I have a compulsion to watch every video game film I can find. I know most of them are trash, about 98% of them are directed by Uwe Boll, and they deviate crazily from the source material, but I can’t help but track them down, just to see how bad they are. I can count the number of passable video game movies on one hand. The only video game film that I think of as ‘good’ is Silent Hill.
However, there are still plenty of enjoyable shit movies from the early days. Let’s have a look at the pioneers of the sub-genre and all of their flaws.
Super Mario Bros
Awww yeah! Super Mario Bros is the one that started it all. It’s a horrible, horrible mess of a film: part kid’s comedy, part action, part Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk nightmare. Bob Hoskins puts on a brilliant Brooklyn accent as Mario and John Leguizamo plays a snotty teenage Luigi. In spite of all its problems, I still love this movie. Dennis Hopper is brilliant as King Koopa, there are about ten billion quotable lines and some really fun set pieces. Hell, it starts with a couple of dinosaurs talking in New Yoik accents. Sure, it’s a bad film, and has nothing to do with the games, but it sits comfortably – and brilliantly – in the so-bad-it’s-good section of my movie library.
We’ve all played Double Dragon, right? A kidnapped girl leads two brothers to go kick the crap out of a gang and generally be total badasses. The obvious choice for such a simple, dumb story, then is to add a bunch of jargon about a magical amulet and evil overlords. Throw the bad guy from Terminator 2 and Alyssa Milano into the mix and you’re sure to win an Oscar, right? Well, not quite. But you do get an awful movie full of 90s clichés and some awful performances. Kudos to them for making Marian, the girlfriend from the game, into an active character though.
This film can be summed up entirely in a single casting choice: the lead character is Guile, a man so American he has the star-spangled banner tattooed on his arm. Who’s the best person to play this all-USA dude? Why, the Belgian actor and roundhouse-kicker Jean Claude Van Damme, of course! The movie-makers managed to squeeze a load of the characters from Street Fighter 2 in, which certainly deserves credit, but it means that the plot is completely insane. It all looks incredibly tacky, too. What saves it? Why, a brilliant performance from the late, great Raul Julia as M. Bison of course! It was his last movie role and it’s worth the cost of the DVD alone. Well, that and seeing Kylie Minogue acting. Yup.
Aside from Silent Hill, I actually think Mortal Kombat is the best video game movie. It’s trashy and dumb, but it’s just so much darn fun. It’s also got a plot that kind of makes sense (well, in comparison to the likes of Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter), and who needs acting talent when you’ve got wise-cracking, shades-wearing kung fu heroes punching four-armed monsters in the bollocks? Great fight scenes, awesome special effects, awful one-liners: this movie has it all. Unfortunately, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation isn’t quite as good.
Last and possibly least is 1999’s Wing Commander. The games had a great cast – with Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell in the brilliant Wing Commander III – and what better way to continue that trend than with the magnificent Freddie Prinze Jr. Ahem. The movie follows the usual plot of the plucky young rookies who manage to save humanity whilst being very cool and relatable for the film’s target demographic.
After these trendsetting films, the video game film adaptation trend really kicked off, particularly after the big success of the Resident Evil franchise. But for me, these 90s films are very interesting to watch back. In fact, I would rather watch Super Mario or Mortal Kombat than the likes of Max Payne or Hitman any day of the week.
Seriously, how can you ever beat scenes like this?