From the Console to the Cinema: A Look at Video Game Adaptations

Recent reports indicate that actor Michael Fassbender has attached himself to the film adaptation of popular gaming series “Assassin’s Creed.” At first it looked like it would only be a spot as co-producer, but a starring role seems likely. Since Fassbender is one of the hottest rising stars, some are saying this could be the first great video game adaptation.

Around the same time studio execs figured out that superheroes could have major success at the box office, video game adaptations were also being considered. What comic books and video games both offer the film industry are built-in fanbases and easy story templates to mimic. Unfortunately, these films tend to be too good to be true, delivering lame copies of their original inspirations.

“Assassin’s Creed” has a great story and the film’s potential is there, but we won’t know much more about it for several months. Let’s look at some of the other games that found their way to the silver screen over the years.

Super Mario Brothers (1993)

It makes sense that Mario would be the first console character to get his own film. The series has had such a huge impact on Nintendo and gaming as a whole, surely the film will do it justice. Not so much. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo play Mario and Luigi and Dennis Hopper takes a shot at King Koopa in this seriously misguided adaptation. While I can say that I enjoyed it as a kid, it’s a bit ridiculous these days and widely considered to be one of the worst films of its kind.

Street Fighter (1994)

Coming one year after the plumber debacle, “Street Fighter” is another one of those franchises that has enough interesting characters to where you could at least imagine a film. This film cared about those characters so much, they crammed as many as possible into the film. The story is a mess and, with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing Colonel Guile, you can bet it’s an awesomely bad 90’s action movie.

Now that’s just the first two video games to lay the groundwork for these movies. There were others in the mid-90’s like “Double Dragon,” but let’s not make ourselves go down that road.

Skipping ahead a few years, let’s see if the movies get much better.

Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), and the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Go ahead and shut your gaping jaw. Yes, there really are soon to be FIVE “Resident Evil” films. Although there are plenty of people who love these zombie movies, most of the game’s original fans despise the very existence of Milla Jovovich’s Alice character. I admit that I enjoy these as a guilty pleasure, but they are only based on a fraction of the games and are pretty generic as action films (not horror). Two major setbacks, especially if you buy into the rumors that George Romero was originally involved with the first film before Paul W.S. Anderson took over.

Max Payne (2008)

As someone who spent half a semester of 8th grade playing “Max Payne.” this is arguably the most disappointing of the video game adaptations. The game really wasn’t that hard to turn into a film, as its plot is your average crime/revenge film. Throw in some bullet-time and trim down the game’s nightmare sequences and you’re guaranteed to have a decent film.

After some ridiculous casting (Ludacris playing a character that was originally a 55-year-old white guy?!) and cutting most of the game’s better scenes to make way for some drug hallucinations, the fans were disgusted and everyone else just shrugged their shoulders at a painfully mediocre action film.

Just to be fair to this little genre, there have been a small handful of films that have been pretty good (not great). One of these was 2006’s “Silent Hill,” which did a good job of keeping the game’s feel while presenting a decent story. The other is….

Hitman (2007)

Timothy Olyphant coming straight off of his villainous turn in “Live Free or Die Hard” was an inspired choice for Agent 47 in this adaptation. The only real problem I had with this take was that the filmmakers ham-fisted a romantic angle into the film just to pretend like there’s a point to the film aside from assassinations and revenge. While still not a “great” game adaptation, it and “Silent Hill” are among the best that Hollywood has been able to muster thus far.

So, will “Assassin’s Creed” be the first truly great game adaptation? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: Hollywood either needs to start taking these films seriously or just stop toying with fan’s emotions.

I left out several films in this post, some better than others. Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, happy viewing.

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