Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Your favourite video game movies

GameCentral readers discusses the best, or least worst, film adaptations, including Silent Hill and Assassin’s Creed.

With Pokémon: Detective Pikachu out this weekend the subject for this week’s Hot Topic seemed pretty obvious, even if most video game movies do tend to be pretty bad.

Few people were willing to stick up for their favourites that much, but there was still a fair amount of love for Resident Evil and Tomb Raider in particular. Even if most were still wary of classing them as good compared to normal movies.


Blame the game

I think the most recent Tomb Raider was only a few degrees away from being a pretty decent film. Alicia Vikander is already a very good actress and the film looks great and also quite a lot like the rebooted games. There are a number of problems though and a lot of it is actually to do with the games themselves, starting with the fact that Lara doesn’t have a particularly well defined character. She’s just ‘action star’ but without much of a sense of humour and not a very compelling backstory.

There’s also the way the game handles the question of the supernatural. I won’t spoil what they do but I found it very disappointing and an obvious cop out. But then that’s probably because the game went too far in the other direction, that a straight adaptation would’ve just been silly.

And that’s the problem with a lot of these movies, I think. You have to change so much to make them work what you’re left with isn’t that interesting. Tomb Raider gets by on its action and from good acting and direction but it’s more like the best of a bad bunch.


Reverse tie-in

To be honest I haven’t actually seen a lot of the movies. I saw what I think is the first Resident Evil and hated it, and that’s about it except for Assassin’s Creed, which for reasons that are not worth getting into I was dragged along to go and see. It was… okay? I guess. It spent far too long in the current day, which is the last thing anyone that plays the games want to do, and the time period wasn’t particularly interesting but they took the concept seriously and it looked good, with a lot of money put into it.

As far as I can see it had zero impact on the games though and there was no kind of reverse tie-in or anything. But then it wasn’t a big hit and I get the feeling Ubisoft knew it wouldn’t be and didn’t really care that much about it.

I do think that the games companies have a big responsibility in so many of these games turning out bad, because they really never seem to help in terms of games coming out at the same time or references in other ones.


Fan service

As a World Of Warcraft fan I found a lot to love in its movie. The director (David Bowie’s son!) obviously loved the game and there was some amazing attention to detail, which I get the feeling is part of the appeal of Detective Pikachu – being able to see your favourite game up on the screen in amazing detail and with state of the art CGI.

The problem with the film is that it assumes it’s going to be the first of many, and the story is based on the first real-time strategy game so it’s missing a lot of familiar elements from the MMO and I think was confusing even for many fans.

I really liked how they did the Orcs though, who managed to look just like the game and yet still very realistic, with great voiceovers. The human characters were all pretty bad though (I’ve never liked Dominic Cooper) and the whole thing ended up looking a bit like a cosplay fan film, just with a big budget. I hear it was big in China, but obviously not enough to make that second film.


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Changing the story

This may sound weird but I think my favourite is probably Rampage, starring The Rock. It’s not a great film and it has almost nothing to do with the game but it’s a decent enough bit of dumb fun. Although to be honest I think you could put The Rock into just about anything and it’s still be at least decent, so I’m not sure how much the game is influencing that or not.

What I also don’t understand is why they changed the plot so much. In the coin-op they were ordinary humans transformed into monsters, rather than just animals. You would’ve thought the human angle would’ve been a lot more interesting, in whether they enjoyed the destruction or tried to avoid it. But you lose all that and it’s basically just a kid’s movie version of Godzilla.

I enjoyed it at the time though and have watched parts of it when it comes on TV again. Slight praise perhaps but I can’t think of too many other video games films I could say the same for.


No objection

I’m not sure if this counts because it was never released in UK cinemas (you can’t even buy the Blu-ray here) but the Ace Attorney movie is easily the best video game film I’ve ever seen. It closely adapts the first game, it’s funny and weird but in a slightly different way that suits a movie better, and it’s completely watchable by someone that’s never played the game.

The secret of its success is simply that it has a good director behind it, in the form of Takashi Miike. I think that’s all these things ever come down to really: having talent behind the camera that cares about what they’re doing. Although I suppose that never helped Warcraft. Maybe the trick is just to have Takashi Miike make all video game movies? I’d be totally okay with that.


Think of the memes

Sonic The Hedgehog is already my favourite video game movie, simply from the amusement the trailer has given me and the endless memes. And that’s just from two minutes of footage!

I’m not sure what would be my answer for a film that’s already out though. The first person bit in Doom is kind of funny and the Tomb Raider reboot is a pretty good looking film, but it’s kind of boring. I just don’t think video games make for good films, so the obvious answer is to make them terrible on purpose. Sega clearly understands this!


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Evil champion

I’d like to champion the first Resident Evil film for this Hot Topic. I haven’t seen the movie in ages but I did at some point own it on VHS and I recall enjoying the film each time I put the tape in.

Resident Evil from 2002 seemed to be only loosely inspired by the games but it was a laugh and very entertaining (especially for fans of the horror genre). I particularly liked the conceit of Umbrella’s secret underground facility, if I remember correctly it was called the Hive.

Generally, I’m a sucker for secret underground facilities, if I was rich I’d build my own.

What I admire most about the Resident Evil movie was its propensity for gore and extreme violence. So many modern horror films seem neutered these days, Resident Evil was brash and bloody and did not hold anything back.

The way Colin Salmon’s character buys it still sticks in my mind.

Many critics seem to deride Resident Evil’s director, Paul W. S. Anderson. I think the man has talent, especially in the horror genre. I believe that Mr Anderson’s film Event Horizon is a classic and surely served as the main inspiration for the Dead Space games.
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