The beauty of making film adaptations of video games is that they already have a built in audience. Much like adapting a Michael Crichton or John Grisham book for the big screen, as was all the rage in the 90’s, you have a solid fan base of people already familiar with the source material who will more than likely shell out another 10 bucks to see how the book looks on the big screen. There are not a lot of video game adaptations out there, compared with the average number of book to film adaptations that come out every year, but more and more games are becoming films as time goes on. Five of which should be recognized as having helped pave the way toward a brighter future for video game adaptations.
Mortal Kombat (August 1995)
Until 1995, there weren’t a lot of video game to film conversions that weren’t either horrible to watch or huge flops in the box office. Enter, Mortal Kombat. This little modern kung fu film was made for only $18 million, but took the box office by storm to end up making over $122 million over its run. It wasn’t exactly Oscar bait, but it was a solid enough film and faithful enough to the beloved Mortal Kombat franchise that it was able to have a wide-spread appeal. People flocked to the theaters and the big movie studios first started to realize that adapting video games to films wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Tomb Raider (June 2001)
While this little gem was pretty much panned by critics and fans alike, it virtually jump started the game-to-movie revolution by being the first big budget blockbuster videogame adaptation success story. It brought in over $160 million to Paramount Pictures. Starring Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig, Tomb Raider had a lot of fan service moments, sprawling environments and plenty of action-puzzle play that was the hallmark of the Tomb Raider game franchise. For all of its faults, casting Angelina Jolie was pretty much the best choice to bring Laura Croft to life. We can’t thank this film for much, but we can thank it for making big budget game to film conversions more of a household norm.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (July 2001)
Known characteristically as a famous flop that almost brought down Square as a powerhouse in the video game publishing landscape, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a groundbreaking piece of animated cinema whose impact on the world of animation is felt to this day. Final Fantasy was the first photorealistic, fully computer animated feature film that showed just how advanced and pleasing to the eye computer animated films could be. Even though Pixar’s Toy Story predates it by several years, it was still very cartoon-like in its animation style, despite the fact that it was still beautiful and advanced for its day.
It’s even seen a bit of a resurgence lately when people compared the hair animation in Pixar’s most recent release Brave to that of Dr. Aki Ross’ in FF:SW. Ross even has the distinction of being the first animated female to be listed in Maxim’s top sexiest women from 2001, a tradition they still continue to this day.
Without Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, we wouldn’t have mainstream acceptance of films like Avatar, Brave, or How to Train Your Dragon, and many others. It set the bar for realistic digital animation and marked a turning point in film history that put computer animation on the map.
Resident Evil (March 2002) (2004, 2007, 2010, 2012)
Just celebrating the fifth installment in this historic film franchise in 2012, the Resident Evil films have historically been panned by the critics, but loved by fans, which is still a big win for the studio. Personally, I fall on the side of not really liking these films due to the fact that they stray WILDLY from the video games, but that doesn’t mean that they’re terrible films by any means. While they’re no Oscar bait, the Resident Evil films have a certain charm and competence. Furthermore, the overall narrative they’ve set up over the five films is fantastically intriguing. The continued success of these films is helping to pave the way to the video game film crossover singularity: a film based on a game winning an Oscar. Someday, movie fans. Someday.
Hitman (November 2007)
No, this film wasn’t a groundbreaking success in any cinematic sense. Although, it was a decent enough adaptation that helped to pave the way for future live-action releases of video game adaptations like Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in 2010. It didn’t do poorly at the box office either, making over $99 million with a budget of only $24 million. It proved, yet again, that video game adaptations could be huge successes in the box office as well.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (May 2010)
Terrible film, but was made with an honest enough adaptation in mind. This is a pinnacle film in the game to film landscape due to the fact that it was the first endorsed by Disney. You know that something has relevancy when Disney gets behind it. Prince of Persia also made Disney over 135 million bucks over its 200 million dollar budget, so that’s nothing to laugh at either. Disney is no stranger to embracing video game based films, as evidenced by Tron and Tron Legacy. One can only hope that the legitimacy given to videogame films by Disney will carry on long enough for someone to do a decent live-action Ninja Gaiden remake.
*Written by Zack Mandell
Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast, writer of movie reviews, and owner of www.movieroomreviews.com which has great information on actresses like Angelina Jolie. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.