Some arcade games make great movies – some miss the trick
Movies based on video games are usually underperforming, and one of the main reasons why is that many fail to recreate the feel of the original work. There’s bound to be some artistic liberties taken, of course, but that only goes so far.
Many fans see these films as a quick cash-grab by filmmakers, with little care put into actually making them faithful to the video games on which they were based. Sometimes they’re just a little different, but other times they become completely unrecognizable.
‘Super Mario Bros.’ (1993)
You’re likely familiar with the 3D-animated Super Mario Bros. movie set to release in Spring 2023. With the recent release of its trailer, many Nintendo fans were skeptical of the film’s quality, especially with the polarizing choice of having Chris Pratt voice Mario. However, one thing is certain: there is no way it can be worse than the original movie.
There are many fortunate people who are unaware of this movie’s existence. Not only was it one of the worst video game adaptations ever, but possibly even one of the worst movies of all time, too. This was because the filmmakers made the ridiculous decision to make it live-action, which resulted in a nonsensical plotline where the Super Mario Bros. universe was transported into the real world, leading to many of the characters becoming human. It featured Dennis Hopper as a live-action King Koopa, who manifests himself as a spiky-haired villain reminiscent of a punk rock band. It goes without saying that none of the things that happened in the movie were exactly faithful to what is arguably the most popular video game franchise of all time.
‘Hitman: Agent 47’ (2015)
Hitman is a video game series that has been running since 2000. In the games, the player controls Agent 47, an elite assassin sent on missions to eliminate some pretty despicable members of high society. Every level, the player is given an objective to eliminate a target (or targets) in whatever manner they see fit. This often involves using a variety of tools, weapons, and even disguises at your disposal to navigate the wide-open areas where your target can be found. There are often multiple ways to eliminate a target: you can go for the classic bullet to the head, or set up a scenario to make their death look like a freak accident, effectively leaving your hands clean.
The games are created in a way that leaves the guns-a-blazing approach undesirable and difficult, so extensive planning is required to get the job done quietly. The Hitman movies, however, throw all of that out the window. If the 47 from the games is a scalpel, the 47 from the movies is a sledgehammer, as in the film, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) inexplicably decides to shoot everyone and everything within a hundred-metre radius, which completely destroys what made the games great.
The recent Uncharted movie is based on a series of action-adventure games of the same name. The movie stars Tom Holland as protagonist Nathan Drake, and Mark Wahlberg as Drake’s best friend and father figure, Victor Sullivan. What the movie did surprisingly well was take iconic scenes from the games and recreate them in live-action. The glaring issue was that the movie ruined the canon of the video games.
In trying to adapt action sequences from several different games to the screen, aspects of the story were nitpicked and thrust into one semi-coherent bundle. The movie also created a brand-new origin story for Drake and Sullivan, despite the fact that an origin story had already been established in the third game. The movie may have captured the spirit of the games, but it certainly didn’t nail the story.
‘Monster Hunter’ (2020)
Monster Hunter is a popular series of Japanese role-playing video games in which players take on the assignment of hunting various fantastical creatures. The games take place exclusively in a high fantasy setting in a completely separate universe from our own.
So, it was pretty strange for fans of the series to see the Monster Hunter universe overlap with the real world. The film features a group of US Army Rangers who get inadvertently sucked into the world of Monster Hunter. Needless to say, seeing a group of modern soldiers in the fantasy world that the games take place in was extremely bizarre, and served as a bit of a slap in the face to fans of the franchise.
‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ (2010)
This movie is perhaps one of the biggest insults to video game fans to ever make it to theatres. Prince of Persia is a series of action-adventure games that take place in Ancient Persia, with elements of Persian Mythology mixed in. The series features its fair share of combat, but one of its main staples was the ability of the protagonist to climb, jump, and wallrun his way across nearly any obstacle.
The primary issue with the film was that it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, who is quite obviously, not of Persian descent, which ruins the historical fiction aspect of the games. Furthermore, the filmmakers decided to name the protagonist, when in the games he is known only as “the Prince,” which really adds to the intrigue and mystery surrounding him. Apart from that, the film was incredibly boring, with languid pacing, and a higher focus on inserting a romantic plotline where none was requested.
‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (2020)
This film received surprisingly good reviews from critics, and is one of only a few video game movies to ever achieve such. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still pretty far removed from the original Sonic the Hedgehog video game series. Sonic (Ben Schwartz), much like Mario, lives in a universe which is very clearly not real. Unfortunately, the film tried to take a similar route as Monster Hunter, and threw Sonic characters into the real world.
What the movie did do well though, was capture the personalities of the characters. Sonic and Robotnik (Jim Carrey) felt familiar and were as enjoyable in the films as they were in the games, so enjoyable in fact that it warranted the development of a sequel. Once again, though, in terms of story, it deviated greatly from the source material.
‘Tomb Raider’ (2018)
There were multiple Tomb Raider films made, but the most recent instalment focuses instead on the 2013 video game reboot than the classic 90s adventure games. The 2018 film is another classic example of filmmakers nailing the characters, but really screwing up the storyline.
The 2013 video game featured Lara Croft and a group of survivors trying to escape an island near Japan that was cursed by an evil empress who forbids anyone from leaving the island, even after her death. They eventually find themselves at odds with a cult of survivors willing to do anything to get home. While the characters are the same, the film turned the evil empress into an altruistic one, as instead of cursing the island so that none can leave, she became infected with a zombie-like virus and buried herself underground to prevent it from infecting the world. The film’s island is no longer cursed, so the plot becomes more of a treasure hunt than a desperate tale of survival. Which is, to be fair, much like some of the other games… just not the one the movie was based on.
‘Far Cry’ (2008)
Far Cry is an immensely popular series of open-world survival/shooter games, which recently released its sixth instalment. Once upon a time though, when the series was still new, a movie was conceptualized. Unfortunately, it should have stopped there.
It was made anyways, and critics and fans alike found themselves dissastified. Many critics deemed the film to be wildly inaccurate, and barely connected to the games. This was largely because it was directed by Uwe Boll, a film director notorious for adapting video games to fit the silver screen. Unfortunately, Boll is mostly inconsistent with his work, and his numerous box office flops based on video games would be enough to make a movie of its own.
‘Need for Speed’ (2014)
Need for Speed is a long-running racing game series. So, when a Need for Speed movie tried to cash in on the success of The Fast and the Furious series, it naturally failed. In fact, it felt more like a bad fan-fiction than anything.
Apart from that, there is a lot of not-so-subtle product placement for Ford Automotives, which makes it feel more like an unnecessarily-long commercial.
‘The Angry Birds Movie’ (2016)
The Angry Birds Movie earned surprisingly positive reviews from critics, which is amazing considering the simplicity of the game it was based on. The original mobile game sees players launching birds from a slingshot into structures filled with evil green pigs. End of story.
Many on the internet mocked the filmmakers even attempting to make a story off of such a simple game. But they certainly delivered. The reason it deviates from its source material, is of course, the movie has more story and comedy woven into it, because there’s only so much you can do with a premise as one-dimensional as the mobile game series.
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