Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The History of Video Game Movies (Part 4: 2010-2014)

Part 1: (1990-1999)
Part 2: (2000-2004)
Part 3: (2005-2009)

There were a couple of big successful films based on video games in the early 2000s, but in the latter half of the decade, they were basically all failures critically and mostly bombs commercially as well.

Unfortunately, in the 2010s this trend continued as the big-budget video game movies all got poor reviews.

The first one of the decade was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, released in the United States on May 28, 2010.

The Prince of Persia games were platformers that started coming out in 1989 and they've appeared on dozens of consoles and handhelds since.

Disney produced and distributed the movie version, along with Jerry Bruckheimer, who has produced countless huge hits, like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Armageddon.

They chose Mike Newell as director, who had a pretty varied resume with films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Donnie Brasco, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, who wrote the scores for Gone Baby Gone, Kingdom of Heaven and Shrek. However, I know him more for his amazing work composing the music for the Metal Gear games, doing every main entry from Sons of Liberty to The Phantom Pain.

The production budget was around $200 million and it grossed over $336 million worldwide. This isn't a terrible figure, but definitely underwhelming. Disney was hoping to make this a franchise, but it didn't make nearly enough money to justify sequels.

Prince of Persia was mediocre at best. It's not appalling, just bland and boring. The time travel scenes are kind of cool visually, but those are the only memorable parts of the movie.

The critics seem to agree with me as the film's Rotten Tomatoes rating is only 36%, which is sadly relatively high for a video game movie.

Also in 2010 was the dreadful Tekken adaptation. Tekken is one of the biggest fighting franchises ever, created by Namco in 1994.

The movie version was directed by Dwight H. Little, who was responsible for sequels such as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995). His entry in the Halloween saga was decent and definitely better than parts 5 and 6. It was written by the same screenwriter as Tekken, Alan B. McElory, who also wrote what is considered one of the biggest flops of all-time, the obnoxiously titled Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever.

Tekken is set in the year 2039 and the world has been divided up between 8 corporations, with one named Tekken controlling what's referred to as the "America Territories."

It was a massive box office flop, costing a modest $30 million, but grossing less than a million total.

This makes sense, as the film is quite awful, and in a boring way. The action is okay, but nothing that stands out.

The character of Christie Monteiro from the games was featured but uses MMA instead of being a capoeira fighter. Also, she ridiculously is wearing an outfit the entire movie that exposes her buttcrack. I guess they were trying to be sexy, but it just comes off as stupid.

Tekken was so bad that even the director of the games, Katsuhiro Harada publicly criticized it, saying "That Hollywood movie is terrible. We were not able to supervise that movie; it was a cruel contract. I'm not interested in that movie."

The third video game movie of 2010 was Resident Evil: Afterlife, number four in the popular franchise. Paul W.S. Anderson wrote and produced every one of the Resident Evil films, and he directed the first. He didn't direct the second or third but came back to the director's chair for this one. Other movies he's made include another video game adaptation Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, and Alien vs. Predator.

Milla Jovovich of course starred and a few others returned as well like Sienna Guillory, who cameoed as Jill Valentine, and Ali Larter as Claire Redfield. This is the only Resident Evil movie to feature her brother Chris, played by Wentworth Miller from Prison Break. He gives a really bad performance and he has lots of really stupid sounding lines.

The character of Albert Wesker was in Extinction, but this time he was played by a new actor, Shawn Roberts, who is possibly even worse than Wentworth Miller. He even throws his sunglasses as an attack in a reference to the game Resident Evil 5, but it looks ridiculous in live action.

The budget for this Resident Evil film was slightly higher than the earlier ones. The first one cost $35 million and the next two had budgets of $45 million, but Afterlife had a decent jump up to $60 million.

This ended up paying off as it made way more money than the first three. Extinction made the most at $148 million worldwide, but Afterlife earned over $300 million total and $60 million in the US alone, despite not improving in terms of quality.

Like all Resident Evil movies, reviews were negative and only 23% of Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a positive score.

Two years later, Afterlife's sequel came out titled Resident Evil: Retribution and Paul W.S. Anderson again directed and produced and Jovovich was the star.

Retribution has a few parts that have small amounts of visual creativity but is generally just as ridiculous and over the top as the rest of the films.

Michelle Rodriguez finally came back as Rain Ocampo after not having a significant role since the first Resident Evil movie. Other significant returning actors included Oded Fehr, Mike Epps, and Sienna Guillory and Chinese actress Li Bingbing also joined the series.

The critical reception was only slightly improved over Afterlife as Retribution got a 31% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The acting is subpar as usual, but at this point fans know not to expect brilliant performances.

If you liked the previous entries, you'll enjoy this, but there isn't anything to bring in new fans and by now, the plot has become convoluted to say the least. However, the plotline is secondary at best and the action is of course the main selling point. There's also the incredibly clunky opening that summarizes the story so far in the unlikely event that you care.

Director Paul W. S. Anderson would eventually conclude the story four years later in 2016 with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. He's currently scheduled to make another video game adaptation in 2018 inspired by Capcom's Monster Hunter.

The only other big-budget video game adaptation of 2012 was the horrible sequel Silent Hill: Revelation. Silent Hill is one of the biggest survival horror titles out there, so it's not surprising they wanted to make it into a film franchise. The first one was decent and one of the better video game movies, but the sequel went way off the rails and seems to have killed the series.

The director from the first installment did not return; this one was made by Michael J. Bassett, who had directed some small horror movies as well as the fantasy film Solomon Kane, and since then has helmed some episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead. Bassett also wrote the script.

A few cast members returned like Sean Bean from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, but he really wasn't in it much. The main character was played by a relatively unknown actress named Adelaide Clemens, who has had small roles in The Great Gatsby and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The male lead is Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, in in his first film appearance. He was cast as a high schooler, despite being in his mid-20s when this was being shot.

Malcolm McDowell appears, but only has about 3 minutes of screentime, and The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss portrays a villain.

This one's budget was less than half the first film's at only $20 million, and it was moderately successful in making over $53 million.

Silent Hill: Revelation got atrocious reviews though, having a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 16 on Metacritic. It's IMDB user rating is only 5.0 out of 10.

I totally see why it got those reviews as it's much cheesier than the first movie and has some really bad acting. There are a few visuals that are slightly creepy or a bit cool, but they are vastly overshadowed by the many negatives. Revelation even pulls a Star Trek: First Contact and opens with a dream within a dream.

A smaller film from 2012 I'd like to mention is Ace Attorney, adapted from the Capcom courtroom series of the same name. It stars lawyer Phoenix Wright and is mostly known for being on the Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds, but has also appeared on Windows, iOS, and Android.

A seemingly odd choice at first glance, Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike was chosen to direct. He's infamous internationally for his often bizarre and disturbing works, like Ichi the Killer, Audition, and Visitor Q. On the other hand, he's worked in many genres, and made children's fantasy films like The Great Yokai War and other much more mainstream or family-friendly movies.

Ace Attorney does have a few moments of Miike weirdness, but it's not experimental or violent.

The adaptation is relatively faithful to the source material, and it's based on two cases from the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which came out in 2001 on the Game Boy Advance, but debuted outside of Japan on the Nintendo DS.

The movie is also surprisingly true to the series in that it recreates the amazingly ridiculous hairstyles from the games, something I personally found really cool.

Ace Attorney is pretty decent, especially for a video game adaptation. It's easily better than all of the Hollywood video game movies of this era. My only big complaint is that it's perhaps a bit too long at 2 hours and 15 minutes, but this is understandable as there's a lot to the plot.

Another relatively small film worth discussing is the 2013 anime Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, inspired by one of my favorite game series of recent years.

The two Bayonetta games were third-person action titles developed by PlatinumGames, who've also made Nier: Automata, Star Fox Zero, and The Wonderful 101.

The anime version is overall very similar to the games. The plot still concerns Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches and many of the characters look like to their game counterparts. The main characters from the games are all included, like Rodin, Jeanne, and Luka, and the Cereza plot from the first Bayonetta plays a major role.

There are some cool action scenes and the animation is good with a style that doesn't stray too far from the games.

The anime somehow manages to make Bayonetta's sexuality even more overt than in the games and some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose in this regard.

I'd highly recommend this for fans of Bayonetta, but it may be a bit lacking if you aren't familiar with the franchise. Apparently, not too many people have seen it as it has under 800 votes on IMDB.

Finally, we come to the middling Need for Speed, based on the EA racing games that started out in 1994 and are still going strong.

The film was directed by Scott Waugh, who has only made one other feature, Act of Valor, a movie about Navy SEALs from 2012. He got his start in the industry doing stunts on stuff like Spider-Man, The Italian Job, and Bad Boys II.

Need for Speed has some decent names in its cast, like Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad as the main character. He's not awful, but he has little to work with as the script just isn't that interesting. Michael Keaton even appears but I found his performance to be quite awkward and rapper Kid Cudi plays the pilot.

This movie can be pretty cheesy at times and is just generally boring and mediocre. There are no moments or scenes that really stand out and it's shot in a pedestrian way. It's a bit long at 2 hours and 10 minutes and some scenes are too drawn out.

There were some pretty cool car stunts that were apparently done without any CGI, which is always nice to see. Plenty of awesome vehicles show up and a car person might enjoy the film on that basis alone.

Need for Speed was a financial success, seeing as it made over $200 million and only had a budget of $65 million.

Even after two and a half decades, there had still not been a video game adaptation that did well with critics. A select handful made money, but plenty more were bombs and none of them were considered quality films by fans and the curse is still going to this day.

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