Bison looks even weaker and stupider than Julia’s portrayal, and he looks like a rich bourgeois. Fighting choreography is poor, and therefore not only the movie is absolutely devoid of any artistic merit whatsoever, it can’t appeal to the fans of mindless action either.

What did they miss? When your “adaptation” has nothing to do with the source material, why call it that?

Dishonorable mentions:

I could add these movies as well (the parenthesis shows the Rotten Tomatoes rating):

DOA: Dead or Alive (34%)

The King of Fighters (None)

Tekken (none)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (25%)

And with this, our series on the relationship between movies and video games comes to an end. From the next week, we’ll have new subjects! Stay tuned!


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