Game On: Best and Worst Video Game to Movie Adaptations
It’s been nearly three decades since Hollywood took a giant Luigi-style leap into a new genre by adapting the mega-hit Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. into a comedy adventure movie.
The 1993 flick about two Brooklyn plumbers/brothers named Mario Mario (seriously!) and Luigi Mario and their quest to rescue Princess Daisy from the evil King Koopa received mostly unfavorable views following its release.
However, that didn’t deter Hollywood from putting out more ’90s spin-offs of popular games like “Street Fighter,” “Double Dragon” and “Mortal Kombat.”
While some have grown to become cult classics because of their novelty and fans’ love of the games, most of these early films were box office bombs.
A new generation of directors who grew up playing video games seems to have a far better grasp of what does and doesn’t work.
“The importance of the source material has become something that 20 years ago people didn’t really care about,” says Johannes Roberts, director of the latest “Resident Evil” adaptation, in an AP interview. “There’s definitely a real understanding that you need to believe in and love it….that you can’t just take the name and run with it.”
We’re not talking Oscar-worthy movies here, but movie production companies are certainly realizing the genre has untapped potential. Check out our list of five of the best as well as five of the most disappointing, and where to watch. We take into account the storyline, box office appeal and how close each resembles the actual video game that inspired it.
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Five movies that lived up to the video game
1. “Sonic the Hedgehog” (2020)
Based on the popular Sega video game, this animated live-action adventure comedy stars the voice of Ben Schwartz as the beloved blue hedgehog with supersonic speed, James Marsden as Sheriff Tom Wachowksi and Jim Carrey as the evil mad scientist Dr. Robotnik, who desires to use Sonic’s powers to rule Earth.
It set a U.S. record for biggest opening weekend of a video game adaptation and grossed $319.7 million worldwide—a North American record for the genre. Watch for a sequel in 2022.
2. “Tomb Raider” (2018)
If you’re seeking action, this third installment of the “Tomb Raider” film series delivers.
Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft, the independent daughter of a missing adventurer, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who mysteriously disappeared from society. Refusing to accept he’s dead and determined to collect her dad’s massive fortune, Lara embarks on a dangerous journey to track down her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mystical island.
3. “Mortal Kombat” (1995)
There are plenty of reasons to watch this movie: fight scenes, costumes, a pulsating techno soundtrack and location sets that truly make you feel like you’re watching the game series it’s modeled on.
Plus, you hear chants of “Finish him!” whenever a fighter is struggling—just like in the iconic video game franchise that started in 1992.
We follow three martial artists—Shaolin monk Liu Kang (Robin Shou), federal agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) and action-movie hero Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby)—who are selected and trained by Lord Raiden (Christopher Lambert) to partake in an inter-dimensional fighting tournament held in the mythical Outworld.
The three must defeat Sub-Zero, Scorpion and other demon warriors of the evil Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) or Tsung gets to take over the Earth.
The film opened at number one at the box office and grossed $124.7 million worldwide—making it the highest-grossing adaptation of a video game at that time.
4. “Mortal Kombat” (2021)
The film caters to a 21st-century audience. It follows Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a down-and-out mixed martial arts fighter (MMA was barely a thing in the 1990s) who is unaware of his heritage or why Outworld has sent its best warrior, Sub-Zero, to hunt him down. Concerned for his family’s safety, Cole aligns himself with a group of fighters chosen to protect ”Earthrealm” from Outworld.
The plot is slightly better in this reboot, but we prefer the nostalgia of the original 1995 film and its closeness to the actual video game franchise.
5. “Rampage” (2018)
David Okoye (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a former U.S. Special Forces soldier and primatologist, befriends George, a rare albino gorilla who is extraordinarily intelligent and has been in his care since birth.
An off-the-books genetic experiment goes horribly wrong and causes George, a reptile and a wolf to grow to monstrous size. David and George take on the other mutated animals to prevent them from destroying Chicago. Like the game—which allowed players to pick gigantic monsters and try to survive a military onslaught—you can expect to see lots of smashing.
This box office smash grossed $428 million.
Five movies that failed to live up to the video game
1. “BloodRayne” (2005)
This German-American fantasy action horror film, set in 18th-century Romania, focuses on Rayne (Kristanna Loken), a human-vampire hybrid who steps away from her life in a traveling circus to take down her evil vampire dad (Ben Kingsley). Along her journey, she’s discovered by three vampire hunters, but manages to convince them to join her mission and slay her father.
This movie was a bomb both with critics and at the box office, grossing only $3.7 million from a $25 million budget.
Where to watch: Tubi
2. “Street Fighter” (2009)
Loosely based on popular game Street Fighter II, the film features Jean-Claude Van Damme as Colonel Guile, who leads the Allied Nations as they try to defeat General Bison (Raul Julia), the power-hungry drug kingpin and leader of Shadaloo City.
Bison wants to take over the world with an army of genetically engineered super soldiers, and he’s kidnapped a bus full of Allied Nations relief workers and is holding them hostage for a $20 million ransom.
Though not well received by critics or many fans of the game, the film was still a box office success. It was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.
3. “Doom” (2005)
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Sarge, who leads a group of space marines on a mission to a Mars science facility after learning of a security breach on the red planet. A test subject, who just happens to be a mass murderer, was purposely injected with alien DNA, escaped and started killing people.
But the stakes are higher: Dr. Grimm (Rosamund Pike) informs them that the chromosome is highly infectious and can mutate humans into genetically engineered monsters.
The money-losing box office dud was poorly received by both gamers and movie critics.
4. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001)
Not a bad film, but expected better with a star-studded lineup that includes Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig and Jon Voight.
Jolie plays Lara Croft, who races against the clock and bad guys to find a mysterious artifact that can control time, after finding a letter from her dad (Voight) warning it must be destroyed. Like the popular game series, Lara encounters tombs and traps along her way to completing her mission.
Jolie does a great job playing Lara Croft—and looks the part—and it did well at the box office, but the film’s plot fails to deliver the same punch as the 2018 reboot featuring Alicia Vikander.
5. “Resident Evil” (2002)
Amnesiac heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) leads a commando team that must break into “The Hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory where a deadly virus has been unleashed and killed the lab’s staff, resurrecting them as zombies. The team has three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer before the virus threatens to overrun humanity.
Despite negative reviews, the film spawned six sequels, thanks to the game’s popularity.
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