Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The History of Video Game Movies (Part 3: 2005-2009)

If you're interested, you can first read Part 1 covering the 1990s or Part 2 about 2000 to 2004, or watch the video version of this article.

In the first half of the decade, things were looking up for video game movies, as there were huge hits like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil.

However, from 2005 to 2009 game adaptations were mostly underwhelming, with none making over $100 million at the box office. They performed especially poorly with critics as all of them scored below 35% on Rotten Tomatoes and five of them got below 10%, which is an awful score.

On that note, we start with one of the worst movies I've ever seen, Alone in the Dark, based on the survival horror series from Infogrames. The franchise began in 1992 on the PC and has somewhat died out recently, as it has only seen two entries since 2002.

The film adaptation was directed by infamous German filmmaker Uwe Boll, who is notorious for making exceptionally awful movies, many of them inspired by video games. He had already made the terrible game adaptation House of the Dead in 2003, and he'll come up in this article four more times.

Alone in the Dark has an astonishingly bad Rotten Tomatoes score of 1% and it currently has an IMDB user rating of 2.3, making it the 43rd lowest rated movie on the site.

Pretty much everything about the film is embarrassingly bad, starting with the acting from B-list stars like Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and Stephen Dorff.

There's also some very fake-looking CGI used to portray the monsters.

Peter Hartlaub gave a particularly scathing review for the San Francisco Chronicle, writing "It fails so miserably as both an action and horror picture that it succeeds as a comedy. It's a film so mind-blowingly horrible that it teeters on the edge of cinematic immortality."

Alone in the Dark was released in January of 2005 and made a paltry $10 million on a $20 million budget.

The better and higher grossing game adaptation of 2005 was Doom, based on one of the biggest franchises in gaming. The FPS sci-fi/horror series began in 1993 and is still going strong with a 2016 release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Directing duties went to Andrzej Bartkowiak, who was the cinematographer for many successful movies, such as Terms of Endearment, Speed, and The Devil's Advocate. His directing career began in 2000 with Romeo Must Die, and he also made Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 The Grave before working on Doom.

The cast consisted of Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban, and Rosamund Pike. The score was composed by Clint Mansell, who has worked with Darren Aronofsky on multiple occasions, such as for Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, and is writing the music for the upcoming live action Ghost in the Shell movie.

Doom is easily one of the best video game adaptations of this time period, but that's not saying much and it's a mediocre film at best. In fact, I'm being much more charitable to it than critics were as it has a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. The IMDB user rating is more respectable at 5.2/10.

It didn't do well at the box office either with its $56 million take being less than the $60 million budget.

The coolest part of the movie is undoubtedly the five-minute uninterrupted take from a first person perspective as an homage to the FPS nature of the game. It took two weeks to film and the final result is visually impressive. This is a rare instance of a video game adaptation actually doing something to feel like the game it's inspired by.

There are some things taken from the games like the Mars setting (although sometimes the games take place on the moons of Mars), and the BFG makes an appearance, at least in name. However, the presence of hell and demons are crucial to the Doom games, and these are entirely absent from the adaptation. Instead, there's a virus which turns people into monsters.

One thing this movie had going for it was its R rating; it didn't try to tone down the violence in the source material to go to for the all too common PG-13 rating.

Also released in 2005 was Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Unlike the previous Final Fantasy movie, this one had a direct connection to one of the games. It was set two years after the events of the 1997 Playstation game Final Fantasy VII.

There were three mainstream video game movies in 2006.

The first, and worst, was Bloodrayne, which came to American theaters that January. Bloodrayne was a hack and slash series that appeared on the Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube.

The movie has the unfortunate distinction of being the third video game adaptation from Uwe Boll. You'll be surprised to hear it ended up being an exceptionally terrible and incoherent mess and getting lambasted by critics. There was a slight improvement over Alone in the Dark as it has a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to a 1.

This must have been before everyone realized how terrible Boll was as there are several well-known actors, such as Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, and Michelle Rodriguez, although to be fair, they've all been in their fair share of stinkers.

Most bizarrely of all, Bloodrayne also features an appearance by singer Meat Loaf who gives a hilariously over the top performance. This is in contrast to Madsen, who barely shows any emotion.

A significantly better film was released in April of 2006 in Silent Hill, based on the Konami survival horror series.

It starred Sean Bean, the portrayer of Ned Stark/Boromir/Alec Trevelyan, as well as Radha Mitchell, and Alice Krige, who you may know as the Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact or from Thor: The Dark World.

French filmmaker Christophe Gans directed; he had previously made Brotherhood of the Wolf and later made a version of Beauty and the Beast.

The film was financially successful as it almost doubled its production budget of $50 million.

I find it to be a decidedly average movie that doesn't stand out or capture the disturbing atmosphere from the games. Although it is relatively faithful compared to many other films based on games.

There's definitely gore, some cool visuals and Pyramid Head even appears, but the games are much more subtle and creepy.

The final video game movie of 2006 was DOA: Dead or Alive, adapted from the 3D fighting franchise from Tecmo.

Like the games, the film is over the top and highly sexualized. The movie's main attraction seems to be watching scantily clad women fight and there are plenty of gratuitous shots of the actresses in their underwear. There's even a lengthy beach volleyball scene that  seems to serve no purpose besides having the main characters in bikinis for awhile.

DOA can really only be enjoyed in the "it's so bad, it's good" kind of way. Other than that, the action scenes are decent (at least compared to the rest of this turkey) but are really the only reason to even consider watching this.

Jamie Pressly of My Name Is Earl is incredibly miscast in this and it's impossible to take her seriously as a skilled, tough fighter. Slightly more believable is Devon Aoki, who appeared as Miho in Frank Miller's Sin City. Eric Roberts appears as the villain.

Furthermore, this is a small nitpick, but the title is quite redundant and silly as there's really no reason have the acronym "DOA", and then immediately spell out "Dead or Alive."

Surprisingly this actually has the highest score on Rotten Tomatoes of any video game movie in this time period at 34%, although it doesn't have as many reviews as some others.

Moving on to 2007, for the third year running we have a video game dud from Uwe Boll. This time it was Postal, based on a series of PC shooters that began in 1997.

The film adaptation did have a few well-known stars such as J.K. Simmons famous for his portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Man trilogy, Verne Troyer, who played Mini-Me in Austin Powers, and Dave Foley from NewsRadio and Kids in the Hall.

Unlike Boll's previous video game themed abominations, this was a comedy, albeit a very dark one dealing with controversial topics. 9/11 is a major plot point and Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are characters.

Boll continued his upward trend on Rotten Tomatoes as he managed to reach an 8% approval rating with this effort. The film was equally abysmal in a financial sense. It cost $15 million to make and only made a paltry $146,000 at the box office.

2007 also had Resident Evil: Extinction, the third installment in the franchise. Paul W.S. Anderson who wrote and produced the first two films and directed the first one, returned to produce.

The director was Russel Mulcahy, who made Highlander and Highlander II: The Quickening.

Milla Jovovich again starred as Alice and the character of Claire Redfield, who was in the games Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil - Code Veronica was introduced in this film, played by Ali Larter. Also featured are Ashanti, Oded Fehr, and Iain Glen, who would later play Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones.

Like the first two, reviews weren't great and Extinction has a score of 41 out of 100 on Metacritic. However, the IMDB user rating is a 6.3 out of 10 and it did well financially, making $50 million in the United States and $147 million worldwide.

Notably, this was the first live action franchise based on video games to make it to a third installment, and it's still the only one if you don't count direct to video films.

Since this one, there have been three more Resident Evil films, with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter coming out in December of 2016 in Japan and scheduled to release in the US on January 27, 2017.

The stealth series Hitman was also turned into a movie in 2007. The Hitman games started on PC in 2000 and have since been on Playstation 2, 3, and 4, all the Xboxes, Gamecube, Playstation Vita, and iOS.

The movie was directed by French filmmaker Xavier Gens and the cast included Timothy Olyphant (Scream 2, Justified), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Oblivion), and Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, Deep Impact).

Hitman was a financial success with its $24 million budget being quadrupled by its $100 million box office gross.

The critical reception was a much different story. It scored 35 on Metacritic and only 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. This may have been due to the troubled production as the director was supposedly removed for reshoots.

The franchise was rebooted in 2015 with Hitman: Agent 47.

In 2008, Uwe Boll somehow managed to release two terrible video game films in one year. The first was the awkwardly titled In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.

The Dungeon Siege series consisted of role playing games for the PC developed by Gas Powered Games and published by Microsoft.

Boll is still inexplicably getting big name stars to be in his movies and the cast here is extremely random, including Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, Ron Perlman, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta (who hams it up), and Leelee Sobieski.

By now, you know the drill: the movie was a financial and critical disaster. In the Name of the King cost a whopping $60 million to make and only made $13 million at the box office. Boll earned yet another single digit Rotten Tomatoes score with 4% and the IMDB user rating is 3.8 out of 10.

The second of Boll's cinematic atrocities that year was Far Cry, inspired by the FPS franchise published by Ubisoft. The cast was much less star-studded than in some of his previous works, but it did have Til Schweiger, who later appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and Udo Kier who was also in Uwe Boll's Bloodrayne.

This time Boll only got a $30 million budget, but it still only grossed under $800,000. You don't have to be an expert in accounting to see his films have a terrible return on the investment.

Far Cry didn't even get enough reviews to have a score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I'm sure they would have been horrible.

Due to the lack of competition, Max Payne was clearly the best video game movie of 2008. The original Max Payne games were third-person shooters and are considered among the best games of that era.

For the big screen adaptation, they went with an uninspired and obvious choice of Mark Wahlberg as the title character and in a questionable casting decision, Mila Kunis was picked as the female lead, Mona Sax. Ludacris and Beau Bridges appear in supporting roles.

It was made by John Moore, the director of Behind Enemy Lines and A Good Day to Die Hard.

Max Payne is one of the best movies on this list, but it's still only average. The games have tons of potential to be made into great films, but this was pretty much squandered as the end result is basically a generic action flick.

They took the bare minimum surface details to still be called "Max Payne" but it definitely doesn't stay true to the feel of the source material. The games were heavily influenced by film noir and this atmosphere doesn't come through in the adaptation.

Also, the movie version added demons called Valkyries that were only mentioned in the games.

The differences were so significant that Scott Miller, one of the producers of the original game, publicly criticized the film.

The film opened at number one and eventually made $85 million worldwide, with a little bit under half of that coming from the US. Like all the others in this article, Max Payne got awful reviews and received a score of 31 out of 100 on Metacritic.

Finally, in 2009 the second film based on the Street Fighter games hit theaters, called Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

The director of the much better Doom, Andrzej Bartkowiak was also in charge here. The cast consisted of moderately famous people like Kristen Kreuk, who portrayed the title character and a poorly cast Chris Klein from the American Pie movies. Michael Clarke Duncan was Balrog and Neal McDonough from Captain America and Arrow played M. Bison, who for some unknown reason they stupidly decided to give an Irish accent.

Oddly Ryu and Ken, who are very significant characters in the games, do not appear in this film, although Ryu does get a quick mention at the end in a bit of a sequel tease that will never come to fruition.

This film has a pathetic 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the lowest score of any movie mentioned in this article not directed by Uwe Boll. It's well deserved as pretty much everything about The Legend of Chun-Li is cheesy and terrible.

You'd expect the acting and dialogue to be bad, but the special effects are awful and the fight scenes aren't even well choreographed and often look ridiculous. Fans don't seem to like it either; its IMDB score is only 3.7.

Thanks for reading, you can follow me on Twitter @KinoPravdaBlog or on Facebook.

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