If there are words that make movie critics roll their eyes when put together more than “video game” and “movie,” we don’t know what they are. Since 1993’s Super Mario Bros.”, there have been 33 movies based on video games produced in the U.S. Hollywood is always looking for new sources of material, whether it’s books like “The Hunger Games,”, TV shows like “The Brady Bunch,” or even board games like “Battleship” (which may make “board games” even more dreaded than video games when it comes to movies). The way video games have gone from obscure hobby to a huge part of pop culture seems to make them prime targets for film adaptations. But, if we’re being honest, the results haven’t always gone that well.
Some movies like “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Tomb Raider” have been bonafide hits, but most have been flops with audiences and critics alike. The reasons have varied wildly. Sometimes, the movie fails by being too faithful to the original game. Other times, the movie suffers from not being faithful enough. The storyline and characters are often criticized for being too thin on many of these bombs, and other times there just wasn’t enough of a fan base to support it. But of all the video game movie failures, some stand out more than others. With “Assassin’s Creed” making its movie debut in December and “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” following in January 2017, CBR takes a look at the worst of the worst when it comes to movies based on video games.
15. Warcraft (2016)
In 1994, Blizzard Entertainment released a real-time strategy game that changed the genre, “Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.” It launched a major fantasy franchise, which culminated in the wildly popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game “World of Warcraft” in 2004. One of the main draws of the Warcraft franchise is its complex world, focusing on a war between medieval humans and the brutish Orcs. It seemed like a natural fit for a movie, but 2016’s “Warcraft” movie turned out to be a major disappointment.
Starring Paula Patton as the half-human/half-orc Garona and Ben Foster as the wizard Medivh, “Warcraft” was about the first encounter between the humans and the orcs. When the orcs pass through a mystical portal into the world of humans, an epic battle starts for control of the land. But some of the orcs switch allegiances, and it turns into a battle between good and evil.
Part of the problem is the movie spent too much time on exposition and different plot threads, and not on an interesting story. “Warcraft” treated the original video game as if it was on the level of “Lord of the Rings,” instead of the beat-em-up fantasy it was meant to be. The movie was panned by critics and did poorly in the U.S., but grossed $433 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all-time. Unfortunately, thanks to Hollywood accounting, the movie was still considered a disappointment by the studio.
14. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
The “Resident Evil” video games have been going strong since 1996, when the first game kick-started the survival horror genre. The games put the player into areas infested by monsters for you to kill or be killed by. The first “Resident Evil” movie in 2002 was a surprise hit, leading to a successful movie series. Critics hate them, but fans enjoy the cheesy fun. In fact, the five movies have grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide, making them one of the longest running and highest grossing video game adaptations in history. But “Resident Evil: Extinction” is really the low point.
Milla Jovovich stars as Alice, a former security officer for the Umbrella Corporation, which released a virus turning humans into zombies. In the third movie, Alice joined a convoy of survivors of the zombie apocalypse in the Nevada desert. They had to make their way through the ruins of Las Vegas to try to reach a safe zone in Alaska. “Extinction” upped the ante by giving Alice superpowers, thanks to experiments by Umbrella. While there was a lot to like in this movie, including “super undead” zombies and an attack by killer birds, the film followed the zombie movie formula a little too closely. You know, someone gets bitten and doesn’t tell the others until it’s too late, former allies turn into zombies who have to be killed, and a climax that involves mowing down legions of zombies. Despite the cliched story, the movie was successful enough to warrant another three sequels.
13. Ratchet and Clank (2016)
In 2002, Sony released a sci-fi platform game called “Ratchet and Clank.” about a feline mechanic named Ratchet and a robot named Clank. Players could shoot, jump, and fly through different planets while using lots of wacky gadgets and weapons. The game started a franchise that spawned 11 platform games that continued into 2016, and is one of the signature games for the PlayStation consoles. With its mix of satire and comedy, someone decided to try and make it into a movie. That didn’t go too well.
With voice work by John Goodman and Paul Giamatti, the animated movie retold the origin of Ratchet and Clank — but it’s pretty much exactly the same story as the video game, which fans have already seen. There wasn’t anything new or different to warrant its telling on the big screen other than a perceived fan base. As for new viewers, the story didn’t feel original enough to stand on its own, leaving them watching a mediocre science-fiction movie. Another bad decision came when the studio decided to use some of the same digital models as the video game. That probably saved some money, but made the animation look weak compared to other animated movies like “Zootopia.” The studio had high hopes and poured $20 million into the movie, thinking it might earn $120 million. “Ratchet and Clank” ended up a huge flop with a worldwide gross of just $12 million.
12. Super Mario Bros (1993)
In 1985, Nintendo released “Super Mario Bros,” a platform game about two plumbers who jumped and bounced their way through a fanciful mushroom kingdom. The game turned Mario into one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture. There have been dozens of games spinning off from “Super Mario Bros,” so of course it was inevitable that someone decided to turn it into a movie. In fact, “Super Mario Bros” was the first movie adaptation of a video game. Unfortunately, it set the tone for others by being pretty bad.
Though dinosaurs have almost nothing to do with the game, the movie was all about dinosaurs. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) were two plumbers who got sucked into an alternate reality where dinosaurs evolved into the dominant life form. Dennis Hopper played the mayor of a dinosaur city, King Koopa, who wanted to merge his dimension with ours to conquer our planet. The movie took one of the most light and fun properties in the world and turned it horribly dark and ugly. If you took the names Mario and Luigi out of this movie and called it “Jurassic Plumbers,” no one would ever think it was based on “Super Mario Bros.” In the end, it was too different from the games for fans, and too weird for non-fans.
11. Hitman (2007)
In 2000, Eidos Interactive put out “Hitman: Codename 47,” a third-person action game about an assassin known only as Agent 47. Agent 47 was a clone created by a mysterious group for the sole purpose of killing people. In the game, Agent 47 had to get through a series of levels, using a combination of stealth and deadly weapons to reach and kill various criminals. “Hitman: Codename 47” was a huge hit, and launched a series of games about the ruthless killer. The franchise’s popularity led up to the big-budget movie in 2007, simply titled “Hitman.”
The movie starred Timothy Olyphant as the bald hitman with a barcode on his neck, Agent 47. In the movie, 47 found a conscience after meeting a Russian prostitute (Olga Kurylenko). Suddenly, he found himself questioning his mission in life of slaughtering people. At the same time, 47 got caught up in a conspiracy against Russian intelligence agencies and Interpol. Despite a lot of hype and faithfulness to the game, the movie didn’t turn out too well. It reveled in action movie cliches, like guys pointing guns at each other in a stand-off. The action scenes sometimes crossed the line from cool to cheesy. But the movie actually did pretty well at the box office, and could have been much worse. It could have been “Street Fighter.”
10. Street Fighter (1994)
In 1991, Capcom released “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” in arcades. It wasn’t the first competitive fighting game (or the first “Street Fighter” game), but its skilled combos and unique playable characters caught on the way no game had before. “Street Fighter II” was a smash hit. It not only launched the “Street Fighter” franchise of games with a ton of sequels and minor updates, it also created a boom of other fighting games like “Mortal Kombat” and “Tekken.” “Street Fighter II” eventually led to a movie, written and directed by Steven De Souza.
“Street Fighter” was one of the first attempts to base a movie on a video game, and it made a lot of mistakes later adaptations learned from. Jean-Claude Van Damme played American soldier Guile, who was tasked with rescuing a group of kidnapped aid workers from the power-mad dictator M. Bison (played by Raul Julia). Really, it was sort of a video game version of the Gulf War.
Fans of the game were outraged that some beloved martial artist characters were turned into members of a TV news crew. This movie also suffered from weak fighting sequences, all the more offensive considering it was based on a fighting video game. All fans really wanted to see was their favorite characters beating each other up, but ended up with a thin political story featuring an underwhelming battle sequence in the end. “Mortal Kombat” came afterward and became a huge success, delivering the tournament story and epic fight scenes that viewers of this movie were looking for.
9. Wing Commander (1999)
In 1990, one of the greatest space combat simulation games was released by Origin for the PC. Unlike previous space games, “Wing Commander” had a deep and compelling story. The player became a pilot on a futuristic battleship, enduring harsh missions against the cat-like Kilrathi. “Wing Commander” was a huge success, and led to a series of games that expanded on the original. “Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger” even broke the mold by using full-motion video instead of animated cutscenes.
If any game deserved to be a movie, it would seem to be “Wing Commander.” I mean, “Wing Commander III” starred Mark Hamill, for crying out loud. With its rich and detailed world, it would seem to be a natural to become a “Star Wars” meets “Battlestar Galactica” movie franchise. The movie was even directed by Chris Roberts, who developed and directed the game series — but it was a serious flop.
The movie followed the story of a new pilot, played by Freddie Prinze, Jr., who joins an elite squadron battling against the enemy Kilrathi. Unfortunately, the story that was revolutionary in the game felt cliched on the big screen. It didn’t help that the spaceship combat wasn’t as exciting as “Return of the Jedi” from over a decade earlier. There was also a whole thing about humans called Pilgrims who could navigate space warps, which tried and failed to introduce a sort of Force-like mysticism. Overall, the movie was forgettable, proving Roberts should stick to video games.
8. Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
They tried again, and missed the target by an even wider margin when “Hitman” returned with a reboot in 2015. “Hitman: Agent 47 cast “Homeland’s” Rupert Friend as Agent 47, trying to track down the scientist who created him. 47 met the scientist’s daughter, played by Hannah Ware, who has mysterious abilities and is working to find her father, too. Together, they tried to stop a corporation bent on releasing an army of cloned warriors.
Over-the-top action replaced the first film’s vague attempts at story in the latest iteration. Characters appear mainly as target practice. Dialogue is at a minimum, as if speaking might get in the way of people being killed. There’s some intrigue with shifting allegiances and people who aren’t what they seem, thanks to John Smith, a special agent played by Zachary Quinto. The car chase that ends with one Audi impaled and held in place for legions of soldiers to gun down was pretty awesome, but “Agent 47” still failed to capture the essence of what the games are about, and lacked any real emotional (or narrative) depth.
7. Double Dragon (1994)
1994 was the year for bad video game movies. “Super Mario Bros” had just left its stink on movie screens, and along came “Double Dragon.” “Double Dragon” was originally a side-scrolling beat-em-up released to arcades in 1987. Its success led to other companies creating their own beat-em-ups like “Final Fight” and “Streets of Rage,” and somehow led to a movie.
“Double Dragon” was about two brothers (Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf) in a post-apocalyptic version of Los Angeles where an earthquake put most of California underwater. Jimmy and Billy Lee have a mysterious dragon amulet called the Double Dragon. Robert Patrick plays the evil Koga Shuko, who’s trying to merge his half with theirs to get mystical powers. None of this, of course, is in the original video game.
With the game as inspiration, we should have gotten a martial arts extravaganza. Instead, the fight scenes weren’t even as good as kung-fu movies from the ’70s. Mostly, this movie is remembered for being Alyssa Milano’s first “mature” movie role. But the movie is focused more on Milano bending over than actual plot development. The story is thin, the special effects are weak, and the dialogue is lame. When the movie stooped to making “Who’s the Boss” jokes, you knew it hit bottom.
6. Postal (2007)
Among video game movie adaptations, German director Uwe Boll is the king. He’s released nine video game-based movies so far. He’s also the worst of the filmmakers dabbling with the genre, with nearly all of his movies panned by critics and flops at the box office. The only reason he keeps making them is that he takes advantage of a tax shelter in Germany that allows him to finance his movies with no personal losses. That brings us to his adaptation of “Postal.”
In the top-down game, gamers play as a deranged lunatic who shoots his way through a town. “Postal” became famous more for the outrage conservative media groups heaped on it than the game itself. The sequel, “Postal 2,” delivered more of the same, only with a 3D engine and a sandbox-type town.
The movie adaptation is based more on the second game, and managed to be even more offensive than the source material. The story revolved around the main character “Postal Dude” (Zack Ward) trying to make money after getting fired from his job, tangling with terrorists, and going on a gun-toting rampage. The tasteless humor stooped to scenes involving dolls shaped like giant scrotums, and a Nazi-themed amusement park. The movie tried to pull off some political satire, but the George W. Bush jokes weren’t even that funny when they were relevant.
5. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
Much like “Hitman,” “Street Fighter II” got another shot at a movie adaptation with “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.” And much like “Hitman,” the second movie failed even harder. This movie focused on Chun-Li, the popular Chinese fighter from the video game series. Played by Kristin Kreuk of Smallville” fame, the movie tries to show how Chun-Li went from a concert pianist to a martial arts master. It turns out her father was kidnapped by M. Bison, and she swore to avenge his death on the mysterious crime lord.
It all sounds good on paper, but the end result didn’t work. Kreuk put in a good performance for what she had, but what she had wasn’t nearly enough. She punched and kicked her way through exotic locations, but the acting is hammy, the dialogue is beyond cheesy (see everything Chris Klein’s Nash says), and story just doesn’t hold up. The fighting scenes, which should be what we came to see, were almost ruined by the overuse of shaky and slow-motion cameras. At least the first “Street Fighter” movie didn’t take itself too seriously, and provided some campy fun. This one almost made Van Damme’s version look good.
4. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2006)
In 2002, a fantasy RPG called “Dungeon Siege” was released for the PC. The game expanded on the isometric role-playing combat of games like “Diablo” with a rich three-dimensional fantasy world, intelligent AI, and deep character progression. It did very well, so much that it led to more “Dungeon Siege” games and a movie trilogy.
This is another bad film by Uwe Boll, which kind of goes without saying. I guess Jason Statham never checked Boll’s filmography, because he agreed to star in this movie. He played a simple farmer forced to take up swords when his wife and king (played by Burt Reynolds) were kidnapped by an evil wizard (Ray Liotta). The whole thing felt like “Lord of the Rings” had a fire sale, and this movie took the leftovers.
Oddly enough, the failure of “King” as a movie didn’t stop two more sequels from being released. But the first movie cast such a stain on the franchise that later films removed the “Name of the King” title altogether.
3. Bloodrayne (2005)
Terminal Reality released their hack-and-shoot game “Bloodrayne” in 2002. The game starred Rayne, a half-human, half-vampire trying to stop the Nazis from finding mystical artifacts. The game was a moderate success by video game standards, leading to a sequel and the feature film.
“Bloodrayne” is another stinker by Uwe Boll, starring Kristanna Loken (“Terminator 3”) as Rayne. Once again, Boll managed to get stars like Sir Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Madsen to join the cast and earn the movie some semblance of respect. But make no mistake, without them this would (and should) have gone straight to video. In the movie, Rayne hunts the vampire king Kagan (Kingsley), who raped and impregnated her mother. Kagan is searching for the artifacts to allow vampires to rule the world. That’s pretty much all you get instead of a plot.
The budget was obviously spent on sets and actors, because the rest of the movie has cheap costumes and weak special effects. Fighting scenes are hastily stitched together with stunt doubles replacing the stars at random moments. We know these people can act, because Madsen, Kingsley and Rodriguez have delivered in other movies, but you wouldn’t know it from “Bloodrayne.”
2. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
In 1992, “Mortal Kombat” slammed into arcades. It took the fighting game genre popularized by “Street Fighter” and added blood, gore, and over-the-top fatalities. With the wildly popular franchise breaking records, Hollywood naturally came calling. In 1995, “Mortal Kombat” hit theaters and was a surprise hit, one of the first successful video game movies. It succeeded where “Street Fighter” failed, just by delivering the kung fu tournament fans of the game wanted to see. Of course, a sequel was made, but it fell short of the mark. Way short.
In “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” evil warlord Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) plans to open a portal from the alternate Outworld to Earth. Warriors from Earth, led by Liu Kang (Robin Shou) must unite to stop him. That said, it’s all kind of a mess from there. The costumes, sets, and unknown cast tell us this is “Mortal Kombat” on the cheap. The dialogue probably looked bad on paper, but sounds even cornier when said out loud. There are way too many characters from the games crammed into the film to make sense of all their storylines. The thin attempt at story from the first “Mortal Kombat” is almost nonexistent in this one. We just get a parade of fighting scenes with awful special effects, ending with a battle between two of the worst CGI monsters in recent cinema. But this movie ended up becoming a cult hit, sort of a so-bad-it’s-good classic.
1. Alone in the Dark (2005)
Released by Infogrames in 1992, “Alone in the Dark” was the first 3D game in the survival horror genre. The player had to make their way through a haunted mansion while killing or avoiding various monsters. It influenced other games like “Resident Evil” and “Silent Hill,” and started a franchise that continues to this day. But it took decades before the movies came calling. Unfortunately, Uwe Boll answered that call.
Christian Slater plays supernatural investigator Edward Carnby, assisted by Tara Reid, who inexplicably played a museum curator. They investigate an ancient civilization that worshiped monsters. Some people think it might be a good idea to bring the monsters back, and Carnby has to stop them from bringing the monsters out of a portal to end the world.
This is a movie that’s not just bad by the standards of video game adaptations, but one of the worst movies of all-time. Too many characters are crammed into this turgid film, which focuses on a Mayan god, zombies, evil dog monsters, car chases and attempts to make Matrix-style slow-motion gun battles. The one thing “Alone in the Dark” didn’t include is anything scary. It’s the worst video game adaptation ever, and we can only hope another movie never end up topping it.
Did we narrow the field to the worst of the worst, or did a serious stinker escape us? Let us know in the comments!
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