The History of Video Games as Movies

A brief look at some of the video games, that have made the transition to grace the silver screen.

It goes without saying that some of the big blockbuster video games are becoming more profitable than some of the biggest films of the year and I know myself, I have sat through cut scenes and thought, "This should be a movie." So it's understandable why there are so many games that become films, the transition seems logical. For some reason though, the majority of these films never seem to live up to its gaming counter part. Weak plots, awful acting, no emotion? Just something that seems to happen constantly when games make the transition, but why is it almost always this way? We take a brief look at the history of video games as movies.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Estimated Gross $20,915,465 (USA) For many gamers, this was their first encounter with a video game getting the Hollywood treatment, and their first encounter as to why this can go horribly wrong. If you haven't seen Super Mario Brothers: The Movie, the story follows two brothers, Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) as they stumble across an alternate universe filled with evolved, hi-tech dinosaurs. The brothers must defeat King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), rescue Daisy (Samantha Mathis, the young paleontologist) and save earth from the evil dino-army. The only thing in this movie that had anything to do with the actual game seemed to be the name and the mustache. Being 1993 the effects and the sets aren't bad, but the film can never be more than a novelty with a poor story line that doesn't have the original spirit of the game there. Game to film: Super Mario Bros. is a fantastic game that blends action, platform and light humor. Story wise, it's pretty standard, save the princess, defeat the bad guy. There's nothing wrong with this, it makes for great game play but if it weren't for the Mario name then nobody would have seen it.

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Estimated Gross $70,445,672 (USA) This was the first live-action adaptation of the series and it begins with three fighters being summoned to a remote island to compete in a martial-arts tournament. The Outworld against the Earthrealm, Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) and Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) are Earths last line of defence in stopping the emperor of Outworld from taking over earth. Unlike Super Mario Bros. this film wasn't a complete flop and actually made a nice gross, this also led to another Mortal Kombat film and a tv series being released a few years later. The film admittedly follows the games story line and includes a number of characters from the series, the set for Outworld is effective and the four arms are pretty cool but terrible acting, bad plot and cheesy dialogue mean this adaptation doesn't reach its full potential. Game to film: Mortal Kombat, beat-em-up and ultra violence is what this games about, and it does it well. Fun and challenging and like most other beat-em-ups has a strange story line to go with it. You'd expect the film to be action packed, given its source but as it is a film and not a video game you do need a great story and plot to follow. Sadly, this wasn't accomplished.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

Estimated Gross $131,144,183 (USA)The industry seemed to take a short break from adaptations and the risks that followed them, that is until Lara Croft was released, which seemed to open up the can of worms for video game adaptations. Once every 5,000 years the solar system goes into planetary alignment. The Illuminati plan to use this moment to release the power hidden within a talisman that allows its user to control time, Lara stumbles across the item hidden in her mansion which is then stolen by the Illuminati. This leads Lara (Angelina Jolie) on a journey to retrieve and destroy the item before the Illuminati unlock its powers. Obviously your average straight forward story line, the film is filled to the brim with action sequences that don't really seem to bring anything to the story, and the only attempt at an emotional level to the film seems to be the sex scene. A good cast but terrible plot with no depth. They even made another! Game to film: So Tomb Raider is a mix of action, adventure, puzzler. The film, yeah it follows this pretty closely and amazingly unlike most of the films on this list, the acting isn't terrible. Jolie is suited for the role but it's everything else that is missing that made this such a disappointment, the story, the plot, both of which the game does have.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Estimated Gross $32,131,830 (USA)However you feel about this film, whatever your opinion, this undoubtedly raised the bar for animated movies. Nonetheless, the film was the downfall of Square Pictures. Speaking of raising the bar, Square Pictures spent over four years working on the film, and by the time the final shots had finished rendering, the earlier ones no longer matched due to technological advancements. Not to mention an estimated budget of $137,000,000 meant Square Pictures were no where near recouping their massive budget. Following Dr. Aki Ross, a young scientist, who tries to find the secrets of phantom like aliens so that she can save herself after being infected and save the world with the help of the Deep Eyes military squadron. The film looks exceptional and you can tell that so much work has gone into it which is always great when watching an animation, but like the previous films in the list, the story was its downfall and sadly had little depth. Game to film: Final Fantasy is a bit of a strange one, it doesn't follow a story line from any of the games in the series, it doesn't include characters, but it does include the great effects and graphics that the newer games of the series are known for. The reason for the title, it's Square Enix, it's the same great style, it's some of the same staff, this really only seems to be the reasoning behind the films title.

Resident Evil (2002)

Estimated Gross $40,119,709 (USA)Undoubtedly the most popular series of game to screen films, four movies have been released so far, with another addition arriving next year. If you haven't seen it, it's about a special force team that enter an underground facility and have to stop a super computer and horde of zombies from infecting the rest of mankind, think along the lines of an updated early Romero but not quite as well executed or ground-breaking. The film, directed, produced and written by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat), features its own story line. Anderson said the reasoning behind this was so that those that had played the game wouldn't know what to expect. Even though the series contain shots taken straight from the game as well as locations like the mansion and story lines including Nemesis. With each addition to the series the popularity has grown, each excelling its predecessor commercially. So it's no wonder why they keeping pumping out more movies. As far as quality goes, admittedly it's not the greatest series of films, but it has helped to regenerate the public's love for zombie flicks. Game to film: The now 15 years old epic horror-survival game is known for, well it's survival aspects, and as a gamer this is the main thing I remember about the series. Having to hold back on going in guns blazing, having to decide what to take and what to leave behind and having to carry around the really awkward Ink Ribbon. Understandably, this is difficult to portray in a film and almost impossible to portray the same feelings to the viewer of, "4 bullets left, so many zombies." Sadly, they didn't really portray this at all in the film as it's all guns blazing, so you can't really help but feel that if they had a more realistic feel that it may have made it a better film.

Silent Hill (2006)

Estimated gross $46,982,632 (USA) Finally, we arrive to what might be the only film in the list so far that has really lived up to its gaming roots, and this might be down to just how passionate the director, Christophe Gans, is about the series. There are many rumors about how Gans obtained the rights but it's thought that it took five years and many attempts, but after sending through an interview to Konami about how much the series meant to him, as well as scenes that he had shot and funded himself, Konami finally sold the rights. Visually impressive, with incredible scenery, some suspense and a few scary moments. It does make for a great film but at times the dialog can be painful and filled with exposition, which makes for a lot of pointless information that the audience can work out for themselves. The plot is great but after explanations that shrouded veil falls, and the mysteries of Silent Hill begin to dissipate, it's also just that bit too long. Game to film: Story, fear, suspense and fog covered towns, although it may not be the best film on the list it is definitely the one film that seems to be taking a huge step in the right direction for all video games becoming movies. With the release of Silent Hill 2 coming soon, we may see an improvement, and it might just make the best video game film so far.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Estimated gross $90,755,643 (USA) One of the most recent video games to make its transition to the big screen, Prince of Persia is definitely one of the better ones in the list. It's a fun, action packed film that roughly retells the Prince of Persia story. A fugitive prince and princess must use the power of a magical dagger that can control the flow of time to stop dark forces from unknowingly destroying the world. The film didn't receive the best reviews, sure it's not the greatest of films but it's a nice addition to the list which should be watched if you feel like checking out a simple action adventure film. The film strays slightly from the game to try to create more of a plot, which it sort of does, but packs in so many clich├ęs from other swashbucklers. Although this may not be a bad thing, some things are expected but it does make for great action, the parkour sections aren't that bad either. Game to film: Like the game, some great parkour. Following the same similar story line, but branching off slightly, humor has also been added, pretty badly really but no doubt to keep in check with Disney's family friendly outlook. Something that may interest fans of the game. That's our brief look of the history of video games as films, check back later for "The Future of Video Games as Films". What's to come and what's rumored for the future.

Dom McKenzie, feature and news writer at What Culture!