The Top 10: Video Game Adaptations
Since Assassin's Creed came out and capped off a year where we got four (five if you include Kingsglaive) video game-based films, I thought it right to make a list of the ten best, or in this case, furthest from bad movies in the sub-genre.
Video game-based films sure seem to have a poor track record, but has it really been all that bad? Sure, most of the films that comprise this category are duds, but I also feel like there are some movies that have been unfairly swept under the rug and I'm here to identify them. These ten films might not be great, but if you have the mind for some nonsensical fun, these picks might fit the bill.
10. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
For its time, Final Fantasy: The Spirit's Within was and still sort of is a visual wonder. Sure, the plot is needlessly convoluted, but it was just a marvel to behold, especially considering it came out all the way back in 2001. The movie suffers from a baffling plot and characters that aren't memorable, which is why it's at the bottom of this list, but for the advancements in CGI and creative art design on display; it gets a pass.
9. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Yes, this is really cheesy stuff, but how can you not have fun watching Angelina Jolie swing around on drapes whilst taking out countless machine gun-toting soldiers. This movie is absolutely ridiculous and it's a blast for it. Tomb Raider is also surprisingly a better Indiana Jones film than Crystal Skull was, so take that for what it's worth. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ain't high art, but it's a fun action movie with a surprisingly decent sense of adventure and treasure hunting.
Look, Warcraft is an absolute mess. This really could have been the savior of video game-based films but instead squandered most of its potential. That said, there is still so much to this movie that is fresh and interesting that had me coming back for repeat viewings to catch things I might have missed. This film is also very pretty to look at, even if you can tell 75% of what you're seeing is computer generated. Warcraft also gets points for its treatment of the Horde; these muscle-bound, completely CG orcs had more heart than the humans and I enjoyed the film the most when they were on-screen.
7. Resident Evil
Resident Evil is the only video game-based film to spawn a successful movie franchise. With five films out and one more on the way; audiences still haven't grown tired of seeing Milla Jovovich's Alice kick ass on the big screen. Resident Evil is definitely one of the most dated films on this list, but it has a charm to it that has only grown with age. I love the eerie but simplistic electronic score and the underground Umbrella facility is a fun playground for zombie slaying, plus, how can anyone forget the deadly laser security corridor?
6. Resident Evil: Retribution
I know this is probably the most unpopular opinion of all unpopular opinions, but this movie is a freakin' blast. This was when the franchise decided to go completely bat-sh*t, and I'm reasonably sure that the film-makers were self-aware of this. I mean, it takes place in a virtual world and there are zombies with rocket launchers riding motorcycles, I repeat: ZOMBIES WITH ROCKET LAUNCHERS RIDING MOTORCYCLES!!! There is so much insanity in this film and it's hard not to grin while you're watching it all unfold.
5. Resident Evil: Extinction
No, I did not intentionally group all of the Resident Evil films together on this list, it just happened to turn out that way. Resident Evil: Extinction is the best film in the franchise and one of the best video game-based films out there. This is partially due to the infusion of some very Road Warrior-esque elements. The film is short on plot and still has buckets of cheese to spare, but there is so much well-staged action and crowd-pleasing moments on display here that it's easy to forgive, plus the desert setting is a great change of pace.
4. Silent Hill
Silent Hill, while being short on good characterization, is a great exercise in style and atmosphere. Just watching this film you can tell there was an admiration for the art design on display in the video games its based upon. What makes this movie even better is that it's actually creepy as all hell and it's an absolute blast to see Pyramid Head carve it up. This is also one of the few movies that can function as a decent horror film even when you separate it from its video game counterpart.
3. Assassin's Creed
If anyone read my review they'll know that I ended up really enjoying Assassin's Creed, and while it might not be the best video game-based film like I so bullishly claimed, it certainly has the most talent on display and does fall squarely in the top three. Assassin's Creed is filmed beautifully by Justin Kurzel and has some very well choreographed action. Though the plot is needlessly complicated and is filled with ludicrous moments, I remained engaged by the story and felt that the film delivered on its promises.
2. Mortal Kombat
This movie is the epitome of over-the-top '90s action and plotting. I challenge anyone to watch this film and not have at least a little bit of fun witnessing Mortal Kombat's mystical, machismo-infused characters duke it out in the ring. While this film would have fared better had it been ridiculously violent like the games, it still gets by on its strong action beats and goofy charm. And the cherry on top? This movie spawned one of the best songs of the nineties that is still the definition of bad-ass. MORTAL KOMBAT!!!
1. Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia is the only video game-based film to have the complete package: A functioning plot, fun characters, well-staged action and great production values. The story, while simple, is engaging and has some very unique time-reversal moments that make for some beautifully conceived sequences. The movie also has excellent action choreography and truly stellar set-pieces that make the most of the source material. There's the one complaint that none of these actors are of Persian descent, which is a shame, but Gyllenhaal really gives Dastan his all and I was able to overlook the film's flaws in that department.
While there still haven't been any great video game-based films, I don't think we're as far off as some claim. None of the films listed here are perfect, but they all demonstrate varying levels of potential for the genre and are all enjoyable films in their own right, even if some might cause permanent brain-cell loss. Pop the cap off of your favorite beer or five, sit back and enjoy one of these films, and don't feel guilty because there's honest fun to be had here.