It’s a well-worn cliche that movies based on (or around) video games are just the worst, but that’s not always the case. Usually, yes, but not always.
This story originally appeared in August 2015.
I mean, yeah, there’s Chun-Li, and Hitman, and Super Mario Bros., and Bloodrayne, and Doom, and Need For Speed, and Alone in the Dark, and Max Payne, and Double Dragon…all terrible. Awful. Dreadful.
But there are precious exceptions! Films that, despite their need to be based around a video game (whether an actual one or one conjured for the flick), are actually pretty good. These are the best of them.
The best of the bunch. It’s an anime set in the near future, where essential services and leisure time have combined inside the virtual world OZ, where people hang out, play games and…do their banking and stuff.
It’s a really good movie. The video game action stuff inside OZ is fantastic, yes, full of colour and vibrancy and cool ideas, but the stories of love and family going on in the real world are just as compelling.
This used to be my favourite, at least until I saw Summer Wars. A pioneering movie in the history of computer graphics, Last Starfighter had some cool ship designs, great special effects and a super-corny (in an endearing way) 80’s tale of rags-to-herosim.
STREET FIGHTER II: THE ANIMATED MOVIE
As covered recently, this is not, in many parts, a great movie! But select parts of it are very good, which elevates the whole package. Loads of bad voice acting and moments of reflection are saved by some of the best fight scenes to ever grace an animated feature. I’m looking at you, Chun-Li vs Vega.
What a dumb movie! Lucky it was dumb in a good way, with this movie somehow turning out OK, arriving at the precise moment in time — 1995 — when its brand of low-fi action and bad acting was close enough to the source material that it was a fun movie to watch.
Also, that theme song…
It gets so boring towards the end, but the opening sections of this movie, where we’re taking on a whirlwind tour of video game history (and some fine cameos), is exceptional. The “Bug Hunt” sequence especially: every time you look at it, you can see where Halo, StarCraft and Call of Duty intersect seamlessly, and it’s both hilarious and tragic at the same time.
PRINCE OF PERSIA
Holds the title of “Second-Least Terrible Adaptation Of Actual Video Game After Mortal Kombat”, beating out other deeply average films such as Tomb Raider and Silent Hill. Congratulations, Prince of Persia, for sucking the second-least.
Or, “Matthew Broderick Fucks Up And Nearly Destroys The Planet”. Might be my favourite movie about hacking ever made, if only for the fact its hacker is an arsehole teenager — who only wants to steal some video games — instead of a sexy criminal.
FINAL FANTASY: SPIRITS WITHIN
Shut up. This is a good movie. OK, so there’s some weird stuff going on with people’s lips, and it drags in parts, but for a 2001 animated film, this was ground-breaking. Also, James Woods! Y’all just hated it because it didn’t have Cloud Strife in it. Give it another chance.
Jeff Bridges gets stuck inside a killer video game, which has an art style (again, a pioneer in computer graphics) that endures over three decades later? Yeah, Tron makes the list.
SCOTT PILGRIM vs THE WORLD
Not strictly about video games at all, but rather a love story injected up to its eyeballs with video game imagery. Which, you know, good enough. Wasn’t as good as the comic, of course, but a valiant adaptation nonetheless.