Even the most beloved, well-made, downright awesome video games can be adapted into terrible movies.
For decades now, filmmakers and studios have bought the rights to successful games in the hopes of cashing in on their fame. It’s a sound idea: when a gaming behemoth like the Super Mario series comes along, sells millions of copies, and generates a heap of money for Nintendo, the potential benefits of tapping into its fan-base are a given.
Or, at least, in theory. As that particular movie showed, what should be a licence to print money doesn’t always live up to its promise.
Over the years, the movie industry has churned out a startling number of video-game adaptations, but the number of duds exceeds the number of good ones (we’ll get to these next week, don’t worry). With a Tomb Raider reboot and Assassin’s Creed’s first cinematic outing on the horizon, there may be reason to hope, but only time will tell.
In the meantime, let’s name and shame five of the worst movies based on video games …
This really is a head-scratcher.
After the incredible success of Street Fighter II, a film adaptation was inevtiable. With irresistible gameplay, iconic heroes and villains, and a concept ideal for a high-octane martial-arts flick, this adaptation could have been pretty damn cool.
Instead, we ended up with one of the worst things ever. And not just in terms of films.
There’s simply too much wrong with Street Fighter to cram into this article, but we can highlight just a few of the inexplicably-poor choices: E. Honda as a former sumo-wrestler-turned-camera-man (how often does that career-change happen)? Chun-Li as a news reporter? Jean-Claude Van Damme fighting that guy who played Gomez Addams?!
Needless to say, Street Fighter is regarded as a hateful failure. At least, in terms of its quality – the film managed to make more than three times its budget back in 1995. A year earlier, an anime based on the game had been released in Japan (though it didn’t hit the West until more than twelve months later), and this remains far, far superior to the live-action adaptation in every way.
As with Street Fighter II, a movie based on Double Dragon was inevitable. And the result was another major disappointment.
Starring the great Robert Patrick (who, in 1994, was still riding high after his role in Terminator 2: Judgement Day three years earlier) as the film’s villain, Double Dragon was universally panned upon its release. Double Dragon tosses mystical elements, strange powers, and a magical medallion into its foul mix – a stark contrast to the more basic shenanigans of the first game.
While movies based on scrolling beat-em-ups are inevitably going to need more to keep them going, Double Dragon made too many mistakes. On top of this, the acting is cheesy, the action is underwhelming, and there’s little for fans of the game to recognise.
Super Mario Bros.
Now, let’s be honest: as appalling as Super Mario Bros. is, it’s a hard film to hate. For all of its strange choices, the film does have a certain nostalgic charm, and there are some likeable aspects: for example, some of the production and creature designs are good, and … well, how about that Roxette song at the end? You remember them, right?
To be fair, adapting the Mario series into a live-action movie is just a bad idea to start with. Given the ridiculous nature of the games (a plumber, who does no actual plumbing, explores endless magical worlds and goes head-to-head with a giant reptilian king) and the lack of any real depth, we can only imagine how hard trying to scrip this thing must have been.
Years after the film was made, star John Leguizamo revealed that he and co-star Bob Hoskins took to drinking during production just to get through it. The film takes place in a much darker world than the video games, set in a parallel world accessed by a gateway underneath New York City; in this world, people have evolved from dinosaurs, and Princess Daisy is a student at NYU. There are car chases. There are ‘devolution guns’.
At least Yoshi and the Bob-omb are cute, though.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
The first Mortal Kombat movie may not be a masterpiece, but it’s at least true to the game itself, with the plot, setting, and characters as they should be (except for Raiden, of course, who becomes a weirdly-clownish Christopher Lambert).
By the time its sequel came along, though, MK’s cinematic outings had been steered well off-track.
For a start, Annihilation looks like it was cobbled together for the same price as a used car.
With no wheels. Or windows.
Everything oozes cheapness, from the terrible sets and costumes to the special effects (which seem to have been cooked-up for a laugh by a kid on work experience). The dialogue is shameful, most of the ‘acting’ is unintentionally hilarious, and some of the directorial choices are baffling enough to make even Uwe Boll facepalm.
It really has to be seen to be believed.
Alone in the Dark
Trying to pick the worst video-game movie by Uwe Boll isn’t easy.
We could have picked any of the others he’s been involved with: BloodRayne; Far Cry; Postal; or even House of the Dead.
Alone in the Dark, though, is widely regarded as one of the worst pieces of cinematic garbage to ever come into being. Starring Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and Stephen Dorff, the film was a box-office bomb, earning just over $10 million – little more than half its budget.
The games that inspired the movie have generally been well-received, and the first was recognised as the ‘First Ever 3D Survival Horror Game” by Guinness World Records – not a bad title to hold given the genre’s massive popularity. Uwe Boll’s movie, on the other hand, has little in common with the source material, with terrible acting, abysmal writing, and shameful direction.
One to miss. Unless you feel the need to punish yourself.
There are other films we could have mentioned on this list (the Resident Evil series has more than its fair share of disasters, for a start), but we’ll get to them another time. Next week, we’ll take a look at the five best movies based on video games, so be sure to join us then!
What’s the worst movie based on a video game you’ve ever seen? Let us know!