Retrospective: Game-based Movies

With two of these movies coming out this year here’s a refresher on other movies that were also spawned from games. Click “Read More” to stroll down memory lane.

From PC Screen to the Silver Screen

In The Beginning…

…there were games, lots of games. But only a choice few have made it to the big screen. What special attribute did they possess that others did not? Will we try to answer these questions, no. But we will take a quick jog through the history of Game-Based Movies.

Clue (1985)

Cast & Crew:
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Written by John Landis and Jonathan Lynn

Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock
Tim Curry as Wadsworth the Butler
Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum
Michael McKean as Mr. Green
Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard
Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet

No it isn’t a video game, but it was a game, and a good game at that. On top of that, it was a good movie. Sadly the best Game-to-Movie conversion was the first. Adventure revolves around a mysterious dinner party and, eventually, six murders. Whodunit? Watch and see. This movie is full of great laughs, thanks to deft performances, especially Tim Curry’s. There is also a great mystery to be solved, and even if you get it right, you’re wrong. Huh? This movie has not only one, but three seperate endings. In theaters you could only see one, but the TV and Video versions contain all of them. Great 99 cent rental at Blockbuster or you may be able to catch it on Comedy Central. You can also buy it online (DVD | VHS)

Double Dragon (1993)

Cast & Crew:
Directed by James Yukich
Written by Paul Dini & Neal Shusterman

Robert Patrick as Koga Shuko
Mark Dacascos as Jimmy Lee
Scott Wolf (I) as Billy Lee
Kristina Wagner as Linda Lash
Julia Nickson-Soul as Satori Imada
Alyssa Milano as Marian Delario

I’ll quote Balto-2 from his review on IMDB: "Goofy, pointless, lame and full of bad acting." Kinda sums this one up. Two brothers with mystical medalions must overthrow the local evil tyrant. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There aren’t even semi-decent effects to lift this one out of the muck. Die hard Double Dragon fans get buy the movie online (DVD Only).

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Cast & Crew
Directed by Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton
Written by Parker Bennett & Terry Runte

Bob Hoskins as Mario Mario
John Leguizamo as Luigi Mario
Dennis Hopper as King Koopa
Samantha Mathis as Princess Daisy
Fisher Stevens as Iggy
Richard Edson as Spike

This one was targeted straight at a pretty young audience at the height of Mario-Mania. Production value is fairly high, but lacks any real energy. Hoskins is fun to watch in the same way he was in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Leguizamo gives a sub-par performance compared to some of his better characters, but that could be contributed to the writers. Fisher Stevens isn’t all that funny either (especially after what we saw from him in "Short Circuit"). Worth renting? Maybe, if you’re an old Nintendo freak that just can’t get enough Mario. This title is available to buy online (VHS Only).

Street Fighter (1994)

Cast & Crew
Directed by Steven E. De Souza
Written by Steven E. De Souza

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Colonel Guile
Raul Julia as General M. Bison
Ming-Na as Chun-Li

This was painful to watch, by and large. It’s a kid’s movie and it shows. Van Damme fans will probably get a kick out of it (oh that was a bad pun). The film wanders from fight scene to fight scene, but then again that’s what the game was all about. In that sense it captured the feel perfectly. Saddest comment, this was Raul Julia’s last role. Painful ending to a distinguished career. Available for purchase online (DVD | VHS).

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Cast & Crew
Directed by Paul Anderson
Written by Kevin Droney

Christopher Lambert as Lord Rayden
Robin Shou as Liu Kang
Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung
Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade
Talisa Soto as Kitana
Trevor Goddard as Kano

Based on the insanely popular (at least at the time) game, Mortal Kombat does have some redeeming qualities. It captures the full feel of the game, copying the storylines directly from the game and mirroring the characters pretty well. It also has some excellent effects in places, though Goro looks like he was animated along with the California Raisins. The plot actually suffers from its closeness to the game. It’s thin and predictable, but then, it’s just your standard fighting game. Features a cool techno soundtrack. I say rent it for mindless fun, which it is. Available for sale online (DVD | VHS | CD).

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Cast & Crew
Directed by John R. Leonetti
Written by Lawrence Kasanoff

Robin Shou as Liu Kang
Talisa Soto as Princess Kitana
James Remar as Rayden
Sandra Hess as Sonya Blade
Lynn ‘Red’ Williams as Jax
Brian Thompson as Shao-Kahn

You know you’re in for trouble when a sequel has none of the returning actors, writers, or directors, and such is the case for Annihilation. It’s bad, really bad. The effects are sloppy and ill conceived. The writting is poor, but worse is the acting. It’s a little like sitting through a sixth-grade play. If you just can’t get enough Mortal Kombat, buy it online (DVD | VHS | CD).

Wing Commander (1999)

Cast & Crew
Directed by Chris Roberts
Written by Chris Roberts & Kevin Droney

Freddie Prinze Jr. as Christopher “Maverick” Blair
Saffron Burrows as Jeanette “Angel” Devereaux
Matthew Lillard as Todd ‘Maniac’ Marshall
Tchéky Karyo as Commodore James “Paladin” Taggart
Jürgen Prochnow as Commander Paul Gerald
David Suchet as Captain Jason Sansky
David Warner as Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn

I didn’t mind this movie as much as die-hard Wing Commander fans did. I have a friend, someone that’s played all the WC games and he won’t be happy until all copies of the game are buried under eight tons of peet moss. True, it was a fairly thin story, but the effects were spot on and managed to generate a little suspence. The Kilrathi, however, looked like rubber puppets from McDonalds. The acting ranges from fair to good. It’s obvious that producers cut costs and filmed the movie in eastern Europe, since most of the supporting cast all have similar accents. Jürgen Prochnow is an underrated actor, sadly he doesn’t get much meat to work with here and is stuck yelling at the hero throughout the film. Contains a fairly good score as well. Another fun, if mindless, rental or buy (DVD | VHS | CD).

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Cast & Crew
Directed by Courtney Solomon
Written by Topper Lilien & Carroll Cartwright

Jeremy Irons as Profion
Justin Whalin as Ridley Freeborn
Marlon Wayans as Snails
Zoe McLellan as Marina Pretensa
Thora Birch as Empress Savina

I wanted to like this movie. Really I did. I knew going in I had to keep my hopes low and I tried, but this movie just isn’t much good. Performances range from scene chewing (Jeremy Irons) to just plain bad (Thora Burch). The effects are good, especially considering their miniscule budget ($35 million for an FX-heavy film!). D&D fans won’t be too disappointed. A shrewd player should be able to identify all the monsters and spells used throughout the film. Marlon Wayans is fairly irritating for most viewers, but I had to admit, every game I’d ever played of D&D had someone just like him. One disappointing fact about the movie is that Courtney Solomon optioned the rights in 1992, but in eight years he couldn’t come up with a better storyline. Personally I’m hoping for a DVD full of cut materials, since this movie felt like it a lot was missing. Not available for sale except for the soundtrack.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Cast & Crew:

Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi
Written by Al Reinert and Hironobu Sakaguchi

Alec Baldwin as Grey
Steve Buscemi as Ryan
Peri Gilpin as Jane
Ming-Na as Aki
Ving Rhames as Neil
Donald Sutherland as Dr. Cid
James Woods as General Hein

Lots of history to live up to since these games are such a big hit both in the US and Japan. Will it be hit? Here’s a sneak peak.

Tomb Raider (2001)

Cast & Crew:

Directed by Simon West
Written by Patrick Massett & John Zinman

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft
Daniel Craig as Alex Marrs
Leslie Phillips as Wilson
Mark Collie as Larson
Jon Voight as Lord Croft

Premieres June 15, 2001. This movie has a lot fan following and hype to live up to. Trailers look promising though.

What Lies Ahead…

Who knows? Several games have had their movie rights purchased, but few make it all the way. Doom may make it the big screen eventually (the rights were bought years ago), and new buzz surrounding Doom 3 may make it a reality. Other games to come to the big screen? After D&D commercial failure, I doubt we’ll see either Baldur’s Gate games on the big screen, Diablo perhaps or any of Blizzard’s other ‘Craft games. What do you think? Drop us your two cents worth!

3 replies on “Retrospective: Game-based Movies”

  1. So…they all sucked
    Can anyone name a movie based on a game, or TV for that matter, that wasn’t bad? Why does Hollywood keep making them? They are rarely even passable, much less important films!

  2. Decent conversions
    As far as finding good conversions go, “The Fugutive” was actually a good movie based on a TV show. “Mortal Kombat” can be okay if you’re in the mood for plotless drivel. Some of the Star Trek movies are good, too. Considering how many have been convetered, though, this is a miserable track record.

    “Final Fantasy” is the first time I’m aware of that the game being turned into a movie had a plot, so that might survive. (Sakaguchi was the defining influence on the games, and he’s directing the movie.)

    There were a few good game-to-TV show conversions, though. I remember being well entertained by the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, as well as “Captain N: The Game Master.” I remember watching the Pac-Man and Donkey Kong cartoons, but I was young enough to watch just about anything then. :)

  3. Good game movies and TV shows
    Okay, so most games based on movies suck ass and most movies based on games suck ass. Clue was damnt good. Mortal Kombat wasn’t that bad. I kinda liked the cheesiness of Super Mario Bros. But if you don’t think it’s possible to make a good movie or TV show based on a game, you should look back to the crountry those games came from. Street Fighter: The Movie had damn good animation and the English release had a soundtrack that included The Offspring! There has also been an OAV, TV series, and second movie that were all fairly good. Don’t forget the Final Fantasy anime! Record of Lodoss War was only lacking the TSR license to be a D&D anime, and Slayers is fairly close to the feel of a good gaming session as well. The American Super Mario Bros. TV show was pretty cool, too. Do the Mario!

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