Today’s post was written by Brittni Williams: writer, gamer, and movie aficionado. It is a truth universally acknowledged that video game movies suck, and Brittni was brave enough to review the worst ones ever made. For more musings from Brittni, find her on Twitter!
In the past decade or so, video games have increasingly cribbed from the world of film to deliver so-called “cinematic experiences” to gamers and non-gamers alike. This has brought us franchises like Half-Life, Call of Duty, Uncharted and The Last of Us, as well as films which called upon a wide range of auteur expertise, from Steven Spielberg to Michael Bay.
It’s a conundrum, then, why video game-based films have been largely unable to draw from the deep well of inspiration that inspired them in the first place. As anyone who harbors a passion for both can attest, it’s been a long and treacherous road of both critical and financial failures.
Following is a list of ten of the most impressively awful video game-movie adaptations: the cream of the crop of the worst of the worst.
[Editor’s note: The films on this list are not ranked numerically, as their sheer awfulness defies all attempts at neat categorization.]
Dead or Alive (2007)
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a game which derives most of its appeal from seductive female eye candy rather than a meaningful plot doesn’t translate very well to the big screen. Starring a roster of models-turned-actresses (Devon Aoki and Jamie Pressly both appeared on the runways of major designers in the early aughts) this movie is little more than a middle-school boy’s fantasy brought to life. And it doesn’t help matters that DOA’s action scenes refuse to obey the laws of physics.
Double Dragon (1994)
Here’s another video game film which put hardly any thought into its plot, which made a cinematic adaptation pointless. The movie, which is based very loosely on the game’s premise, is predictable and even somewhat racist. Alyssa Milano stars as the love interest of two brothers on the run from a gang of LA thugs hell-bent on recovering a lost talisman.
One would think that an action and adventure game with a fairly interesting story would work well condensed into a couple hours of film, but Hitman unfortunately couldn’t pull off this seemingly easy task—even with a worthwhile leading man, Timothy Olyphant, playing the Hitman. Of course, it didn’t help that the movie’s director, who seemed to have a true appreciation of the game, was pulled midway through production.
Street Fighter (2009)
Another fighting game. Another bizarrely bad plot. And cast. And directing. And just about everything. The worst part—among the many—is how seriously the movie takes itself despite being based on a game which doesn’t take its story seriously at all. Despite a few well-choreographed fight scenes, Street Fighter should have kept off the pavement and stuck around the arcade where it belongs.
Wing Commander (1999)
Most failed adaptations suffer from the disconnect between the game’s creation and the movie’s—particularly the absence of the creator. Unfortunately for Wing Commander, it had no such excuse as it was the game’s creator himself who directed this financial and critical bomb, and turned futuristic space ships into flying hunks of junk.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
The original Mortal Kombat just barely skated along the silliness/self-awareness line to be accepted into guilty pleasure territory. This sorry sequel unfortunately fell over the mark as it threw away what was good in the original and kept all the bad, the shallow acting (from Liu Kang in particular). In the end, you’re probably better off wasting your quarters trying to beat Tekken 2.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
The title is appropriate, considering the fact that this was just another sequel that disappointed fans of the previous adaptations. A film series that has surely overstayed its welcome on Earth (the franchise continues to live on via iTunes and various streaming services), this incarnation in particular lacked compelling action scenes, and of course offered little in the way of substantial storytelling. Dull and lifeless, here the afterlife brings no promise of redemption.
Silent Hill (2006)
Video games are often panned for their abysmally poor writing, so it’s rather strange that movie makers are unable to remedy that problem with the various talents at their disposal. Silent Hill is another adaptation that is utterly destroyed by a poor effort from screenwriters, suffering from both a baffling plot and cringe-worthy dialogue. The film might be an aesthetic achievement but it flounders in every other regard.
Tron Legacy (2010)
This adaptation offers stunning visual spectacles, but little else. The studio definitely got its money’s worth from the aesthetically-pleasing action scenes and remarkable depictions of new technology, but the lack of a real story and a compelling human element is probably why they didn’t make much of their money back. From start to finish, the sleek form swallows the shallow attempts at a compelling storyline.
Of course, the worst of the worst of the worst was directed by Uwe Boll. The video game was actually well-regarded for its inventive story, so it’s a shame that movie magic and a decent cast couldn’t break free from the double curse of video game adaptations and Uwe Boll. Everything about this picture is painful.
Are video game films forever doomed to failure? Considering the fact that modern games are essentially cinematic experiences in and of themselves, the (growing) heap of filmic disasters only serves as further proof that the bridge from console to megaplex is perhaps one best avoided. Life-like is good enough, and there is simply no replacing the experience of role-player fantasy.