Comic book movies have had an amazing renaissance over the last few years, made possible mostly by the sudden realization that you don’t have to butcher the source material in order to appeal to a large amount of people. Comics always had detailed plots and characterization, but before recently the second studios heard ‘comic book’ they started figuring out ways to make the movie resemble the books as little as possible.
The same cannot be said about video games.
Whereas movies like Iron Man and Nolan’s Batman series made bucketloads of money while not compromising on the quality of the comics, it proved to dollar addicted studio heads that you can make a successful series without pissing off every single fan of the property. This hasn’t happened for video games yet, in fact the exact opposite has happened.
The live action Resident Evil series, which is by almost completely inferior to the games by every objective comparison, is far and away the most profitable gaming adaptation ever. Luckily, there have been a few gaming movies that were better than any of the things in the Resident Evil series. Although most of them still suck.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
California’s own Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Persian prince in the middle of a sword and sorcery epic is hard to swallow even by Hollywood casting standards, but beyond that Prince of Persia was a perfectly capable popcorn film. It didn’t turn into the “next Pirates of the Caribbean” like Disney may have wanted, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as 5/6ths of the Resident Evil series.
Hey, don’t look at me like that, I liked Max Payne. The acting and writing wasn’t up to the high water mark of Remedy Entertainment’s games, and Marky Mark’s portrayal of one of the most self aware, philosophical, and intense protagonists around could get a bit cringe worthy, but it never stumbled into “The Happening” levels of cringe. Beyond that, sometimes style is really better than substance, and Max Payne had more than enough of the former and just enough of the latter to make me not want to bullet time myself off a bridge.
Ah, Takeshi Miike, possibly the most brilliant and fucked up director walking the earth today. I’ve discussed him in other stuff I’ve written, so I’m sure you can imagine just how interesting a video game movie helmed by him could be. Especially based on a video game revolving around a court system with the technology of the future, the hyper obsession with reality TV of the present, and the aesthetics of an anime acid trip. If you watch this movie you might have flashbacks about it if you crack your back.
Resident Evil: Degeneration
I bet you are thinking “wait, I thought you said better than Resident Evil, how high are you right now?” To which I would answer “yes” and “very.” Degeneration is not one of the Mila Jivovovovich films, despite it having a pithy one word subtitle. The CGI Resident Evils are a different monster than the Mila Jivovovovich films, acting as canonical contributions to the Resident Evil universe and being made with direct input by the creators. They are also well received both by critics and the gamers familiar with the series.
So to recap, Resident Evil with only cursory relations to the games and made by Paul W. S. Anderson = bad. Resident Evil with a relation to the game and input from the creators = good. Go figure, right?
Silent Hill is something I warmed up to greatly. When it originally came out in 2006, I was still staunchly in my “anything that isn’t how I would have done it is garbage” stage of critical analysis, and the decisions Silent Hill made rubbed me the wrong way. In retrospect, this was a really interestingly done horror movie that gives enough lip service to the game to be the best of the limited options for good gaming movies. Plus there is a scene where pyramid head rips someone’s clothes off like they are paper, and then rips their skin off like it’s clothes.
What more could anyone possibly want?