Yet another video game film adaptation is approaching with the upcoming release of Tomb Raider, directed by Roar Uthaug, starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. Some people are excited to see this new adaptation of our favorite video game archaeologist while others are probably groaning at the concept of yet another video game film failing to capture the aspects that drew fans into the franchise. After all, there’s a stigma attached to video game films due to the simple fact that the majority of them are painfully bad. Still, just as there are plenty of reasons to look away from the newest adaptation, there’s also reason to be hopeful.
We’ll show you both right here with this list of seven video game films that have given us hope and eight that just ripped that hope away from us. You can then decide for yourself whether or not you’re really excited about the upcoming Tomb Raider. To keep this list as fair as possible, we’ll be staying away from anything that Uwe Boll has touched. You don’t have to worry about those monstrosities appearing here. While none of these films are good in the traditional sense, we have to appreciate that many of the films listed below were at least given an acceptable level of effort.
15. GIVES HOPE: LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER
The writing in this film is laughable. Dialogue is cliché a lot of the time and the characters had about as much depth as the stone monsters that they fought in the temple. The thing is, they didn’t really have to be deep. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider featured only the essential aspects of the Tomb Raider franchise, the aspects that people really enjoyed. Lara Croft was an acrobatic, history-loving puzzle-solver, which is how we all knew her in the video game series.
From what we’ve seen, it looks as though the upcoming Tomb Raider film has captured the essence of the reboot video game series as well. The thing is, the Tomb Raider video games are more story-driven now and offer a lot more complexity. Hopefully, that’s something the filmmakers have kept in mind. If not, at least we have hope that it’ll still be a lot of fun.
14. REMOVES HOPE: THE CRADLE OF LIFE
The sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was nowhere near as fun as its predecessor. Instead of adding to the story, Jan De Bont’s The Cradle of Life took us out of the ancient tombs and into gritty cities, providing us with gratuitous and oftentimes, pointless action as opposed to fun fight sequences and chase scenes. Lara Croft wasn’t given as much of a focus because the film had to make room for the new character, Terry Sheridan, the love interest.
With all the different elements of the video game series the upcoming Tomb Raider film is trying to incorporate, there’s a good chance great scenes and characters will end up being buried beneath the weight of needless action sequences and scenes that ultimately serve no real purpose. Maybe that’s a little pessimistic, but you never know.
13. GIVES HOPE: HITMAN
Hold off on grabbing those torches and pitchforks for a moment while we explain why this generally terrible film gives us hope. Hitman is about a genetically engineered, highly-trained assasssin who doesn’t really show emotion and never properly ponders the moral dilemmas he encounters. Any film would have to focus more on the world around this hero than on the hero himself.
The 2007 film, directed by Xavier Gens, did this by breathing life into the scenery around the characters and into the violent scenes littering the length of the film. Even though the plot and a lot of the characters felt lacking, the overall film was still enjoyable on some level, partly because it stayed relatively faithful to the source material, which drew people in because the blank canvas of a character that is Agent 47 allowed people to project themselves on to him, which is something no film can really do. You can enjoy this film for the action and visuals, which is something you can’t do with a lot of video game films.
12. REMOVES HOPE: PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME
Fans will remember the Sands of Time trilogy as being a series of beautifully crafted games bound together by a masterfully written, elegantly told story. There was mystery and romance, drama and a lot of time-warping, sand-shifting action. Any film trying to adapt the events and characters of the game series would be met with high expectations. That does not excuse the failures of Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
The film tried to give the prince a backstory he didn’t need with a setting that failed to capture the mystical spirit of the video games, themselves drawing inspiration from the ancient A Thousand and One Nights. The story of a foolhardy prince struggling against the machinations of the evil vizier would have been enough to keep people interested, but the filmmakers had other things in mind and in the end, created something more akin to “Pirates of the Caribbean, but in Central Asia.” It’s a prime example of why video game fans do not trust film makers with their beloved franchises.
11. GIVES HOPE: RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER
The Resident Evil film franchise is messy. It’s easy to see how those who are unfamiliar with the complex story may see it as just another post-apocalyptic zombie film. Fans of the franchise will know that there’s so much more to it than that and The Final Chapter proves it. A lot of the film’s good points can be attributed to its cast. Milla Jovovich refined her performance as the superhuman Alice over five films and it shows as she brings the character to life, which shows how much a great cast can bring to an otherwise faulty film.
It’s also a prime example of how well the messiest plot points of a video game film adaptation can be brought together, even if it’s lost on those who decide that the sixth film in a series is the perfect place for a newcomer to get started. If that can be done for something as expansive as the Resident Evil franchise, there’s hope for any video game film, most of which tend to adapt simpler concepts.
10. REMOVES HOPE: RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE
If 2002’s Resident Evil was the refreshingly unique morsel in the zombie apocalypse genre, Resident Evil: Apocalypse was the regretfully sour aftertaste that followed. The second entry in the film series was, as many prominent film critics accurately described it, a complete waste of time. We can understand a film’s need to use the real meat of its material sparingly, but Resident Evil: Apocalypse completely misses the mark and ends up dragging its audience through a painstaking hour of story that clearly received no amount of effort in writing. It then shows us something decent with the battle between Alice and the mutated Matt Addison.
It highlights a flaw shared by far too many video game film adaptations. Studios and filmmakers seem to misunderstand the source material and the qualities that make it attractive to audiences and gamers. Oftentimes we’ll see video game films rely too much on the violent aspects of their respective stories instead of he stories themselves.
9. GIVES HOPE: ASSASSIN’S CREED
Yes, yes, this was a pretty bad film. For newcomers, it was a confusing mess of vague allusions to a conspiracy and characters that just fell flat, for fans of the Assassin’s Creed games, it was a pitifully poor representation of everything they loved about the series — it barely touched its historical setting and completely failed to adapt the modern aspect. The really tragic thing about this film is that Ubisoft, the developers behind the highly successful video game series, had a lot of creative control over the film, which gave a lot of people hope in the early stages of its development.
Still, the fact that the video game developers were given this much control and quite a large budget is reason to hope that future video game film adaptations will receive as much care and confidence from studios. Only next time, it’ll actually succeed in adapting complex characters and plots without conflating the ideas behind them too heavily.
8. REMOVES HOPE: HITMAN: AGENT 47
Years after the first major film adaptation, 20th Century Fox decided it would have another go at adapting the franchise. Hitman: Agent 47 was given a slightly larger budget than its spiritual predecessor and it shows. It’s even larger, louder and more stylish in the multitudes of brutal action sequences it showcased. Therein, however, lay the problem. It’s clear that the screenwriter, Skip Woods, who wrote 2007’s Hitman, once again failed to understand the video game world created by IO Interactive.
The Hitman franchise was never about violence and action, it was about stealth and acting with wit and skill. It’s another example of what happens when a screenwriter fails to delve into the source material and instead chooses to believe that creating another generic action film and slapping on the names of known characters makes for an acceptable adaptation. A great video game film adaptation, or any adaptation really, requires work and study.
7. GIVES HOPE: NEED FOR SPEED
Who really knows why anyone thought this famed series of racing games needed a film adaptation? Conceptually, it’s simple enough though slightly similar to the Fast and the Furious franchise, which might have been problematic. Ultimately, Need For Speed delivers on everything people expected from it: high-octane race scenes. No one involved in that film pretended that they were making something more.
Sometimes, that kind of acceptance is exactly what a video game film needs to deliver on audience and fan expectations. It gave us just enough in regards to character and plot to give each racing scene time to breathe. You could argue that doing so only highlights the lack of real purpose with this film, but we’d then argue that not every film needs a purpose. Sometimes a good film is just loud, pointless and fun– something that entertains you while you turn your brain off for a while.
6. REMOVES HOPE: WARCRAFT
To really understand why Warcraft was such a disappointment, you need to be aware of the sheer scope of the game it was based on. If you’ve spent any time watching television or just talking to peope, you may have occasionally come across references to World of Warcraft, the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) that approximately 100 million players have enjoyed since as early as 2004. Since that time, it has developed a rich world and mythology.
The sheer number of passionate fans explains the film’s financial success; however, those same fans will tell you that despite its aesthetic beauty, there was very little substance within the two-hour long film. That could be due to the fact that it took a lot of the material just a bit too seriously. If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft, you’ll understand why that would never work in a film adaptation.
5. GIVES HOPE: GHOST RECON: ALPHA
The Ghost Recon video game series follows secretive special ops soldiers as they investigate, assassinate and neutralize threats. Tom Clancy has had many of his novels adapted to film: The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears, to name a few. The Ghost Recon series, while based on Clancy’s work, isn’t actually based on any of the author’s novels.
The short film, Ghost Recon: Alpha, was released by Ubisoft as a prequel to the video game, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. For a promotional film, it’s exceptionally well made and a great example of what game developers are capable of producing when given full creative control. In the 23 minutes of film we get, we see a lot adapted from the video game series, enough to get people excited about the story and gameplay, which is what video game film adaptations should strive to accomplish.
4. REMOVES HOPE: SILENT HILL
It should have been relatively easy to adapt the characters and events of the Silent Hill series. The video game series has been consistently praised for its story and its memorably haunting atmosphere. The films that attempted to adapt the series had a lot to work with and a lot to draw from, the thing is, the Silent Hill films adapted all the wrong things.
Silent Hill and its sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation, successfully captured the atmosphere and overall look the video games were going for, unfortunately, it failed to adapt any of the intrigue and tragedy surrounding the characters. It’s clear that the filmmakers placed too much focus on the aesthetic quality of the film and failed to bring any amount of passion into the writing, which is half the reason the Silent Hill video games are so enjoyable. Even its cast — including the likes of Kit Harrington, Sean Bean and Carrie-Anne Moss — couldn’t save it. It’s a flaw that many video game films have and it doesn’t seem like that’s about to change.
3. GIVES HOPE: DRAGON AGE: REDEMPTION
If you watched this small web series, you’ll see that it’s quite low-budget and that it doesn’t exactly scream success. You’ll also clearly see the amount of passion that goes into the series and how the creators have respected the source material. Bioware’s Dragon Age video game trilogy has constructed a world with depth for fantasy lovers. It’s not something a studio can adapt simply by filling screens with battle scenes between mages and knights.
This web series shows us that there are people who are passionate about these video games, people who have connections to Hollywood. There’s hope that one day that could lead to a larger video game film adaptation that spares as much of a thought in regards to writing as it does on special effects and action.
2. REMOVES HOPE: ASSASSIN’S CREED: LINEAGE
This three part miniseries was beautifully crafted and intended to act as a prequel to the events of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II. Unfortunately, it added nothing major to the overall storyline, which effectively rendered the entire miniseries meaningless. At most, it was a rough exhibition of what an Assassin’s Creed film could look like.
Production value aside, if the developers behind the Assassin’s Creed franchise couldn’t even produce a meaningful film, what hope did anyone else have? It should have been warning because, as we now know, the creative control they had with the feature length Assassin’s Creed film ultimately added nothing. Just as it was in Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, the story was shoddily written and there was a heavy focus on meaningless acrobatics and fighting, with little to no exploration of the games’ expansive world.
1. REMOVES HOPE: COMPANY OF HEROES
Not all video games can or should be adapted. Obviously. That goes doubly so for video games that explore historical settings like World War II, for which there already an abundance of great feature films. Yet, Sony, through Destination Films, thought a low-budget World War II film was a good idea. It’s a loose adaptation of THQ’s Company of Heroes and though it stars a few recognizable faces, they clearly could not save it from its low budget and poor script.
If you like terrible World War II films, Company of Heroes is for you. Like us, you’ll watch it and wonder why they bothered attaching it to the video game. It’s more proof that studios and screenwriters don’t take video game films seriously; in fact, a lot of the time it seems that they just don’t care, which may tell audiences that they shouldn’t either.
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