From screen to… screen?

It was 1972 when the first “Pong” video game came out for home use, and much earlier than that when video games were just being imagined. By the mid-80’s, names like Atari and Nintendo would dominate a blooming industry that would become a staple in today’s society, and eventually in our cinema as well.

Now, I’m a pretty stereotypical guy. I like action movies, comic books, and video games. This was true in 1993 when the first live-action video game-based film was released, an adaptation of “Super Mario Brothers” starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper.

I was fired up for this one, at the ripe age of seven (I turned eight a month later). My summer revolved around Mario. After I saw it, I loved it. And when it came to the local movie store I rented it over and over and over…

Of course, the film “Super Mario Bros.” is nothing like the game. The game involved two plumbers going through a magical mushroom kingdom battling evil mushrooms and turtles (and sometimes Bullet Bills!) all to save Princess Peach from the evil giant turtle monster, Bowser the Koopa King. The film’s plot? Two plumbers from Brooklyn accidentally are warped to another dimension where they must rescue Princess Daisy from evolved humanoid dinosaurs and their king, Koopa.

Fans were absolutely repulsed by the changes. Mario and Luigi are Italian! Koopa is a turtle, not a T-Rex! The princess’ name is Peach not Daisy (though there is a technicality in that one) and Koopa’s name isn’t Koopa… it’s Bowser! That’s just to name a few. Personally, I got over it. I figured, close enough.

Filmmakers seemed to think the same thing, as they followed “Mario” up with action-adventure game film “Double Dragon.” The film was nothing like the game. It was terrible. Very cheesy, silly, and horrible action scenes. With a PG-13 rating, the film hardly got an audience with kids, but with all of its stupid visuals and horrible storyline, there wasn’t any hope for adults either. The movie sucked.

Then: “Street Fighter.” Jean-Claude Van Damme, a very talented martial-arts superstar and former kickboxing champion, does battle with Raul Julia, a classically trained, Oscar-winning actor who had no place in such a film. Based on one of my favorite fighting games, “Street Fighter 2,” from Capcom, this film version directed by Steven E. deSouza(who wrote “Die Hard,” by the way) is like its predecessors in every way: unloyal to its source, cheesy, over-the-top, bad humor, and still PG-13, so that kids can’t see it and everyone else won’t want to.

What went wrong with “Street Fighter” was that it thought it was a kid movie. The makers clearly took the material lightly, while fans of the game (hint: me) wanted to see something more serious.

We would get our wish a year later with the film adaptation to one of the bloodiest games of all time, “Mortal Kombat.”

By today’s standards, the film “Mortal Kombat” is quite cheesy in effects and even script. By comparison to previous video game flicks, it’s Shakespeare. Cool visuals (for the time), inventive fight scenes, accurate storytelling, and swift direction from Paul WS Anderson, “MK” “konquered.”

Then the sequel would follow. “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is one of the worst films ever made. It’s not the worst (we’ll get to that), but it’s bad, bad, bad. It picks up seconds where the first one ends, with half of the cast replaced by lesser-known and less-talented actors. Those missing faces from the first one are greatly missed, because they remind us about all the fun times we had watching them, instead of these new actors poorly portraying their characters and butchering what could’ve been a fantastic franchise.

The movie’s like “Power Rangers” on meth. Lots of stylized violence and killing, but nothing in terms of story, performance, or execution. Heck, the effects don’t even look good. An action fan can only take stupidity to a point. When it starts to get annoying, we don’t want to see it anymore. “MK2” was annoying. Very annoying.

Two years later “Wing Commander” came and went. It starred Freddie Prinze Jr, Matthew Lillard, and Saffron Burrows (alongside a very good supporting cast) in a poorly-written special effects flick that indeed had effects, but nothing else that special. The plot was “Top Gun” meets “Das Boot” meets “Star Wars,” which must’ve sounded like a good idea on paper, but when they actually got there they should’ve gotten a rewrite. I remember playing the video game with my cousin when I was a kid (if you ejected during a mission you got a medal). I loved that game so much, I saw this movie. I’ve seen it several times now and I can’t tell you why I like it, but I do. Don’t see it.

In 2001, we were hit with two big ones, and that’s not just a reference to “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” We were also hit with another bad-ass babe, this one a hot little scientist named Aki Ross in the animated flick “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.”

The “FF” movie needed drastic rewrites. Ok, it just shouldn’t have happened. The film itself is a very solid sci-fi story, with excellent animation and great action scenes. But it isn’t “Final Fantasy.” Where are the mages and knights and elves and those giant canary things (I think they’re called “chocobos”)? We want that! Not “Earth’s spirit is dying let’s go hug a tree.” A few years later, we get the film sequel to the game “Final Fantasy 7” titled, “Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children.” They finally give us something like the games, but what happens? Incomprehensible story (unless you’ve played the game 8,000 times), poor direction, lame new villains… will we ever be happy with a “Final Fantasy” film?!

“Tomb Raider” was great though. It captured the spirit and essence of the games, gave us a sexy and stylish Angelina Jolie, and had great effects and good action along with it.

But as hot and tough as Lara Croft is, no one is as cool as Alice (Milla Jovovich) in the “Resident Evil” franchise. Alice awakes naked in the bathroom of a mansion, her memory gone. Soon, commandos storm the place and inform her that she is someone very high up in the Umbrella Corporation, and there’s been an accident in the underground lab… a T virus has been released, killing everyone… then reanimating them into zombies!

Critics will disagree with me on this, but the “Resident Evil” films, including “Resident Evil,” “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” and “Resident Evil: Extinction,” are great action. Lots of explosives, lots of special-effects, and I even think the story is pretty interesting. Sure none of them are “Dawn of the Dead.” But if you look at zombie films today and how popular they’ve become, it’s all thanks to “Resident Evil” and its hero, Alice.

Months after a so-so “Tomb Raider” sequel, subtitled “The Cradle of Life,” we got hit with a bombshell, metaphorically… though I bet getting hit with a bombshell hurts about as much as the film “House of the Dead,” released October 2003.

For everything that “Resident Evil” did to zombie films, “House of the Dead” single-handedly destroys all of it. Directed by clinically insane and complete moron Uwe Boll, “House of the Dead” is like watching a beautiful creature vomiting and spewing diarrhea at the same time. Nudity! Zombies! Gore! Matrix-like bullet time! What more are you looking for?

How about a story that wasn’t written by a second-grader’s brain tumor and a script that wasn’t found up the buttcrack of the world’s worst porn writer?

Add to that graphic display, there’s also horrendous editing (including spliced-in footage of the video game), very dull pacing, annoying music, and do I have to mention the acting was bad? Or can we just take that as read?

No, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” isn’t the worst film ever made. Uwe Boll’s “House of the Dead” is.

Uwe Boll would then go on to become known as the Ed Wood of video game filmmakers. Actually, he’s more like the Ed Wood of our time. Or would it be more accurate to say Ed Wood was the Uwe Boll of his time? Whichever is worse, I guess.

In the years leading up to, well, now, Uwe would make “Alone in the Dark,” based on a kind of popular PC game, but nowhere near close to the original story. He would make the medieval vampire flick “BloodRayne,” which I think everyone agrees was a big mistake. And he would make “Postal,” which a desperate few actually kind of liked. Kind of.

Last year he released his best film yet, and it still sucked. Based on the game “Dungeon Siege,” the film was called “In the Name of the King,” and starred a miscast Jason Statham as a peasant farmer in a fantasy land where a king, played by a miscast Burt Reynolds, is murdered by an evil sorcerer, played by a miscast Ray Liotta, who wishes to take over the world… which is what most evil sorcerers want nowadays. It’s up for the farmer, cleverly named “Farmer” to lead an army to stop him.

The usual is bad in this movie, but there’s also some good. While the acting and script are horrible, even considering the cast, and the editing sometimes incomprehensible, “In the Name of the King” has some very nicely done action. Now call me desperate, but this is improvement on Uwe Boll’s part. Before we had insane bullet-time, poorly spliced, awful-looking effects. Now he’s brought in the martial-arts choreographer from Jet Li’s “Hero,” Tony Ching Siu-Tung, to spice up the fight scenes and bring us some more cohesive action. And I gotta say, it works!

Like all of Boll’s films, nothing in “In the Name of the King” is perfect, and most of it sucks. It’s about a step above “Dungeons and Dragons,” which was about two steps below “Kull the Conquerer,” which was a whole sky-scraper below “Lord of the Rings.” So my best advice, don’t see this film unless you liked “D&D” or “Kull.”

“Doom” was also released. I loved that game, but never for an instant thought it should’ve been a movie. I think director Andrzej Bartkowiak proved me right, and he’s a decent director. It did have the Rock and Karl Urban facing off at the end though, and I must say that was cool.

“Silent Hill” I think tried too hard to be a really inventive horror flick. It should’ve gone for more screams and less psychological stuff. But it was a noble effort, and not the worst video game adaptation ever.

“Dead or Alive” was so bad I thought it was another Boll film. But it wasn’t. This abomination was done by action guru Cory Yuen, who should know better. Not that his source material provided much to use. What do you do with brainless bimbos who can fight? On second thought, don’t answer that question…

However, there’s hope for video game movies. Uwe Boll is getting better, even if he has a long way to go. Filmmakers are starting to take the content seriously, as we can see in past films like “Resident Evil,” “Silent Hill,” and even the recent “Hitman.” And we still have much to look forward to. The promise of a much more action-filled, effects-pumped “Doom 2,” the Bruckheimer-produced “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a Paul WS Anderson take on “Castlevania,” plus, opening this week, a relaunch of the “Street Fighter” series, “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.”

Hopefully these films will have gamers pressing pause, laying down the Red Bull, and going out to see a movie. Or they could just wait a few months and download it onto their Playstations.

One Response to “From screen to… screen?”

  1. nice post, i like it…

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