You should be most grateful to me dear reader. It was a long and arduous task trying to find five good computer game movies, let alone ten. But I got there in the end through sheer grit and willpower. Whether you actually want to read about these ten films rather depends upon your fondness for video games. So if your middle name is Pong then read on. But if you think Nintendo is a form of sushi you might do well to skip to another article. Over the past twenty years the computer game industry has seen the sort of social expansion not witnessed since the release of a book about a bearded man and a talking snake some two-thousand years ago. By the turn of the last century console gaming had reached such a peak that all other art forms trembled in its wake. When the Xbox game Halo 2
was released in November 2004 it rocked the world by setting a new record for the highest grossing entertainment release in history. Hollywood to its credit had seen this cultural shift approaching and began knocking out movie’s based on popular computer games by the early nineties, Super Mario Bros. (1993), Double Dragon (1994)
. The advent of the Sony Playstation in the mid-nineties marked a turning point as the console wrenched gaming away from spotty nerds and handed it deftly to the über cool crowd. And where as before games followed doggedly in Hollywood’s footsteps churning out many a cartridge based on the latest cinematic blockbuster, it was now the movie world that paid homage to the joypad, snapping up film making licences for any game that made a sizeable dent on the gaming charts. It has been a rocky relationship between the two entertainment worlds thus far though, with a blueprint for the perfect game to movie conversion still eluding the directors of Tinsel Town. A quality game does not always equal a quality movie, and even the sight of a naked Holly Valance slipping into her bra mid gun fight can’t rescue a dodgy computer game movie, DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
. Here are ten that are worth oiling your joypad for.
- STREET FIGHTER II: THE ANIMATED MOVIE (1994)
If you’re going to transfer what is effectively an animated medium to movie screens, it makes perfect sense to do it in the form of an animated film. And when it comes to animated movies no one does unorthodox and interesting quite like the Japanese. The Manga / anime phenomenon had sunk its teeth into the uninitiated West by the early nineties thanks to the success of Akira (1988) and Crying Freeman (1988), so there was no better time to unleash an anime version of the biggest computer game of the time in 1994. Capcom’s Street Fighter II was a huge seller, a beat’em up game that pitted two combatants against each other, with preset movies at each fighters disposal designed to drain the opponent’s energy bar. It was in essence a modern update of chess, albeit with much more colourful characters and a lot more kicking of ass. It is the back stories of these "World Warriors” that drives the plot of the Animated Movie. All the games major characters are involved in some capacity, with the game’s hero Ryu taking down the evil Shadowlaw organisation, led by head honcho Major Bison. Dodgy plot and dialogue aside, the action scenes are packed solid with all the visual flare one comes to expect from top-notch anime. The laws of physics are tossed aside as our sweaty combatants put on a real feast for the eyes. Couple this with a rocking soundtrack and a Chung-Li shower scene and we have a real winner on our hands. For the love of God though don’t confuse it with the 1994 live action film Street Fighter which, despite starring Kylie Minogue and Raul Julia, is all kinds of awful.
Tasty Morsel – The film and games main villain M. Bison was originally created as a parody of boxer Mike Tyson, but the character’s name was changed to Balrog for legal reasons.
- MORTAL KOMBAT (1995)
During the nineties Street Fighter II’s biggest rival in the gaming world was Midway’s Mortal Kombat. The game played in an almost identical style, the traditional one-on-one, deplete your opponents energy bar concept. MK managed to one-up SFII however by having a more realistic animation style and throwing oodles of blood and gore into the mix. The MK franchise landed another heavy blow in 1995 when its live action movie became the first majorly successful video-game movie adaptation. This followed Street Fighter (1994) which was both a critical and financial failure. The success of Paul Anderson’s Mortal Kombat (1995) can be laid squarely at the feet of its solid writing and top notch action. Whilst the plot was cliché (a number of martial artists attempt to stop an evil sorcerer from destroying Earth) it at least had the good grace to know it was based on a cheesy computer game. The dialogue and story was delightfully hammy, "You can look into my soul but you don’t own it!” and the action scenes were full of pizzazz and tension. Perennial video-game movie director Anderson also had the common sense not to try and shoe-horn in named stars, such as Jean Claude Van Damme, into roles that didn’t suit them. Instead he plumped for actors that looked the part and who could do the b-movie material justice, such as martial arts star Robin Shou, bit part player (and Mrs Pete Sampras) Bridgette Wilson and the always entertaining Christopher Lambert. A surprise cliff-hanger ending was the icing on the cake.
Tasty Morsel – Cameron Diaz was all set to play Sonya Blaze but broke her wrist before filming began and was replaced by Wilson. Brandon Lee was also set to play Johnny Cage but sadly died before production began.
- FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2001)
The Final Fantasy series of Japanese roll-playing-games are world renowned in the games industry. Ever since the first game was launched on the NES in the mid eighties fans have been enthralled by the series sprawling storylines and epic, fantastical battles between the forces of good and evil. When a film bearing the Final Fantasy name, to be written and directed by the games original creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, was announced fans went loopy with excitement. But you could literally ride the wave of disappointment that poured out of the gaming community when the film was released in July 2001. Aside from a common theme of corruption within the powers that be, Final Fantasty: The Spirits Within (2001) had little if anything to do with the Final Fantasy game series. The movie follows a group of scientists that are fighting to free Earth from a mysterious alien race called The Phantoms. These rotters have forced humanity to live in so-called "Barrier Cities”, restricting their freedoms and effectively turning humanity into a caged animal. While the story itself sounds like run-of-the-mill science fiction the movies production was something else entirely. Setting down a milestone in film production history Sakaguchi insisted that the film be entirely computer generated. Not particularly spectacular in this day and age but when you consider that the director still insisted on photo-real actors and actresses, the film takes on a whole new meaning. Actors the world over gave a collective shudder of apprehension when Sakaguchi pulled off this remarkable feat, producing a gripping movie in which none of the captivating on-screen players actually existed. Watch out Hollywood, the computer cometh.
Tasty Morsel – Despite being a complete work of fiction, the character Aki Ross appeared at number eighty seven in Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 list for 2001, the only non-existent person to appear on the list.
- LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001)
If there’s two things computer gamers like more than a great game, it’s a packet of bacon crisps and a hot looking woman. Considering the unattainability of the latter it’s a wonder game designers waited until 1996 to stick a hot looking woman in a console game. Eidos and Core Design’s Tomb Raider featured just that. When it came to bringing the hugely successful series to the big screen there was really only one choice for the lead lady. Like the chicken and the egg, no one is sure who came first, computer game siren Lara Croft, or angst ridden actress Angelina Jolie. But such were their comparable assets in the novelty lip, heaving bosom and micro-sized waist departments Jolie was a shoe-in for Croft. Tacking on a swinging ponytail completed the look and gamers everywhere fondled their joysticks in sweaty palmed anticipation in the summer of 2001. Unfortunately, Jolie checked her acting talent in at the door before donning the explorer’s hot pants. What we ended up with was the typical pouty, arrogant smirk that has seen Jolie through many a blockbuster from Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000) to Wanted (2008). It’s just what the film needs though, the source material demanding that this be a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The plot certainly didn’t hold back on the hammy; with the planets of the solar system aligning Croft must retrieve a secret talisman that allows its possessor to control time. The remaining cast are as gaudy as the storyline, and the action set pieces are spot on for a computer game adaptation, lots of loads noises and bright sparkles. It was everything the gaming community wanted and brainless fun for everyone else. A carbon copy sequel Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) followed two years later.
Tasty Morsel – Jolie’s father actor Jon Voight appears as Lara Croft’s father Lord Richard Croft
- RESIDENT EVIL (2002)
If there was one computer game that was a pre-packaged, sure-fire fast track to cinematic glory it was Capcom’s astounding 1996 survival horror Resident Evil. The game played like the best scary movie you’d never seen, a small team of troops sent into a creepy mansion to unravel the mystery of a sudden zombie outbreak. The experience had more scares and intrigue than just about all of Hollywood’s output that same year. Early word for the movie adaptation was good, with the "King of Zombie” George A Romero signed on to direct. Romero planned to stick very closely to the original game and its mansion based storyline, but this didn’t sit right with the studio who gave him the elbow in favour of Paul W.S. Anderson. For fans of the game, things went downhill steadily from there. Approaching the film from a gaming point of view, the movie is a crushing disappointment, almost nothing like the creepy quiet of the old Spencer Mansion. However, as a stand alone picture the film has a lot going for it. Another grumpy Michelle Rodriguez performance aside, the cast work very well, particularly Milla Jovovich as the film’s central character Alice. The zombie infused set pieces are tight and the edgy against-the-clock, solve the mystery narrative is gripping. The film stumbles through its final monster showdown thanks to some terrible CGI but recaptures the magic with a wonderfully grim climax and one of the best final shots in cinematic history. Unfortunately, the sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) failed to capitalise on this glorious piece of doom laden scene setting. Part Three, Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) swapped Dawn of the Dead for Mad Max territory to poor affect, whilst Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) were even more disappointing still.
Tasty Morsel – Despite the film being only loosely based on the original game all the key actors were given a copy of the game to play through to acquaint themselves with the story.
- DOOM (2005)
You can count the number of successful wrestling to movie transitions on the fingers of one hand. Actually, you can count them on one finger. Aside from Rowdy Roddy Piper’s amusing turn in They Live (1988) the only wrestling star to make any sort of positive impact on the big screen is Dwayne "The Rock” Johnson. The fact that much of his in-ring success came from his undeniable charisma when addressing an audience on the microphone has much to do with this. His first steps into Hollywood were tentative ones with a couple of iffy showings in the Mummy franchise. Two more effective outings followed in The Rundown (2003) and Walking Tall (2004) before Johnson stole the film Be Cool (2005) from under the nose of an A-list cast. The Rock then got back on the action trail with Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Doom (2005), which saw a group of marines heading to Mars to investigate a desolated science station. Unbeknownst to them a doorway to hell had been opened, unleashing a gaggle of slimy nasties. The action is very much of the Event Horizon (1997)/Aliens (1986) variety though not quite as proficient, a Doom style first-person sequence being particularly jarring. The film is saved however by a surprising character arc for Johnson as he slowly transforms from the ass-kicking hero we expect him to be into a maniacal extremist. It’s an unexpected and welcome twist. Johnson receives some nice support in the acting department from Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and former presenter of Channel 4 gaming show Gamemaster, Dexter Fletcher.
Tasty Morsel – The iconic Doom weapon, the BFG (Big Fucking Gun), is present in the movie. Two "working” models of the gun were made, and both were kept by Johnson after filming finished.
- SILENT HILL (2006)
The impact and sales of the original Resident Evil game and its fantastic follow-up convinced developers that there was money to be made from horror based console gaming. Such titles as Nightmare Creatures and Overblood were quickly kicked onto shelves. One of the best to follow in Resident Evil's glorious shadow was Silent Hill, a game that swapped gory horror excess for psychological scares. The story followed Harry Mason a man that searched for his daughter in the apparently abandoned town of Silent Hill. With the world of Hollywood now running parallel with the games industry, the success of the Resident Evil movie convinced studios that horror movies based on horror games could earn a buck or two. Thus Sony Pictures brought Silent Hill to the big screen, replacing Mason with Rose Da Silva (played by former Neighbours star Radha Mitchell), but retaining the missing daughter / deserted town storyline. Despite there being an over-convoluted plot, and a tad too much aimless running around, the movie remains solid thriller viewing thanks to a tangible ambiance of dread. Visually the movie is a delight, and credit must go to director Christophe Gans for sticking so closely to the Silent Hill series top notch atmospherics. A sequel Silent Hill: Revelations 3D (2012) hits cinema screens this Halloween, while the Silent Hill game series has continued on for eight instalments to date on various formats.
Tasty Morsel – The Silent Hill story is loosely based on the demise of the real-life town Centralia, in Pennsylvania, USA. The town was abandoned after an underground coal seam caught fire and caused smoky holes and cracks to appear all over town. Today the place is all but abandoned with only eerie signs of its previous existence remaining.
- POSTAL (2007)
If there’s one thing you can’t accuse computer games of being its dull in the storyline department. How’s this for a plot; an out of work postal worker teams up with a con-artist cult leader to steal a shipment of scrotum shaped toy dolls. But they aren’t the only ones planning on stealing the dolls from their eventual destination, the Nazi themed amusement park Little Germany. Taliban leader Osama Bin Laden and his secret cohort President George W Bush are also planning to steal the shipment to use in an avian influenza outbreak terrorist attack. As plotlines go it has to be one of the most bizarre ever conceived. For that alone it has to be applauded. Loosely based on the PC computer game Postal 2, the game itself drew much criticism for its bad taste, dark humour and violence. While the Uwe Boll directed movie tones down the violence somewhat, the controversy remains, replacing blood and guts with more cutting political satire. Aimed squarely at the American political system, the film didn’t play particularly well in US cinema’s. Anyone outside of the United States should take this as a good thing. Kudos must go to Boll for sticking to his guns and producing what one critic called the "live action South Park”. A well earned pat on the back also for Zack Ward and Dave Foley for the amusing portrayals of Postal Dude and Uncle Dave respectively.
Tasty Morsel – Ron Perlman was considered for the role of Uncle Dave before Dave Foley secured the part.
- ONECHANBARA (2008)
When a film is renamed and released in Germany under the title Zombie Killer: Sharp As A Sword, Sexy As Hell you know it has to be good. Largely a Japanese gaming phenomenon, the OneChanbara series of games follows the character Aya, a bikini clad Japanese cowgirl who spends her time hacking and slashing zombies with her katana blades. Some story ideas are so off the wall you just have to sit back and marvel at their absurdity and audacity. The movie adaptation sticks well to this eccentric plot, as the shapely Aya takes on the D3 Corporation and the virus they have unleashed that turns the recently deceased into flesh munching zombies. Wince as she hacks through much undead flesh, and wonder how Eri Otoguro manages to stay in her scandalously slender outfit whilst doing so. It is titillating and horrifying all at the same time, a rare but tantalising combination for sure. Much like the wonderful Versus (2000) a few years prior the films high concept has you glued to the screen in wide-eyed bafflement; you just don’t know in what direction the film is going to lurch next, but you have to keep watching to find out. Apocalyptic overtones paint the gory action with the tried and tested zombie / end of the world base coat, while Aya and her sister hack and slash their way to the movies surprisingly downbeat conclusion. If you only watch one film based on a scantily clad cowgirl offing zombies, make sure its OneChanbara.
Tasty Morsel – If you want to sample the delights of the OneChanbara game here in the Western markets, you’ll need to purchase yourself a Nintendo Wii and find a copy of OneChanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers.
- PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (2010)
Not exactly one of the marquee names when it comes to video games, Disney took a big gamble in 2010 when they decided to bring the Jordan Mechner created Prince of Persia franchise to the big screen. Their first step in avoiding the computer game to movie curse was to rope in some acting heavyweights to fill the digital shoes, namely Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley and rising star Gemma Atherton. It was a good start. Secondly, they roped in Mechner to help write the script, before turning said screenplay over to sure-hand director Mike Newell. Lastly they grabbed a huge wodge of cash from the Disney money mountain and hurled it one of Hollywood’s best CGI departments. You can thank Jerry Bruckheimer as the film’s producer for that. The resulting movie didn’t set the world alight but it did solid work at the box office, quickly becoming the highest grossing computer game adaptation of all time. The story revolves around the game series’ eponymous hero Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) as he battles to save an ancient dagger that can unleash the "Sands of Time” from falling into the wrong hands. It is as cliche as you’d expect from a film based on an Arabian tinged platform game, but the effects are mind blowing and the buckling suitably swash. Expect inevitable sequels of diminishing quality.
Tasty Morsel – Orlando Bloom and Zac Effron were both considered for the part of Dastan before Gyllenhaal bagged the part.