Retro video game based film Pixels hit cinemas this week, and caused a smaller splash than Peter Pan walking the plank. Unless you count the army of critics lining up to denounce it as a crime against cinema, that is.
Hollywood has a bad habit of misunderstanding video game culture, and the result is usually a hilariously terrible attempt at an adaptation or ‘homage’.
Here are some of the most criminal misrepresentations of video games the movie world has made us suffer through so far.
1. The whole Street Fighter fiasco
As we’ve highlighted before, it’s fair to say that this troubled 1995 take on the iconic beat ’em up suffered through some pretty awful mis-casting, weird plot decisions and bafflingly poor acting (thank God at least for the redeeming bad-assery of the late Raul Julia as Bison).
Although it’s gained cult appeal as a ‘so bad it’s good’ cult flick in the modern day, the underlying problems of the movie remain. We all love the Street Fighter games; I’d go as far to say as everyone has their favorite character deep down inside them (surely nobody’s is Ken though – not anymore). But the film tried to take the essential elements and change them. This movie just wasn’t Street Fighter, and it was naive to think it could be.
2. Super Mario Bros
Ah yes, the legendary Super Mario Bros movie. This abomination is even worse than Street Fighter in its alterations. Writers Terry Runte and Parker Bennet tried to make the fun, cartoony world of Mario and Luigi plausible in a live-action setting. And boy did that turn out badly.
Who knows what they were thinking? It’s hard to understand the reasoning behind some of the borderline insane decisions. At one point they justify the koopas by saying the New York plumbers have been transported to an alternate universe where humans evolved from dinosaurs instead of apes,, which is both unnecessary and condescending to the franchise. The real tragedy is that if they’d just made a dedicated animated adventure film, it’d probably have done really well.
3. Spy Kids 3
*Sigh*. Spy Kids 3D is one of the worst things to happen to cinema. There, I said it – and if only I could leave it at that. The nature of the plot lends itself to many gaming terms and themes, with the spies/children/annoying little brats being transported inside a brand new video game released to the masses. Sounds promising, right? Yes? Yes it does.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the script has been written by an 80-year-old man, and the dialogue comes across as naive. Anyone who has played more than 30 minutes of any video game will understand what I mean: “I’m taking this to the next level!”
*Silently dies of embarrassment at how cringey that was*
4. Need for Speed
Need for Speed syndrome is another issue with film-game ‘adaptations’. This film rides off Aaron Paul’s recent rise, and provides little in the way of plot. Not that it should; one of the main features of the Need for Speed games was the lack of plot – the mindless racing action was what drew us to Underground 2 (one of the greatest racing games ever made).
My point, however, is that if a game provides no plot, then it should not be made into a film. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a massive profit machine. What the studio have done is simply plastered the brand name all over posters to entice people in, and cast a relatively hot name as its lead as an attempt to make money. Long story short: this film should never have been made. We have Fast & Furious already.
5. Prince of Persia
The Prince of Persia adaptation just missed the point completely. Like most weak adaptations, this movie relied heavily on a central romantic relationship to detract from the lack of a decent plot. I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall, but if they keep throwing these films out there, I’ll keep throwing them back.
I’ll make it simple: so Disney or Paramount or whatever film company wants to ruin the reputation of gaming for money, can understand. The reason we all loved the Prince of Persia games was the intricate and rewarding puzzle solving, and its revolutionary engaging battle sequences. It was not because they contained a deflated Ben Kingsley.
6. All of the Resident Evil Films
The Resident Evil films definitely miss the point of the games, as the eerie ambiance set by the empty, eerie settings were traded for crowd pleasing sub-Matrix action.
But on top of this, the Resident Evil name was obviously used to sell the film. “What’s it got in it? Zombies? Right well just double the amount of zombies, and double the amount of guns, and double the amount of attractive women and we’ll have ourselves a six film saga?” Shame on you!
7. Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider is a weird one. Yes, it popularised the Lara Croft character very successfully, but the whole notion of the film is insulting. It’s the same deal as Resident Evil: why did we need a film about Lara Croft?
I’m not denying that the Tomb Raider films are semi-decent action flicks, but it is blatantly obvious that Hollywood saw an opportunity to transform a beloved franchise into a tame sequel machine featuring a jaw-dropping woman – and they took it. I’m sorry Angelina, but you will never have anything on the original Lara Croft. #PixelatedPerfection.
8. Alone in the Dark
If you are unfortunate enough to have seen the film Alone in the Dark, but haven’t played the classic games, I need you to listen to me: they are NOT bad games. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but this piece of trash movie is not at all representative of the experience you will have playing them.
On the surface, the film at least follows some of the game’s themes quite closely, involving a similar plot twist at the end and even going as far to develop the characters in the same way. But it’s done terribly, reflecting badly on the game itself and exposing Uwe Boll as the clueless hack he clearly is.
9. Max Payne
This film is PAYNEful to watch. See that awful pun there? Reading that for 103 minutes will give you the equivalent excitement of watching the Max Payne movie.
This is another example of the movie industry taking a perfectly well crafted video game narrative, messing it the hell up, and blindly slamming it into a film, before casting some semi-celebrity as its star. Again, I urge you to play the games instead. They’re fantastic noir thrillers – and they tell the story (ironically enough) in a much more cinematic fashion.
And so I come to my last and perhaps most important point. Uwe Boll, the director of the Postal film (and AITD above), is apparently a massive fan of video games, so it can hardly be said that he misunderstood the premise. Postal was a random, mess-about sandbox game that we played when it was raining on a Sunday or GTA was too structured. It was funny (if controversial), and gave us the freedom to do whatever we wished.
All that can be said about the film is that the director made a bad call. A VERY bad call. Hence we have a plot involving Osama Bin Laden (I don’t know what possessed the man to put the leader of Al Qaeda in his film), and cats being used as improvised weapon accessories. It’s the hubris of thinking a film like this would work that gets me. If you want video games to be taken seriously, then stop employing directors who know nothing about the games they are basing their films on, and/or have no idea how to direct a film. Simple.