Movies based on video games are a lot like video games based on movies. They’re trying to cash in on an existing franchise and are usually almost completely devoid of any quality. But there are exceptions! Every once in a while there are games like Golden Eye which buck the trend. There is even the occasional movie based on a video game which isn’t completely horrible. I have a strange fascination with movies based on games, both the bad and the good.
Part of enjoying a video game movie is managing your expectations. I don’t think it’s fair to ignore that a movie is bad but there’s no sense in getting your panties in a bunch when a director you don’t like becomes attached to a film based on your favourite game. This list of the top of the top will demonstrate that even at their best video game movies are not ever treated with a ton of respect. If Uwe Boll or Stephen Sommers aren’t doing your video game movie, the alternative isn’t that Christopher Nolan does it, it’s that no one, or someone worse, does it. With that in mind, enjoy my top 5 favourite video game movies.
Uwe Boll is not liked. He’s not liked at all. People on the Internet with nothing better to do (no really, thanks for reading …) like to bitch about him but he does have his moments. When he’s trying to do action or be serious, I think he falls flat, but when he does comedy, he really hits his stride.
I’ve never played Postal. I don’t really care to. I don’t really care how Uwe Boll is treating the source material. What I do care is that he put together a movie with some pretty solid laughs. Uwe Boll himself stars in this film making a joke about children making him horny. How cool is that? This movie also has ladies with shit on their lips and Dave Folley’s penis.
During the build up to the film Uwe Boll made all kinds of ridiculous attempts at Internet drama. He claimed that Michael Bay agreed to fight him, continuously made fun of George Clooney and made trailers mocking movies like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Boll expected to compete with Indiana Jones on opening weekend. Unfortunately the film only had a limited theatrical release leading up to it’s DVD premiere. Uwe didn’t have the last laugh, but those of us big enough to get past our bias against him and check out this movie had many, many laughs.
4. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within wasn’t a good movie. It was praised for it’s technical success but I was just disappointed at a movie that was built up as being so close to reality, but fell so far from doing that. Years later a much superior Final Fantasy CG movie was released in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
This film is not a recreation of any particular game but a sequel to the story of the hit PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII. Although this movie will resonate best with fans of the game it can be appreciated on it’s own and does present the story in a context that can still be understood quite well.
The visuals of this film are fantastic. While it doesn’t try to be as photorealistic as the failed Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, it manages to have some very impressive characters who have somewhat of an anime look to them with skin, features, hair, clothes and all things looking as close to real life as I’ve seen in a film.
Fans will mostly like seeing all of their favourite characters in the film. While the focus is on a select few they do manage to work everyone in somewhere.
3. Pokémon: The First Movie (Theatrical Edition Pocket Monsters: Mewtwo’s Counterattack)
When thinking of movies based on games Pokémon isn’t the first to come to mind because it is really a movie based on the Pokémon TV series but of course all of this is based on the successful Pokémon video games. This first film, horribly titled “The First Movie” is in my mind the best of the series. I really didn’t care for “The Movie 2000” but the 3rd movie was quite enjoyable. Eventually I lost interest in the franchise.
This film centers around the characters of Mew and Mewtwo, two hard to get characters in the original game. While anyone can get Mewtwo by playing through the game and doing a special dungeon, Mew is much harder to come by, available only at special events like Toys R Us giveaways and Pokémon Stadium Tours. The plot tells the story of the jaded Mewtwo, cloned from Mew, and his interaction with our heroes Ash and the gang as well as Team Rocket.
The film is not long at all, needing to be padded in theatres with a short “Pikachu’s Vacation” preceding it. This special was not itself terribly amazing but it is nice to see the Pokémon hanging out without the humans from time to time.
2. Street Fighter (Jean-Claude Van Damme version)
Some movies from the 90s hold up, while others don’t. When I revisited the Mortal Kombat film recently I was shocked at how much this movie I loved as a teenager was nothing but a poor movie on almost any level. The same is not true for the truly fantastic Street Fighter film.
This movie is not without it’s faults, but those faults make it great. The acting isn’t fantastic and it’s cheesy as hell but that’s all part of it’s appeal. The movie has so many amazing one liners, as well as great lines pulled right from the games! It features all characters from Street Fighter II and most of the additions from Super Street Fighter II… and Sawada. What?
The way some characters are shoehorned in are pretty ridiculous. Dhalsim is a doctor who turns Guile’s friend Charlie into Blanka! How odd… Zangief and Deejay are bad guys, but Balrog is a good guy! Still Zangief turns himself around, a lot better than his portrayal in the ridiculous “Wreck It Ralph”.
In a ridiculous twist this movie, which is based on a game, has a game based on it which is actually quite different from the original game! Street Fighter: The Movie … the video game. This game had digitized images of the movie’s actors as the characters. It even was even going to have Shen Long in it but those plans eventually fell apart.
The movie is action packed and fun on every level but… it’s not my favourite Street Fighter film.
1. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
Jean-Claude Van Damme’s film was not the only one based on Street Fighter II. In fact it’s not even the only movie to come out in 1994 based on Street Fighter II! This film, released in Japan as “Street Fighter II Movie” is an anime feature film about all your favourite Street Fighter II characters. This is one of the better video game movies, one of the better anime movies and well… just an all around great movie in general!
This film, which revolves around the character of Ryu, doesn’t really have a clear main character as it jumps around from character to character trying to give the audience a piece of all of their favourites. All characters from Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II appear, though some are featured much more prominently than other.
The animation of this movie is truly incredible as it shows very elaborate fight scenes between various characters. The plot seems to serve as a very elaborate tool find find a reason to have Ryu and Ken fight each other, because isn’t that really what we all want to see?
This being said the most amazing fight in the movie is the fight between a half naked Chun-Li and Vega, who in this film is responsible for having killed her father. This scene is preceeded by a very nice Chun-Li topless shower scene which is completely removed from the censored PG-13 version that was released in North America. An “unrated” version of the film was also released though it sadly also included an edited shower scene. Neither version had Japanese language. In 2006 a new DVD that was completely unedited and including the original Japanese audio was released.
Fans of Street Fighter, Anime or just movies should definitely check this film out.
Honourable mention: The Resident Evil series
Though I enjoy many films in this franchise, no particular one stands out as being that much better or worse, so I couldn’t find myself able to pick just one. Despite not being the best films ever made I find them to be a lot of fun and so different from one movie to the other that I always feel interested in what they’re going to do next.
These are just five of many films based on video games. What are your favourites?