J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Video game movies: or, never see Super Mario Brothers.

It’s the weekend, so I’m bringing a bit of crazy to the party today. I apologize in advance.

Last night, some friends and I watched the Super Mario Brothers movie. No, we weren’t insane or masochistic. The hilarious guys of Rifftrax recently did this movie, so we watched that version (though it should say something that even with them making fun of the movie nonstop, it was STILL difficult to sit through).

I can only assume the Washington Post movie guy got fired for saying this.

I hadn’t watched it since I was 9 years old, when my dad took my brother and I to see it in theaters. I remember being so confused at how basically nothing about the game showed up in the movie. Even though, as I sit here now, it’s pretty easy to see why. A live-action movie about a plumber taking on mutant mushrooms, turtles, and dinosaurs would not have worked well even if they’d stuck to the video game like a Bible.

Bottom line: I thought it sucked as a kid, and I still think it sucks now. I give it a **. ** may be a bit high to you, but it does have Bob Hoskins in it, and I love that guy in anything he does. That’s the only reason. Hey, I never said my rating system is completely scientific.

 

But this got me to thinking… what video games have turned into movies, and actually ended up being good movies? It’d be easy for me to go off some random fanboy’s list, but for the purposes of this being MY blog, and MY opinions, I decided to only mention movies I have personally watched.

The best video game movies:

Silent Hill (2006)

She doesn’t take kindly to being told to tidy up, I’m afraid.

I am a HUGE fan of this series, so my expectations were high when I watched it. And I can honestly say it didn’t disappoint. Watched this with my dad (movies are one of the few things we both enjoy), and he liked this movie, even though he had no clue it was even based off a video game.  It’s creepy, yet fun. I give it ****, because it’s a good movie and would definitely watch it if it randomly came on TV, but I don’t care about it enough to own the DVD or anything.

How faithful is it to the source material? Almost 100%, considering it basically lifts the plot from the original Playstation game with a few minor tweaks. The only major change made is making the protagonist a woman, instead of a man. But that makes a lot of sense, honestly. One of the few missteps the original game took was how unintentionally creepy Harry (the hero/dad) sounds when he talks to everyone in town. I had to stop myself from laughing every time he’d ask “Have you seen a little girl? Short, black hair…” I understand voice acting was bad, and that the script was translated from japanese, but seriously. He sounded like a pedophile who had gotten lost in a creepy town. It just works better with a mother looking for her daughter. I liked the changes the movie made.

My favorite parts: Pyramid Head’s cameo, Alice Krige (this woman is a SERIOUSLY underrated actress. She can do creepy so well, it’s insane. Loved her as the Borg Queen in Star Trek:First Contact), and the hilarious fact that this is one of the few movies Sean Bean has ever done that he does not actually die in, despite it being a very grisly horror movie.

Resident Evil (2002)

One wonders how she became the star. Oh, right…

This is another game series that I really like. And by that, I mean I’ve beaten every game in the series. Multiple times. This movie has a lot of flaws, honestly. The plot makes little to no sense, the dialogue is bad, and most of the characters seem to lack any common sense or basic logic for their situations. But it was fun, and kept the ADD camera* (seriously, I could rant about this for hours) tendencies to a minimum. Sad though it may be, that’s more than enough to qualify as a good video game movie. It’s a pretty solid ***.

*I classify ADD camera as any part of movie that has a shaky cam, and/or any parts where it cuts to another angle every 2-3 seconds. I can’t stand that, and probably have never really liked a movie that does either of these things.

How faithful is it to the source material? Not really that much at all. It does have a big mansion where biology goes horribly wrong, but it has NONE of the notable characters from the series. Also, the fun horror scenario of the game was kind of weakened. In the game, you’re part of an elite police task force sent in to investigate what the heck happened to some of your comrades in some dark, spooky woods. It works, because you’re the invader, entering a scenario where you have no idea what’s going to jump out at you and try to eat your face, whether it’s zombies, dogs, mutant sharks, etc.

The movie, however, changes that to an elite commando force that’s actually employed by Umbrella (the evil corporation that owns the facility to begin with). It takes away some of the fun suspense, because they already have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. That dampens the horror by quite a bit.

Milla Jovovich is a beautiful woman, and not a bad actress to boot (though this may be just bias because I liked The Fifth Element), but her character never existed in the games, and still doesn’t. Her character here is very Mary Sue, unfortunately, and I honestly can’t understand how they are STILL making sequels to this mediocre movie to this day.

My favorite part: The laser hallway scene. Enough said. Even Capcom, the makers of the games, enjoyed this scene enough to reference it in Resident Evil 4.

Mortal Kombat (1995)

YOU took my lunch from the office fridge. DIDN’T YOU!?

Mortal Kombat, the game series, was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. The formula for its success was simple: tons of blood and gore, and push the envelope enough to create controversy. It worked, but if I’m to be honest, I was more of a Street Fighter II guy. Seriously, every character in Mortal Kombat had the exact same basic punches and kicks, with only their special moves being different. Street Fighter II was clearly better, for that point alone.

Ironically, when it comes to movies, it’s the exact opposite. Mortal Kombat took the story it had from the game, and translated it faithfully onto the big screen with decent to good actors to support it. When you’re a kid hoping for something better than Super Mario Brothers, this was all it needed to do. If I gave half star ratings, it’d earn a 3.5, but as is, it only gets ***. It’s a good movie, but not good enough to excite me to go watch it again.

How faithful is to the source material? It basically changes nothing, except giving the main character an extra incentive to go kick evil sorcerer butt.

My favorite parts: Christopher Lambert as Raiden, Kano’s “AH’VE STUDIED ALL YO MOVES” line, and the guy who played Shang Tsung. He’s not even Chinese, but he did an awesome job.

The worst video game movies:

Double Dragon (1994)

The Iron Chef America chairman has come a long way, huh?

I have to be honest and say that this movie is objectively even worse than Super Mario Brothers. The only reason Super Mario Brothers gets more bad press is because Double Dragon is a much more niche title. That being said, Double Dragon II is one of the best games on the original NES, period. So there was a degree of hype to this movie. And it bombed horribly, in every sense of the execution. The movie didn’t take itself seriously, but the plotline really, really needed some degree of gravity to work. The end result is like a cake that collapses in on itself… just a disaster. *. That’s it. One star.

How faithful is it to the source material? Most of the basics are there, but the bottom line is that it turns Billy and Jimmy from two majorly powerful martial artists into a post-apocalyptic Bill and Ted. And Bill and Ted did it better. This SHOULD have been much more of a martial arts movie. A good compromise would’ve been to make it a Jackie Chan meets video games sort of thing. But instead, we get something like a saturday morning cartoon. Not that I don’t like those, but this was disappointing.

My favorite parts: Robert Patrick as the bad guy is THE only reason to derive any enjoyment from this movie. He’s a good actor… Terminator 2 is proof of that. But he hams it up here, because he was probably aware that there was no reason to give a sincere effort. He’s still fun to watch, though.

Street Fighter (1994)

Really bad movie, or really bad cosplay? Why not both at the same time?

It’s funny how many of these were made in 1994-1995. Guess that was a real boom period for video game movies… of course, it’s also a boom for how they all bombed. This is probably the one I loathe the most, just because I loved Street Fighter II SO MUCH as a kid. I was genuinely hoping for my favorite fighters to get a fun romp on screen. What I got was… a trainwreck. They changed Ryu and Ken into con artists. They made Sagat a shady businessman, and Dhalsim into a scientist. They made Zangief into a bumbling idiot (okay, so this one was funny). They sort of churned out a plot that might have worked, but the acting and details involved therein just were complete rubbish. **, just because of a few things that made it so bad it was good.

How faithful is it to the source material? Um, they got Bison sort of right? That’s about it.

My favorite parts: Raul Julia as Bison was awesome, not going to lie. He’s the only good part of this movie, and that’s just because of how cheesy and over the top he plays it. He was a brilliant actor. Also, Van Damme’s epic speech. SO HORDE.

Conclusions?

As I go back and look at my bests and worsts, I realize one thing: there is no real pattern between which ones worked, and which ones didn’t. Some stuck to the source material perfectly fine, to a degree, and sucked. Others took crazy liberties, and went down in flames. The bottom line is, some video games simply don’t have a plot to work as a movie. They just don’t. Mario Brothers is one such game. It COULD work as an animated feature, but that is still extremely iffy. It was built to be a fun game, not to change the world or have a deep plot. A game about a fat man who can jump several times his own height and battles monsters straight out of an acid trip with flowers that let him spit fire should never have a movie made about it.

It’s a shame, really, because as of this writing Super Mario Brothers robbed us of a chance to see a Legend of Zelda or Metroid movie. Both of which, I feel, could be made into fantastic movies. A properly done Zelda movie would make TONs of money. But alas, probably won’t happen for a while, even if the movie would write itself.

If there’s one lesson to take away from this post, it’s this: Don’t go see a movie based off your favorite video game and expect a classic. You’ll get your heart broken. Even if it’s on Rifftrax.

 

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