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Last week I talked about bad video game based movies and provided a list of every one I could recall. Thank the broadband for Wikipedia! When I reviewed the list, it was clear to me that some of the most creative and commercially successful video games were never made into films. For example, why didn’t Lucas Arts ever make a movie based on The Secret of Monkey Island? Well, after what happened in 1993 with the movie Super Mario Brothers, you could understand the reluctance of video game publishers to let any of their original properties be adapted to film. I still think Bob Hoskins was an excellent choice for Mario. I will never forget the giant Koopa trooper I met at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas! Of course, Nintendo created the Pokemon franchise and everyone knows how massively successful that series continues to be since its introduction in 1996 (even the good doctor has his trading card starter pack and music CD’s – I still do a mean Team Rocket voice impersonation “..Prepare for trouble…and make it DOUBLE!”).

Let’s take a look at some video game based movies that Doctor Arkanoid prescribes as recommended viewing:

MORTAL KOMBAT (New Line Cinema, 1995)

I believe that this film shows the right way of how to adapt a video game for the big screen (or today’s HD screen). Mortal Kombat the game has a well developed backstory. There are a set of characters who clearly represent the forces of good and evil. Each of these characters is unique and possesses amazing fighting powers. They also have established relationships with each other, such as Raiden and Shang Tsung. The locations for the battles were exotic and nicely designed. The script for Mortal Kombat was well written and the dialogue was reasonably decent. But for a video game based movie to be a commercial success, it must attract both the video gamer and non-video gamer alike. Gamers were impressed that the movie was faithful to the game’s actual fighting moves and special  finishing techniques. Probably one of the most compelling features of this movie was the soundtrack’s opening techno theme, which eventually was adapted and played in many dance clubs around the the world. Even today, the theme is immediately recognizable. The movie grossed $122 million worldwide.

TOMB RAIDER (Paramount Pictures, 2001)

Ah, Lara Croft. How many gamer hearts have you broken with your beauty, your intelligence, your tight fitting clothes, and your arsenal of weapons? Sure, Metroid has Samus Aran, Street Fighter has Chun-Li, and Dead or Alive has its squad of gorgeous yet vapid beach volleyball bimbos. But frankly my dear, none of them hold a digital candle compared to you! Since her first appearance in 1996, Lara has become the world’s most recognizable video game heroine. So it was only fitting that a larger than life video game character would appear on the big screen. It’s fair to say that Tomb Raider was a natural candidate for a video game based movie because it channels the adventure and action of Indiana Jones with the sophistication  and wit of James Bond. This isn’t a surprise when you realize that not only was Angelina Jolie the perfect choice to play Lara Croft, her nemesis in the movie was none other than Daniel Craig who would later become the new James Bond in Casino Royale. Jon Voight also starred in this film as Lara’s father. Tomb Raider is considered the most commercially successful video game movie yet – it grossed over $300 million worldwide.

FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN (Square Enix, 2005)

The Final Fantasy series of role playing video games started in 1987. The first Final Fantasy game was produced to save the fledgling company from bankruptcy. 22 years later,  Final Fantasy has a huge cult following around the globe. Final Fantasy: Advent Children is a computer generated movie based on the video game Final Fantasy VII, which was produced for the PC and Sony Playstation in 1997 and 1998. The game features two of Square’s most famous video game characters – Cloud Strife and his massive sword versus Sephiroth the one winged dark angel. It’s considered one of Square – Enix’s most successful titles with over ten million units sold. Unlike the epic video game movie disaster Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), this film remained faithful to the mythology and story of the original series. It was also a DVD only release that sold approximately 11 million units worldwide and received several awards for its quality.

In the Doctor’s mind, these three films epitomize the best of the video game based movies released to date.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Resident EvilBad video game movies must die.

Die I tell you! DIE! DIE! DIE!

Why must they die? Because they’re abominable, boring, execrable, insipid, laughable, mangled, half digested heaps of steaming mediocrity produced by a film industry that wouldn’t know a good video game plot if their brains were being gnawed from their skulls by ravenous zombies!

Hey! Wait a moment! That sounds like an AWESOME idea for a movie <insert dripping sarcasm here>.

On September 4th, the latest wretched incarnation of ‘Bad Video Game Movies That Must Die’ was released into theatres. It’s called GAMER. To use the trite Hollywood movie metaphor – think ‘Total Recall‘ meets ‘Death Race 2000‘ meets ‘Tron‘. Prison convicts are being electronically mind controlled by hormonally raging adolescent males in a video game Thunderdome of gratuitous explosions and splattered gore. One convict gets all noble and tries to communicate with his teenage master  to give him freedom of thought so he can beat the system and gain his freedom (cue Russell Crowe and Gladiator). Add third rate rapper Ludacris as some sort of sage hacker who gets an acute case of remorse for creating the Master Control Program (Tron) that makes it all possible. Toss in a hideously awful buzz saw music soundtrack and you have the latest turgid offering to the stinking pile of bad video game movies produced in the last 20 years.

There’s a classic Super Nintendo game that is far more entertaining than this dreck of a movie. It’s called SUPER SMASH TV and was published by Williams in the mid 1990’s. Save your money and buy Super Smash TV instead. You can find versions of this game available for the Playstation 2 and on XBox Live.

Hollywood and the video game industry have had a tumultuous relationship with each other for many years. Since the 1980’s, the film studios salivated over the large revenues that could be realized from commercially successful hit video games. Game developers were envious of the film industry’s ability to combine story and technology to create intense experiences for the viewing audience. When I attended the Computer Game Developer’s Conference at San Jose’ in 1994, I remember the esoteric game designer Chris Crawford standing in front of the large assembled audience, proclaiming ‘…Hollywood will save the video game industry!’ <Note: Those are the actual words he used. We all heard him say it>.

Here are some realities about video games and Hollywood that are not openly mentioned by many game developers:

Hollywood views video games as one more stream of revenue. The quality of game play in a video game based on a movie is unimportant to them. It’s all about promoting the licence.

It is true that global revenues from the video game industry rival or exceed global box office revenues from hit Hollywood movies these days. But when you include total DVD and other franchise revenues, the movie industry still dwarves the video game industry. Hollywood makes more money.

The overwhelming majority of all published video games based on motion pictures have been commercial disasters for game publishers. A good plot and believable characters on screen do not necessarily translate into great game play.

Up to this point, I’ve mostly talked about Hollywood licensing a movie for use in a video game. But what about licensing a video game to Hollywood for a movie? Or, as in the case of GAMER, a movie loosely based on video games?

Here’s my best attempt at remembering as many video game based movies as I can from 1982 to 2009:

Tron

The Wizard

Super Mario Brothers

The Last Starfighter

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Double Dragon

Alone in the Dark

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider 2

DOOM

House of the Dead

Gamer

Double Dragon

Street Fighter 2

Resident Evil

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Resident Evil: Extinction

Dead or Alive

House of the Dead

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Final Fantasy: Advent Children

Wing Commander

Dungeon Siege: In the Name of the King

Max Payne

Hitman

Postal

Bloodrayne

If you asked me to identify the BEST of these movies, I would nominate:

Tron

The Wizard

The Last Starfighter

Mortal Kombat

Tomb Raider

Final Fantasy: Advent Children

If you asked me to identify the most hideous of these movies, I would nominate:

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Resident Evil (All three movies)

House of the Dead

Hitman

Postal

Dead or Alive

Wing Commander

Bloodrayne

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

There’s an excellent video at the Game Trailers website about the Top Ten Worst Video Game Movies.

The good Doctor has more to say about video game based movies. Stay tuned.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

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Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum!, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.