With today's release of Wreck-It Ralph, we can't help but think that the video game medium is finally getting the respect it deserves in films. That's not to say we've gone through history without having some glimmer of hope in a production, but for the most part, video game adapted movies have sucked... badly. I don't even think I need to mention the cringe-inducing Super Mario Bros. adaptation with Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper do I? Nor the nightmare that was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li that actually made the Jean Claude Van Damme predecessor before it watchable.
But aside from the awesome Wreck-It Ralph, there are some shining examples of good – or at the very least decent – video game-adapted films. You may have to hunt a few of them down, but the search will be worth it if only to be moderately entertained and occasionally crack a joke that your fellow gamers will get. So sit back, pop some popcorn and enjoy our choices.
(And for the record, there's no mention of anything by Uwe Boll or the Resident Evil franchise. You're safe.)
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Paul W.S. Anderson first made his mark with this video game-to-film adaptation, based on the hit Midway arcade fighting game of the same name. Despite the PG-13 rating which toned down on the excessive violence (no beheadings or heart rips here), Mortal Kombat actually packed a good amount of fun into the film.
Along with a decent script, the film also benefited from performers like Robin Shou as Liu Kang and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as a sneering Shang Tsung who seemed ideal for the role. Scorpion and Sub-Zero were pretty great as well and who could forget the sense of humor Christopher Lambert provided for Raiden? Sure, the animatronic Goro might've been a bit much (especially with the groin punch – "that hurt!" and Bridgette Wilson didn't have much to offer as Sonya), but the movie was fun nevertheless, backed by a solid score by the P-Funk master himself, George Clinton.
With that, do NOT check out Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Nowhere in the same league and at one point, a Godzilla-like monster fight breaks out. Awful.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)
Mortal Kombat wouldn't get respect again in the film/video industry until director Kevin Tancharoen created an inspired live-action short film that became a big hit on YouTube. Not too long after that, Warner Bros. hired him to not only produce the next big-screen chapter of the film, but also a side story made up of exclusive webisodes. With that, Mortal Kombat: Legacy was born.
Featuring Michael Jai White ("Black Dynamite") as Jax and Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager") as Sonya, the first season of Legacy told the story prior to the tournament focusing on various characters and their plights throughout, whether it was Kitana and Mileena being at each other's throats or Johnny Cage being, well, Johnny Cage. The series became a huge hit, and you can actually check it out on YouTube or watch it in a Blu-ray compilation.
This one takes itself wayyyy more seriously than the original film, but some fans will dig that, especially when it comes to the brutal fighting sequences. FATALITY!
Halo Legends (2010)
If you think Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was the first foray into the Halo storyline in films, you'd better think again. This interesting spin-off, animated by a team of Japanese anime masters, tells multiple stories from within the Halo universe that first aired exclusively on the Waypoint channel before being released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Not everyone got into the animation style that Microsoft was shooting for with the project but it turned out to be a success nevertheless. Halo Legends delves a little deeper than either Bungie or 343 Industries went with their respective Halo projects. Its dramatic tone is also likely to be appreciated by those who want a serious side story that goes with their Halo gaming experience.
Check it out after you're done catching up on the Forward Unto Dawn episodes. You'll be glad you did.
Red Faction: Origins (2011)
Usually, when someone mentions a SyFy production, you expect something along the lines of Sharktopus or Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. However, with 2011's release of Red Faction: Origins, the channel actually did a legitimate job of trying to tell a story that tied in with the storyline to the release of Red Faction: Armageddon, which came out for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011.
Focusing on Lieutenant Jake Mason (loosely related to main game hero Alex Mason), the movie focused on the continuing battle between the corporate bigwigs trying to overtake Mars and the colonists fighting back against them. Nothing out of the ordinary nor big budget, but still a competent story with some decent performances from actors like Brian J. Smith (as Mason) and Danielle Nicolet.
Sadly the Red Faction series in on the backburner over at THQ, so we probably won't be seeing a sequel or anything. If you can, hunt this one down. It's good viewing – and we don't mean of the cornball variety.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
The original CG-animated film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was strikingly beautiful and featured a strong voice cast (including Alec Baldwin), but the story ended up being a jumbled mess for most fans. However, that didn't stop Square Enix from trying again with the gorgeous direct-to-video release Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. This movie actually features characters from the classic PS One release, including Cloud and Tifa, as they battle against a trio of enemies who mean serious business.
While Advent Children isn't exactly the greatest example of storytelling in itself, it's a mostly good film with some set pieces that clear the way for some spectacular action, especially closer to the end when an old foe reappears.
If you're a fan of the series, it's well worth checking out. And if you can forgive the limp storytelling, The Spirits Within is a fun visual ride as well.