Our Tens List: Worst Video Game Adaptations
This week we reviewed BloodRayne for April Rain month. It was, let us say, a less than stellar movie based on a video game franchise. While a few gems have managed to get made using video games as their source material (the first Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat movies come to mind) the general opinion is that video game make terrible movies. And, well, they usually do. So which ones are the worst of the worst?
#10: Street Fighter. (1994)
Starring a semi-coherent Jean-Claude Van Damme, JCVD to his friends and detractors, Kylie Minogue, and the immortal soul of Raul Julia, the first Street Fighter movie is a mixed bag that contains some delicious kung-fu candy…but more suspicious looking apples. The story is strangely reasonable, seeing as the plot line of the video game is pure insanity: men and women are invited to kick the snot out of each other by a Thai warlord named Bison who is stealing their fighting energy in order to power his psycho-engine, with world conquest to follow somehow. Standard stuff, really. The game’s story is convoluted at best, with different characters’ endings blatantly contradicting each other. So no help there. JCVD is Guile, a marble-mouthed American military bad-ass who is leading a UN strike force to end the threat of Bison’s rogue army.
A veritable army of B-listers reprise the roles of way too many characters from the game. The script is twisted into a pretzel in order to add all the fighters, despite fans of the series knowing that the only fighter who anyone uses is Ryu (or Vega if you’re a cheap son of a bitch.) The movie ran out of filming time and had way too many re-writes thanks to the video game maker, Capcom, who had no clue what they were doing. A first time director was no help, either. The only saving grace was Raul Julia, who was in straight up boss mode. Dying from stomach cancer, a man who could barely shuffle around the set between takes, Raul manned up like a real life super hero and pumped his own psycho energy into the project, turning in one of the best villain performances of any movie, let alone a terrible video game adaptation.
#9: Postal. (2007)
Our first, but by no means last, encounter on this list with legendarily bad director Uwe Boll, Postal has so many strikes against it, it’s hardly necessary to even watch the film. Luckily, next to nobody has, so that works out. First Uwe Boll is crap as a director, a cheap charlatan who abuses Germany’s tax code to turn out movies that suck on purpose just to line his own pocket. It’s as if Germany watched Mel Brook’s “The Producers”, the story of two schmucks who make a bomb because they win if the play they produce loses money, and decided that it was a totally legit way to finance films. Second, the source material is the most puerile first person shooter crud, starring washed up losers like Gary Coleman making “edgy” jokes that the lamest person you know would turn his nose up at. Lastly, this film has no budget, no purpose, and no star power. It would be higher on the list, but you expect dog turds to smell, so why get angry? There are movies on this list that didn’t KNOW they were turds, and that is in some way worse.
#8: DOA: Dead or Alive. (2006)
Turning fighting games into movies should be made illegal. Nearly 50% of this list is terrible takes on the genre that is rarely more cerebral than “brawny men and big-busted ladies hit each other repeatedly.” This movie is probably the summation of that sentiment. An indifferent fighter, DOA is only memorable for the sheer volume of buxom beauties it fields. Seriously, the series quickly became about bikini volleyball instead of fighting. The movie tries to use both the fighting and titties, including a cringe-worthy beach scene. There are some talented martial artists involved, but the choreography is so bad, and the CG so cheesy, it makes Kung Fu Hustle look like a documentary. Without having much of a fan base, there is really no reason for this to exist, and for that it makes the worst 10 video game list.
#7: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. (2001)
This movie should have been titled: Final Fantasy, the Tech Demo. Square-Enix took the bloated, visual-heavy spectacle that the Final Fantasy series has become and tried to mash it straight into a movie. Seeing as the latest entries into the game franchise are already glorified quick time movies that require you to press an occasional button, you would think it would be a good fit. (How occasional? I once fell asleep playing a Final Fantasy game during the final battle, with the auto-fire button on my controller set to press “A”. I won, and woke up an hour later to see the credits rolling.) Unfortunately, FF discovered the easiest way to explain the uncanny valley: These living dolls look so unsettling, the movie could be categorized as a horror. Chucky looks more animate. The story is such a fantasy genre retread, you can tell that it only exists to allow big action sequences to exist. Which have no power to move you. It’s like The Matrix Revolutions, if you looped the final battle for two hours.
#6: Resident Evil: Apocalypse. (2004)
The second Resident Evil movie, it manages to fall into every pit-fall for video game adaptations that you can think of. The story tries to mash together two or three games into one film, running at a marathon pace for no reason. If you know the games, you are irate that your favorite scene was only a second long, and if you don’t know the games, you are confused by why the fuck they need to be in an office building just so a helicopter can shoot at them. It tries to burnish its credentials by including way too many winks and nods to scenes from the games, including having characters dress up like their game counterparts…from 1997. It looks out of place and as hokey as you would expect. They also steal way too many set pieces from the games, looking like an amateur highlight real of stuff you’ve seen before.
Milla Jovovich’s physicality is wasted as she takes a back seat to other, throw away characters. It’s nice that she lets us see her naked in each movie, but I could do without seeing her vagina for no reason. It just gets creepier when you realize that the director is her husband…ewwww.
#5: Wing Commander. (1999)
Freddie Prince Jr.
Freddie Fucking Prince Jr. Dear god, he had a career once. I don’t need to remember that. The worst part is that Wing Commander pioneered the full video cut scene, and had Mark “Star Wars” Hamil in the game. This could have been the ultimate remake, allowing a big budget studio to improve the already impressive FMV from the game. We could have had another chance to love Mark Hamil. But no. No. We get Freddie Prince Jr in a movie that only shows you the bad guys in the last 5 minutes.
Fucking Freddie Prince Jr.
#4: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. (1997)
After a totally decent first movie, Mortal Kombat exemplified the sequel curse of video game movies. We’ve seen how Resident Evil 2 took the worst aspects of the game and decided to use them all. Well…Mortal Kombat Annihilation does that too. It’s just that the worst parts of Mortal Kombat are so very bad. It works in the game because it is tongue in cheek and full of goofy cool moments. The guy whose head pops up and shouts insults? Cool when you’re doing a combo on a friend. When you’re watching a movie? Lame. The story compresses the MK universe, making leaps that even hardcore fans will scratch their head about. And it tries to be funny by using the silliest moments. Animality? A quick laugh when you are tired of punching out hearts and want to show you are the ultimate MK bad-ass. When a character goes on a spirit journey to learn his on-screen? Lame. You may have noticed a trend. MK Annihilation: lame.
#3: House of the Dead. (2003)
Uwe Boll is back, and this may be his worst. It’s not as puerile as Postal, but the constant nudity and silly special effects and gore try real hard. It’s not as boring as BloodRayne, though as a thoroughly derivative zombie flick, it tries real hard here too. It is the movie that does the most damage to its license, despite that license being a silly light-gun game. It is blatantly obvious that Boll has never played a game in the series. Or is brain damaged. Or both. A paper-thin rip-off of the Dawn of the Dead series by Romero, it manages to look completely like a pale imitation. The characters are ugly and hateful, and have nothing to do with the franchise they are based on. A quick reveal at the end is meant to set this as a prequel to the actual House of the Dead games, but falls flat. It’s obvious Uwe got his hands on a franchise, and rode it for all it was worth, making an utterly derivative mess.
#2: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. (2009)
It was hard not to choose this as the worst game-movie ever. It is wrong in every way you can imagine. It has nothing to do with the Street Fighter universe, except having characters of the same name. It has so many mis-cast roles, you have to scratch your head. Neal McDonough as Bison? The cartwheels they turn to make Bison Irish are mind boggling. Michael Clarke Duncan as Balrog? Despite being huge, he just looks too damn nice to be a bad guy (hint, hint, Daredevil…) Because so many non-martial artists are given big roles, the fights look awful. Bad story, bad fights, and that should be the worst. Right? Nope, the sound effects are so face-melting silly, in a movie that does not give any sense of being a parody or satire, you have to wonder. Every time Bison so much as raises an eyebrow, a tiger sound can be heard. Despite the tiger being the animal associated with his rival, Sagat. This movie is clueless when it comes to making a kung-fu movie, and is equally clueless about the franchise it is trying to use as a base. Simply awful.
#1: Super Mario Bros. (1993)
I said that Legend of Chun-Li was clueless…but Super Mario Bros. is more than clueless. It so thoroughly ignores the games it is drawing from, I can believe that the creators of this film not only never played Super Mario…but that they never played a game in their lives. They would walk into a room and see a Nintendo Entertainment System and try to make toast in it, that is how out of their depth they are.
The casting is a feat: Bob Hoskins from Who Framed Roger Rabbit plays Mario, John Leguizamo plays Luigi (umm, you know that Italy and Colombia are completely different places, right?) and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. I kept expecting Hopper to start stabbing people and cut Mario’s ear off. Steal the princess? He seems like he wants to kill anybody in arms length. Sorry Mario, your princess is in pieces in eight different castles.
The visual effects are actually charming in how bat-shit insane they are. Hopper sports flesh ridges and a Gene Simmons tongue, so you know he’s a dragon-turtle and all. His henchmen have teeny-tiny little turtle heads sticking out of giant trench coat wearing bodies. I’ve had fever dreams that made more sense visually. The movie decided you could absolutely not make a video game movie, and so decided to cut losses and make an existential dada-esque nightmare instead. I can’t really blame them. A movie about an Italian plumber who jumps on things to death while running across the same 3 backgrounds in order to rescue a princess from a turtle monster is pretty much what you expect a meth habit to sound like. So I salute them for bailing out early and making the craziest thing they could think of. Smoke ’em if you got ’em!