“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock’n’roll.”
Video games have been a staple of the entertainment industry since ‘Pong’ became such a hit in households across America. In the decades since, technology has come leaps and bounds, and now it’s sometimes hard to tell pixelated characters from live-action actors. Still, Hollywood can’t keep its grubby little hands off of the gaming industry, and so we have been subjected to myriad terrible attempts at transferring interactive games to narrative films. It’s sad really. But they’ve come close to quality, and even touched it once or twice. Here’s my rundown of the best video game film adaptations!
5. Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995)
This is not a good movie. And Paul W.S. Anderson is an awful… filmmaker. Sorry; I threw up a little writing that word and that name in the same sentence. However, “Mortal Kombat” is the single-most faithful adaptation I’ve ever seen. The MK series is not known or its amazing plot. Fight… fight… fight… fight… boss… BOOM! And it translates perfectly to film. Fight scene, after fight scene, after fight scene. We even get multiple Fatalities, and even a Johnny Cage ‘Friendship’ (to his greatest fan). It’s perfectly structured, nicely choreographed, dumb fun. Just like the games.
4. Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002)
First things first: Yes, this is another Paul W.S. Anderson movie. And yes, I know this series went south FAST. But the first installment of this horrid film franchise actually managed to scrape together enough of the game’s good qualities to amount to a half-decent horror flick. We get zombies, shotguns, mutant monsters, and skinless Dobermans (I’m sure PETA had a field day). It’s a junkie action flick sprinkled with a nice zombie dressing. It also showed that post-“Fifth Element” Milla Jovovich can still be a badass.
3. “Pokemon: The Movie 2000” (Yuyama, 2000)
“Pokemon” was a big part of my childhood. When there were only 151 in the Pokedex, I was heavy into that shit. Based on the insanely popular Gameboy series (the tiniest of the consoles at the time), it’s still going now. In 2000, they released the second feature length film: “The Movie 2000.” It’s a hell of a lot better than the overly simplistic, damn near insulting first installment (who knew violence… was wrong?). It’s got all the epic fantasy tropes: an ancient legend, a Chosen one, a mystical beast in the sea, and an egomaniacal villain in a flying fortress. It’s priceless. It’s not great by any means. Maybe not even that good. But as far as child-oriented animated video game adaptations go, it’s pretty enjoyable.
2. “Silent Hill” (Gans, 2006)
I was heavily conflicted when I first saw this movie. It’s so slow in its first half, and its 2-hour plus running time is just not justifiable. However, it salvages itself with its second half and actually manages to serve up some real scares, great gore, and some memorable monster moments. All the franchise’s iconic villains are accounted for, and they all manage to add to the horror as they should. On top of that, the acting isn’t all that bad either – a rare feat for a video game movie.
1. “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (Sakaguchi, 2001)
This one is a real gem. It’s that rare slice of quality that rises above the other drivel Hollywood smacks a franchise name on and slams down our throats. “The Spirits Within” was a marvel when it came out; the animation was (and still is) pretty astounding. Teams of professionals spent over four years on this film and it shows. Now, technical specs aside, this movie is pretty friggin’ sweet. Alien phantoms are wiping out humanity in all its intergalactic hiding places, and only this decked-out cast (Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, James Woods, Ving Rhames) can stop them. With the help of mystical spirits and a brilliant doctor, humanity actually had a chance! It’s intense. It’s violent. And it’s beautiful to look at.