Last week, we looked at five of the worst movies based on video games, trawling through the mire of Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. As promised, we’re now primed to celebrate five of the best ever made (so far, at least!).
While many had hoped Warcraft would be the best video-game adaptation ever, fans have been divided, and the appeal seems to have been lost on non-players. Assassin’s Creed and the forthcoming Tomb Raider have oodles of potential, so we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed.
Still, let’s be honest: art’s subjective, and one person’s masterpiece can easily be another’s trash. When it comes to a few of the films below, opinions generally lean towards ‘not awful, but definite room for improvement’, though they all have their strong points.
That being said, one of them is a definite classic – we’ll let you figure out which one it is …
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation may be one of the most bafflingly-awful films you’ll ever see, but the first Mortal Kombat is Blade Runner in comparison.
Released in the distant past of 1995, Mortal Kombat is easily one of the best movies based on a video game. Almost everything fans want is here: the story is basically as it should be, and the characters look as they did on arcade screens (save for Christopher Lambert’s Raiden, who resembles a 90s-era Michael Bolton for no good reason).
While the effects look pretty ropey now, and the techno music feels pretty lame, Mortal Kombat’s strengths are in its faithfulness. We see Scorpion launching his spear (albeit now a living thing with teeth) and hear him yell “get over here”; we see Johnny Cage deliver a Split Punch direct to Goro’s man-zone; and we see Shang Tsung devour souls.
All of this only helped to highlight just how abysmal and embarrassing the Street Fighter adaptation, released in the same year, really was.
Sure, the violence isn’t quite as hardcore as some fans may have wanted, but to be fair, no studio was ever likely to allow spines dangling from decapitated heads in such a big film at the time.
Linden Ashby’s Johnny is also a great sidekick, bringing plenty of humour and charm. If you haven’t seen this movie since the 90s, check it out – you might be surprised by just how much you enjoy it.
Sometimes, a game’s concept is simple or ‘realistic’ enough to make a big-screen adaptation viable. The recent Warcraft movie, for example, had a stupendous amount of backstory and mythology to cram in, which is partly to blame for its lukewarm reception. While it seems like an easy thing to adapt in theory, actually trying to condense it into two hours must have been hard.
Tomb Raider, meanwhile, is basically Indiana Jones with an inverted leading character: where Indy’s often bumbling, rough around the edges, and hot-headed, Lara’s slick, highly-trained, aristocratic, and cool as the proverbial cucumber.
This film never comes close to matching the quality of an Indiana Jones (the first three, anyway), but Tomb Raider does manage to pull some things off well. For a start, Angelina Jolie is good value as Lara, though Alicia Vikander is likely to be a much better fit in the upcoming reboot. Jolie’s cut-glass accent is pretty authentic, and she manages to make the character sympathetic.
There’s also some decent action, though some elements are real head-scratchers: Lara’s robotic training-partner is way out of place, and Chris Barrie’s ‘comic’ butler is a constant irritation. Still, Tomb Raider is nowhere near as bad as it could have been – just check out the sequel, The Cradle of Life, for proof.
Nobody can accuse the team behind Silent Hill of diluting the source material. Unlike the Resident Evil movies, which mutated games with moments of real suspense and horror into laughably-rubbish films, Silent Hill’s big-screen take is full of nightmarish imagery.
Reception to the movie was mixed, but the film is at least trying to match the strange, horrific tone of the games. Radha Mitchell is always reliable, as is Sean Bean, and the impressive character designs stand out. Pyramid Head is present and correct, as bizarrely grotesque as in the second game, while the mingling of barbed wire and flesh is as disturbing as you’d imagine.
The sequel was panned, which only helps to show how strong certain elements of the original are.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Casting Jake Gyllenhaal as the Persian hero is odd, and the whole thing is pretty forgettable, but Prince of Persia is actually good. First of all, the game borrows its sub-title and plot from the first reboot – a smart move that helped to win fans’ attention.
Second, Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton (again: clearly not Persian) are likeable enough, and the action scenes are executed nicely. This film feels like it could have existed without the game, a quality few adaptations boast.
Like Mortal Kombat and Silent Hill, adapting Prince of Persia was never a ridiculous move, with a traditional swashbuckling tone. While the film was obviously meant to be the start of yet another franchise for Disney, a sequel never materialised. Not that anyone seemed to notice.
Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
We’ve had two live-action Street Fighter movies, and neither can even come close to matching this first animated film.
First of all, the team behind this Japanese production clearly understood the game’s appeal, further shaming Hollywood’s disrespect of the source material.
Rather than simply naming characters after those in the game, The Animated Movie’s writers used the ACTUAL heroes and villains. So, here, Ryu and Ken look and act like they should, rather than being a pair of useless hustlers; Blanka is actually a feral beast rather than a soldier being experimented on; and Chun-Li is a hard-as-nails Interpol agent rather than a reporter.
The fight scenes are brutal, visceral, and bloody. The first encounter, between Ryu and Sagat, is brilliantly done, underscored with thumping, atmospheric music. Meanwhile, Chun-Li and Vega’s bone-crunching face-off is better than anything the live-action film could even hope to achieve.
Finally, to top it all off, the final encounter between Ryu, Ken, and M. Bison is as epic as it should be. By the time they pull off that all-important double-Hadouken, you’ll be grinning like a buffoon.
There’s so much to enjoy in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, and it’s a must-see for fans. Like most Japanese animation, the visuals are as gorgeous today as they were at the time of the film’s release.
What’s your favourite movie based on a video game? Let us know!