When you think about the surge in popularity for comic book movies, it makes perfect sense. A comic book is essentially pages of storyboards for a film. A good portion of the work is already done for you, it’s now a matter of making the material more palatable for film. Now that special effects and CGI are at a place where some of the extraordinary events in comic books can be depicted, Hollywood seems to be on a roll. Heck, most of these movies are critically acclaimed on top of being fun for children.
Video games haven’t had as easy of a time. It was understandable back when you tried to base a whole movie off a video game using simple story-lines and 8-bit characters that just looked like a couple blobs of color. These days, video games are practically movies themselves. The cinematic introductions and cut-away scenes are very theatrical, the plots and themes are much more intricate and detailed, and some of the characters are absolutely amazing. Why then is it still hard to transfer games over to film and actually produce something decent? Scientists will be pondering this question for hundreds of years to come. In the mean time, let’s take a look at some of the worst of the worst when it comes to films based on video games.
10. Need For Speed – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23% Rotten
According to the studios, Need For Speed (based on a popular line of outlaw motorist racing games) was very affordable. It’s what would be considered a “mid-budget movie”. It wasn’t exactly a chore to turn over a profit on a Fast and Furious clone, which is exactly what it is. If you put someone in front of the film and said it was the next Fast film, they’d never question you.
While the movie seems to be universally panned by critics (116 Rotten reviews against 34 Fresh reviews at the time of this article), Need for Speed could very well be the most revered video game movie by the public (a 7.2 on IMDb!), possibly ever. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much.
9. Doom – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19% Rotten
If you came into this hoping for the type of scares the video game provided you’re in for some real disappointment. The Hell and demon plot elements in a Martian setting that made Doom such a good game are totally gone. The movie is only very loosely based on the games which is an unfortunate trend when adapting games.
Some viewers were okay with the film, giving the old, “It’s good for what it is.” line. So what, it’s okay that it’s a terrible movie because it isn’t trying to be Citizen Kane? Sorry, Doom could be considered torture if the viewer could stay awake during it.
8. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 18% Rotten
For some reason no one has been able to make a decent Street Fighter film. In their defense, the Street Fighter games are simple 2D fighters, there isn’t much their besides a few character back stories to really go on. Anything anyone makes will probably have huge deviations from the game. Chun-Li isn’t a bad film because it’s a poor adaptation. In fact, it’s probably a bit closer to the mark than the first attempt at a Street Fighter film. The problem here is it’s just a dull film that never delivers. The lead (Kristin Kreuk) is bland and the fight sequences in a fighting movie drew no visible inspiration from the games and were just as “ho-hum” as the performances.
It’s directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak. He’s the same guy that gave us Doom.
7. Max Payne – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16% Rotten
Max Payne was a huge disappointment to fans of the video game but that’s generally a given with video game movies. While the film is once again only loosely based on the source material, everything else seemed to be going for this film. It had an excellent cast, but then they gave their worst performances. What a shame.
There was some excellent imagery but after a while it’s over-used and gets to be a little over-the-top. John Moore showed us he is an excellent director with a very cool aesthetic, but in Max Payne he just didn’t understand the concept of “less is more.” Max Payne is the cinematic equivalent of salting your food before you’ve tasted it.
6. The Super Mario Brothers – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16% Rotten
Find someone who was a kid in the 80s and 90s and ask them about this movie. Their face will light up and they’ll probably tell you they completely wore out the tape on their VHS copy. Once they’re done reminiscing, sit them down and make them watch it now. If you watch their face closely, you’ll be able to pin-point the exact second in which their soul is completely destroyed.
To cover its bases, The Mario movie borrows a little bit from all the games. It tries to “explain” some of the more fantastical game elements, but didn’t have the effects at the time to do it right. What you end up with is a surreal mess of nonsense that only a child could understand.
5. Street Fighter – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12% Rotten
Boy, did this one really try. Guile looked great. M. Bison looked great. It starred Jean-Claude Van Damme in a role where the whole point to his character is to punch and kick things. Stephen de Souza, the action film writer of the time, was set to write and direct. What could possibly go wrong?
The studio, De Souza initially wanted to keep the film at seven characters, which shaved off about half of the game’s roster. As time went on, the studio kept asking for more characters and De Souza, a first time director, kept agreeing. It drained his budget and forced constant re-writes and edits. De Souza did the math and noticed that left him with about six minutes of screen time per character. How do you work with that?
4. Wing Commander – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 10% Rotten
By the time the third installment of Wing Commander hit video game consoles, they were already movies. This flight-sim was interjected with actual movie sequences starring Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, and ex-pornstar Ginger Lynn for good measure. The effects were fine and the sets were great. The movie was practically made.
Then they made a theatrical release and it starred Matthew Lillard and Freddie Prinze Jr. You know, because when you’re making a science-fiction film you really want to cater to the thirteen year-old girl demographic.
3. BloodRayne – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4% Rotten
Even Michael Madsen, one of the stars of BloodRayne, has gone on the record and said this is a bad film. What does one really expect from director Uwe Boll? He has made a habit of taking video games and making really bad films that are only connected to the source material in name only. He’s made several films this way. The man is practically a living punchline. Boll was once so upset by critical responses to his films that he challenged them to boxing matches, as if this would somehow make people understand his movies are as good as he thinks they are.
BloodRayne is a vampire film based on a series of games that weren’t that popular to begin with. In its defense, the first BloodRayne movie (Boll will make sequels regardless of how well the first film does) pre-dates the Twilight films by two years. No one can call this a cash-grab.
2. Alone In The Dark – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 1% Rotten
Hey look! Another Uwe Boll film on a list of bad movies! There would be more but the “cream of the crap” was already mentioned here.
This is a great series of games loosely based on Lovecraftian horror. If you’ve played more recent installments, parts of the game are already set-up like chapters on a DVD. If you enter in at a later portion of the game, you’ll even get a re-cap with a “Last time on Alone in the Dark…” set-up. They already took a cinematic approach but decided to scrap everything when making the film.
One could argue Boll writes original scripts, gets the rights to a game title to cash-in on name recognition, then just changes character names.
1. Double Dragon – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% Rotten
Double Dragon has the distinction of being the single lowest rated video game movie of all time. The film is based on an old “beat ’em up” with a simple story: A couple martial artists go into gang territory to save a girl they both love.
Not having much to go on, the movie decides to flesh the story out by adding a lot of mysticism set in a dystopian future. The special effects this required (which were impressive for the time) came at a cost. Most of the actors were from television which just made matters worse considering the hokey dialogue offered by a sub-par script.