Hi-Technical Knockout: Movie Games or Game Movies?

Welcome to the longest weekly running episodic column here at Diehard GameFAN, “Hi-Technical Knockout”, in which two DHGF staffers or IP alums will engage in virtual fisticuffs in a battle of wits!

Today’s contest will be an academic dissection, an examination of the profound and life-changing ideas. It will challenge the very notions of self, and what it means to be a man.

In short: we are going to compare two things and decide which sucks harder.

Feel free to suggest a future discussion topic by emailing WBXylo@gmail.com, subject: H-TKO!


Topic #5: Movie Games or Game Movies?

Which are worse, Movies based on Video Games or Video Games based on Movies?

Support your argument with specific examples.

(You know the preceding was a totes serious question because of the Enlightenment style Random Capitalization. Keep track of more random capitalizations in my Closing Arguments. )


Our first contestant on Hi-Technical Knockout is Sean Madson. The name Sean is of Irish and Hebrew descent. Loosely, it means “God is Gracious.” Madson, of course, means “son of a crazy angry dude.” Altogether, this makes the name Sean Madson mean “lunatic Jesus”.

So, let’s see what lunatic Jesus has to say.

Movies based on video games are far, far worse and for three reasons. The first is Uwe Boll. If you don’t know who that is, then I dare you to watch House of the Dead or Alone in the Dark and not claw your eyes and ears out at the horrid cinematography and awful scriptwriting that permeates every facet of that man’s work. Every adaptation that has his name tied to it is doomed from the start and sets film making back about 20 years.

A single director’s work aside, the second reason is that it is still far easier to fit the premise of a film into the context of a video game than vice versa. Take the Nintendo 64 hit Goldeneye for example. It takes the basic plot and locales from the film and manages to craft a damn good first person shooter out of it. All the major characters are there. Many of the iconic scenes were faithfully recreated (though with some creative liberties taken). There’s a tank in there. It’s like Rare had a checklist of all the things that were present in the film and went “Now how can we make this awesome?” Though, it would be more accurate to say that the game is good in spite of the film rather than because of it. After all, the Bond franchise didn’t suddenly make Tomorrow Never Dies an awesome game. Nor is the case with Enter the Matrix. Or Fight Club. Or as cliché as it is to mention, E.T. I guess what I’m getting at is that a film is just a premise in which to build your game upon. All the same rules apply to these games as they do to other games as far as what makes a fun game. Yes, most of them suck. But there are a ton of titles based on Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones that turned out pretty awesome and in some cases, with an added Lego influence.

While a movie isn’t too hard to stretch into a video game (just add henchmen!), it’s much more difficult to cram a storyline that in a lot of cases can be dozens of hours in length into a 90-120 minute film. This leads to my third and final point: Hollywood loves to take too many creative liberties of the absurd variety. I can understand deviating from the original video game’s plot a little bit to give a little something fresh to the fans. But in most cases they veer so far off the path that it’s not even recognizable anymore. Aside from the title, I would like to know: what makes Super Mario Bros. (the film) have any sort of connection to Super Mario Bros. (the games)? Also, why is John Leguizamo, who played Luigi, the main character in that movie? And why do Goombas look like… well, like THAT. Just thinking about it makes my head spin. You know your movie is shit when Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper both think it was a complete waste of time (though how they wouldn’t have figured that out after reading the script is beyond me).

Super Mario Bros. isn’t the only guilty party, but probably the most drastic example (along with its buddy, Double Dragon). There are some liberties taken in other franchises that from the outset seem subtle, but change the whole premise entirely. Doom was supposed to be about a Mars base that accidentally releases demons from hell. Instead, we get a zombie infection and a complete waste of time save for one first person sequence that was alarmingly entertaining the first time I saw it. Max Payne had a film noir storyline about a cop whose wife and daughter were murdered and how they all tied into this mysterious drug called Valkyr. And while they did manage to get that part right, they missed out on the primary gimmick of the game: bullet time. They had one scene in the film that used it, and it was pretty lame in execution. Mark Wahlberg’s performance didn’t help matters much, though he was on deck to be cast as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted film. Though it remains to be seen if he’ll stay on with the project now that the director and writer David O. Russell has been removed (the same guy who wanted to also cast Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci as Drake’s father and uncle and make it like the Sopranos). I’ve not played much of, or cared much for the Tomb Raider games, but the second film has a scene where Angelina Jolie PUNCHES A SHARK IN THE FACE and then proceeds to RIDE IT TO THE SURFACE. I’m pretty sure that never happened in the games. Either way, I stopped watching the movie at that point.

Not all hope is lost, however. There have been a few gems over the years, though they are more or less guilty pleasures rather than something I could recommend to the masses. I thought the original Mortal Kombat film was quite enjoyable. Yes, the special effects look like something Syfy channel would cook up, but the film adheres pretty closely to the game’s plot and there are some amusing one liners. I wouldn’t say it’s a breakthrough in cinema, but what would you expect? It’s based on a fighting game where plot took a back seat to dismembering your opponent in kung fu battles fought between movie stars, ninjas, and four armed behemoths. There’s also the big budget release of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time which again is not exactly a showcase of modern movies, but is pretty decent for what it is and follows the basic premise of the game. The Resident Evil movies aren’t too bad either, and this is coming from someone who’s not a fan of the franchise. If you like anime, Halo Legends, Dead Space: Downfall, and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children are pretty good too.

I don’t think films based on video games are forever doomed to suck. I think they are just in a period of growing pains, similar to the way comic book movies were before Hollywood really started taking them seriously. That said, there are some movies with premises based around video games that are pretty damn good, such as eXistenZ, in which Jude Law must protect a programmer of a virtual reality video game from assassins (and you thought comment boards were volatile). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is actually based on a comic, but has heavy video game references and influences and my favorite movie of 2010. Grandma’s Boy is about a 35-year-old game tester that moves back in with his grandmother and is quite humorous if you’re into the kind of dirty humor the film provides. If none of these tickle your fancy, well don’t fret too much. At least video game movies aren’t in the kind of state that live action films based on anime are in. Death Note turned out okay, but gave you seen Dragonball: Evolution or Speed Racer? How does the prospect of Keanu Reeves in Cowboy Bebop sound to you? Thought so.


Next up, we have one Aaron “why so?” Sirois. If we here at DHGF get in a game where cartoon characters from Japanese TV shows punch each other, there is a good chance that Aaron will have to review it.

If infected with Sirois, your symptoms may include:
*Jaundice
*Pale stool
*Spider veins
*Bleeding gums
*Gynecomastia

Get checked today!

Believe it or not, good games based on movies do happen. Fans of the Nintendo 64 remember with fondness their exploits on Goldeneye, the older generations had games like Batman, Aladdin, The Lion King, and the Super Star Wars games.

Recently, there are a few more I can list off of the top of my head as well. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had plenty for fans to love, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was like Bully at Hogwarts, and the various Lego games have their fans. I myself gave high marks to the DS adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Yes. It is true that a vast majority of movie tie-in games are absolute dreck, but good ones do show up from time to time. The same can not be said for movies based off of games.

Think of the best video game movie you can come up with. You’re probably coming up with Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, or maybe the Prince of Persia movie. Look inside yourself. While these movies might offer some tidbit to movie goers, they can’t really be called anything but mediocre at BEST.

Let’s get more specific. Rottentomatoes has a list of every video game adaptation and ranks them. The highest ranking movie is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Firstly, I’ll let that disturbing fact sink in. Secondly, I’ll reveal that it scored a grand total of 44%. That still certifies it as “rotten” on their scale. That amounts to a 49 on Metacritic. I’d call that absolute failure. It doesn’t help that the rest of the landscape is populated with Uwe Boll films, Super Mario, Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, and many others.

The only real thing going for the movies is that there are only about thirty of them and there are probably hundreds if not thousands of awful movie games. By the simple law of averages, you’d expect a good one or two to sneak through. That would be the deal breaker for me right there, and I’d be willing to give the movies a pass but for one problem. There still aren’t any good movies. Until they manage to produce something of quality, they take the cake as the worst.


Kennedy’s Ruling
Madson argues that films based on games are worse for three reasons:
1. Uwe Boll, terrible director and friend of DHGF.
2. It is easier to fit the premise of a movie into a game than to fit the premise of a game into a movie.
3. Absurd liberties taken with the intellectual property.
These premises seem strong, but are far from universal. Uwe Boll does not direct all video game movies, and liberties need not be taken with such franchises. Furthermore, many video games have stories that would be perfectly digestible in a 80-100 minute chunk. Free examples: fast hedgehog hates a scientist turning woodland creatures into robots, an elf who can throw a boomerang perfectly every time must defeat a pig-wizard in order to save the world, a dude must punch a bunch of other dudes to save his girlfriend, and hell, the plot of Mortal Kombat is just Enter the Dragon with supernatural elements.

Still ,the argument has its merits.
*60 points awarded.

Aaron argues that Video Game Movies are the worst because there have been good Movie Video Games but no classically “good” Video Game Movies. But I believe him to injure his own point by bringing in the numbers. There are indeed far more Movie based Video Games than vice versa. As such, movie based video games can be expected to occupy spaces farther from the mean on a normal curve, having more extreme extremes in both directions. This allows Aaron to cherry-pick from those some sigmas ahead of the curve (I.e. Goldeneye) and ignore those on the other end (e.g. E.T., Evil Dead, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game). The smaller sample size of films based off of video games would allow for fewer deviations from that mean.

Still, the argument has its merits.
*60 points awarded.

Madson mentions a hot woman punching a shark in the face and riding it to the surface, and then pretends that it is a bad thing. The only thing that would make that more awesome is if she had a robot buddy that made the shark eat Nazis.
*30 points are deducted. (That’s mad, son!)

Madson pimps existenZ.
*50 points awarded. (Cronenberg’s Rule)

Madson realizes that not all of his points against Video Game Films are universal or immutable, and as such there is always hope for the future.
*38 points awarded. (That’s what I said!)

Sean Madson’s Total Score: 118 points

Aaron gives the example of the Genesis version of Aladdin as a good movie game. To this day, I still bounce apples off of my crelbow because of that game.
*40 points awarded for his fakirs, his cooks, his bakers and birds that warble on key!

Aaron mentions Street Fighter the movie as terrible, but fails to account for how rad Raul Julia is.
*10 points are deducted.

Aaron says that he’d be willing to give Video Game Films the edge in quality if just one of them panned out into something good.
*10 points deducted for flip-flopping. (John Kerry ‘s rule)

Aaron Sirois’s Total Score: 80 Points

Winner: Sean Madson

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