Let’s Talk About…: Games, and the Movies That Tend to Ruin Them

We’re back with our “Let’s Talk About…” series! Check out the previous chats here.

Let’s Talk About…: a game with a movie tie-in.

I actually had some fun with this, simply sitting and thinking about how many movies based on games I could think of. Here’s what I came up with:

Assassin’s Creed (2016)
Word of Warcraft (2016)
Tomb Raider (2001; upcoming in 2018)
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Final Fantasy (2001)
Battleship (2012)
Street Fighter (1994)
Silent Hill (2006)
Doom (2005)
Hitman (2007)
Mario Brothers (1993)

…and I’m sure there are others.

Image result for mario bros movie.

And I also realized that I’ve seen exactly none of these films. I actually tend to avoid them, since they usually receive such terrible reviews, and with Blockbuster gone they’re not movies I can just “pick up” on a Friday night anymore.

This got me thinking as to why movies based on games are so bad… and I think I agree with Roger Ebert, who once said (of Doom) that watching a game movie is like being forced to watch someone else play a game that you really want to be playing.

But Athena, I hear you type, what about Let’s Plays?

They’re obviously amazing.

I have a theory that people tend to watch let’s plays less for “watching a video game” and more for the personality of the person they watch; it’s more akin to watching a friend play/playing with a friend than having someone sit down and force you to watch them bumble through a plot poorly, all after charging you $15.

But then again, I haven’t seen any of these movies, so I could be completely wrong. So I ask…

Have you seen any of the above movies (or any other game movie)? What did you think? Did you like it? If not, what wasn’t good about it? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon,
~ Athena

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  1. I think video game movies try too hard to just replicate the story of the games they are based on. We’re seeing (often poor) portrayals of something we’ve already experienced in another medium, the intended medium. If movies told concentrated side stories or original stories within the universe of a game, I think that might be more effectively.
    Of course, even more than that, I think long form television (AKA The Netflix Model) is a more appropriate medium for games as cinema. You digest it in shorter bursts but it actually lasts a lot longer than a film, so you can fit more lore and detail into the story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I mostly agree with this. The worst of the films try to condense an entire game experience down to 90-120 minutes and its not possible. The biggest flaw I’ve seen is that they try to hard to have X, Y, and Z from the games instead of just focusing on taking the world (and maybe some characters) and crafting a good solid story out of it.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I think you’re on to something here. Video game movies seem to cater to the same audience as video game players which, while there are many of us, is still a very small group, instead of, say, making a video game into a good *action* movie or a *drama* or something.

      The long form series would be a great medium for games. I was actually thinking about that the other day in regards to Dragon Age and Mass Effect (because of course I was), and it just seemed like having a running series would capture the games well, if the writers didn’t want to really hack/slash/change bits of the game to fit it into a movie. .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve actually seen quite a few on your list. Warcraft was pretty good, actually, and I recognised bits of the game from my playing WoW. Battleship was silly, but I enjoyed it. Mortal Kombat was a bit meh, not terrible but not great. Street Fighter was poor as was Doom, and Super Mario Brothers. Final Fantasy Was Weird, Tekken was not great, I don’t remember any details about the movie Hitman, and Assassain’s Creed was just a bad. Silent Hill was quite atmospheric and jumped between spooky and horrific (not as in horrific to watch, but horrific things happening). I can’t say that I have played Silent Hill though I have seen it played and it is a pretty decent adaption by all accounts.
    As for your comment on lets plays, historically I watch them to decide if I want a game, and to learn them a bit. Some youtubers are better than others and I would choose a favourite over an unknown. That is my ten pence worth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I suppose there can be hidden not-so-horrible ones among the masses! I wonder if being a fan helps think that the games aren’t so bad?

      Regarding let’s plays, I usually watch them for entertainment, so for me it depends on the YouTuber, really. Or, I’ll watch because I already love the game. Although you’re right; they’re great resources when getting into a new game or genre!


  3. I’ve seen a few of the above movies, the terrible ones were Assassin’s Creed (boring), Doom (they messed around a lot with the plot and it had potential but just got messed up), and World of Warcraft (It’s a game that is supposed to be so diverse and “look you can be anybody you want!” but no let’s just focus on the humans and orcs, oh and one sexy half orc lady whose only orcish features are tiny tusks and she’s green. Basically Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy with big teeth. She’ll be the only woman of importance though despite the game having a pretty high % of female players… Just… So many things… don’t get me started… They could have done so much, so disappointing). Personally, I liked Tomb Raider, and while I watched Silent Hill half hidden behind a cushion I think was probably the best video game based movie I’ve ever seen. Mainly because they have a good story to build on and lots of horror to keep you on your toes. Another series I really like (even though some people disagree with me) is the Resident Evil series, except for the penultimate movie, that was terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the rundown! I’m enjoying reading these comments; it seems like people are trying to convince me game movies aren’t that bad, and then go on to talk about how bad the movies were. I agree that Tomb Raider wasn’t bad (the parts I saw), but mostly because Angelina Jolie is never is a bad movie. I’m actually looking forward to the next one coming out… this year?

      The key is having a good story – a lot of games have good stories, but somehow those stories get lost in translation between game disc to silver screen…


  4. Tomb Raider: I actually really enjoyed the movie, and now when I think of Lara Croft my head goes straight to Angelina Jolie. But to be honest I’ve only played the older PlayStation Tomb Raider games so anyone can feel free to correct me.

    Silent Hill: Good movie, but really didn’t go along with the game’s lore enough. Maybe they were trying to give it a new spin? Who knows, but I pointed out inaccuracies while another friend (a huge SH fan) and I watched it. Overall, we enjoyed it as a movie, but it took a few left turns away from the game series itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The part of Tomb Raider I saw I did like, as I mentioned, but Angelina Jolie is never in a bad movie. (no seriously. She manages to pick movies that wind up being good).

      That’s interesting. So was Silent Hill more just taking place in the universe, but not a really “adaptation” of the game?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true!

        And they tried to tie into the game by shoving in characters from the game but in my opinion, it just didn’t work. As a standalone movie it was good, but if you play Silent Hill 2 and 3, you’ll be scratching your head wondering why the movie tried so hard to smash so many things together to just end it without a “true” Silent Hill game ending. My comment probably doesn’t make sense because I’m trying really hard not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it or played the games. Sorry about that!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The problem with trying to make films out of video game properties is that the two mediums are just so fundamentally different. Sure, some studios such as Naughty Dog have attempted to follow in Hollywood’s footsteps by incorporating filmmaking techniques into their games, but it almost always interferes with the gameplay, and I feel it’s a reason most successful developers don’t make games they do.

    Aether brought up an excellent point when commenting on my 100th review special when he said that video games did not benefit from the wealth of knowledge brought on by decades’ – or even centuries’ – worth of storytelling. The reason there have been more successful film-based games than game-based films is because when going from films to games, you’re adding something whereas going from games to films, you’re taking something away. That variable is, naturally, interactivity. A lot of people (including people within the industry) say that it’s because video games are inherently inferior when it comes to storytelling, citing the supposedly subpar stories as proof, but I feel the reason that perception exists is because when they try to imitate films, they come across as lesser efforts (and considering what we’ve accomplished with films, trying to directly compete with them is akin to fighting someone above your weight class), and when they don’t, it violates what a traditionalist would consider a good story, making it easy to dismiss. It’s not that the storytelling is bad, it’s that many storytelling techniques that work in non-interactive mediums won’t in video games. The opposite is true too; there’s the oddity of having storytelling techniques that would come across as hokey in non-interactive mediums suddenly becoming perfectly valid in a video game. For example, breaking the fourth wall is almost exclusively used in comedies when it comes to non-interactive mediums. In video games, you can do that for reasons other than to make a joke (i.e. to address the player, to make the player paranoid, etc.).

    It’s entirely possible that an unequivocally good, game-based film will be made, but I question if it’s an endeavor that’s truly important in the grand scheme of things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying about Let’s Plays. For me, it’s always ben the personality rather than the game (though they do sometimes help me through places when i’m stuck).

    Onto films though … the problem is that translating something from one form of media to another is that not everything works when yiu move it across. So, you’re basically left with moments where you have to choose poor execution or changing from the source material. Neither of which will go down well with fans of the source in most cases.

    Of the films you’ve listed, let’s see what I’ve seen.

    Assassin’s Creed (2016) – Not seen it, but I do want to. If nothing else, it has Jeremy Irons in it, and I tend to like his performances.

    Word of Warcraft (2016) – Seen it, and took it to be fairly harmelsss fluff. I’ve not palyed WoW, so I can’t really compare it, mind you. In that respect, I remember enjoying The League fo Extraoirdinary Gentlemen as a mindless action film. I read the comics later on, and could suddenly see why fans disliked it. Having seen hte film first though, it didn’t ruin it for me, and I can now still have it on as background noise.

    Tomb Raider (2001; upcoming in 2018) – Been ages since I saw the two Angelina Jolie films. I don’t recall disliking them. I found the early games to be rather clunky though, so I didn’t really comapre them.

    Mortal Kombat (1995) – Not quite the same as the games, it reminded me more of the Blood & Thunder comic run. Still, I enjoyed this. It was fun. The sequel was weaker, but I didn’t hate it. The Conquest TV series I never got to finish. I was enjoying the more recent web series though.

    Final Fantasy (2001) – This didn’t really feel like FF to me, but I didn’t view it as the trainwreck that many did. Honestly, if they’d jsut called it The Spirits Within and dropped the FF tag, I think that it would have been better received. Now, Advent Children, that was superb.

    Battleship (2012) – Not seen it, no real interest in seeing it.

    Street Fighter (1994) – Awful. badly acted, badly scripted, and didn’t fit with the franchise at all in my eyes. The animated movie that came out the same year was much better in my opinion, and I enjoyed the animated Alpha moveis too.

    Silent Hill (2006) – I liked it. Bar Sean Bean’s accent, I thought that it did about as well as it could have. Not brilliant, but entertaining enough.

    Doom (2005) – I dont think that I hated it. Its been a long time since I’ve seen it, and I still drank back when I did which probably helped, but I don’t remember thinking anything specifically bad about it other than that it was underwhelming.

    Hitman (2007) – Not seen it.

    Mario Brothers (1993) – Even when I saw this as a kid I felt that it was about as much to do with Mario as Masters of the Universe was to do with He-Man; i.e. it shared some characters, but not the actual feel.

    You know what does worry me though? The rumoured upcoming mixed CG/Live Action Sonic film. I’d really rather they just went full on animated with it. I mean, the modern games are pretty cinematic in cut scenes, at least visually.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I quite like the Resident Evil movies, and Doom is something of a guilty pleasure. I know they’re bad, but they’re fun bad!

    Street Fighter though. If you watch it as though it’s a spoof (a la Clue) then it’s kind of fun. I love how much Raul Julia camps it up!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really like the original RE movie and if you named it something besides Resident Evil, I think it would still work as an OK horror film from 2002.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. “You made me a happy man”
      “Next I’ll make you a dead one”

      The best line from Raul.

      “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I’ve seen most of the ones you’ve listed, sans Battleship. I don’t think I’d say any are great films, and there are certainly some unarguable messes there, but most are watchable and I don’t think any of them ruined their games. 🙂

    I’d note that Doom in particular has a weird first person sequence that is totally out of place in the film. Without that atrocious callout to the games, I think Doom is maybe an OK sci-fi action film that tops stuff like Fantastic Four and Aeon Flux (both which came out in 2005 as well).

    I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of excited for the new Tomb Raider film.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have to admit I’m not a big LP watcher. I much prefer playing the games myself, but I do enjoy watching Hungrygoriya’s, and likely yours too whenever I finish Mass Effect, haha.

    But, ugh… game movies. I avoid most of them, but I’ve seen Mario Bros. (awful) and Final Fantasy Spirits Within (it was okay). The biggest exception to the “they suck” rule for me is the Resident Evil movie series. I first watched RE Apocalypse and I loved it so much it got me into the video game series, haha. Yeah, the movies are basically just mindless violence, over the top action scenes, and a very thin plot (that’s nice one in a while though, haha), but I love Milla Jovovich’s character Alice. She was my biggest shero in high school (pre-Lightning era). Learning about all the hard work and training Milla did to make her character shine was very inspiring too. I’d say she played a big role in motivating me to join the army reserves.

    Milla is still my favourite actress and definitely my real life shero. If there was ever a FFXIII movie, she would be an amazing Lightning Farron!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. With LPs it really depends. I like watching them for games I know I either can’t or don’t have time to play on my own, but I do try to find Let’s Players I like. I wouldn’t watch a game I had no interest in like Destiny or something like that, but I wouldn’t want to watch a game I liked with an LPer I didn’t. I certainly have had games ruined for me by bad LPers. This is heavily reflected in my Final Fantasy III review. The Let’s Player didn’t care about the game and it showed. It really soured me about it, and I wound up unfollowing him.

    Speaking of Final Fantasy, no…Spirits Within was NOT a good movie. It had the echoes of what makes a good Final Fantasy, but it was missing the substance, which is a bit meta I suppose since the plot centered around spirits/ghosts hehe. FFVII: Advent Complete, which was only released on Blu-Ray is a bit better, though it’s still a bit of a fanboy/fangirl flail fest :p

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have found that animated movies like King of Fighters and Street Fighter are pretty okay. The issue with actors they tend to ham it up because they don’t play the games. If the director and actors have some relationship to the game like say Vin Diesel and dungeons and dragons the you will have some one who understands the game. mechanics and legacy. Probably especially true of the director. Having seen hitman but not played it I didn’t hav maybe the same expectations so enjoyed it. I have issues with films and tv taken from books which is why I am so glad that Chronicles of Shannara has stepped away from the books. Expectation versus realisation.

    As to people watching films about games that is no worse than sitting watching twitch which I no longer do.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ooh, game movies is a really interesting topic! I’ve seen Silent Hill and FF:Spirits Within, which I thought were both terrible. Also seen two movies based on Tekken, one of which, Blood Vengeance is dreadful, the other The Motion Picture is actually ok! The Bayonetta anime is decent. My favourite game movie though is DOA, it just feels exactly like the game in all its absurdity! The internet thinks its dreadful, but I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I actually love the Super Mario Bros movie. It’s so awful that it’s good. My sister and I used to watch it all the time when we were younger and it was great to us because it starred Mario and Luigi. We watched it recently and realized how terrible the movie is, but we still loved it anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

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  15. Excellent post! I remember most of these movies but my favorite has to be Street Fighter! “Bison, Sagat, you guys are going to be blown skyyyy high!” – Chun-Li, “Quick… CHANGE THE CHANNEL!” -Sagat. This line is still super funny to me!

    Omgggg I forgot about the Super Mario Brothers movie too! Personally, I enjoy watching Let’s Plays and gaming videos to learn tricks and tips when playing a game. In Minecraft, there’s so much that you can do and I enjoy watching videos on redstone mechanics and stuff.

    I have seen most of the movies on the list. I haven’t seen Assassin’s Creed, WOW, Battleship or Final Fantasy but I think I’ve watched the rest!

    -Luna 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Let’s Plays are something I’ll only watch if I don’t intend to play a game myself, or if I’m really stuck somewhere. I’m often interested in checking them out after I’ve finished a game to see how other people felt or reacted at specific parts of a game that tickled or troubled me. One day after I play Mass Effect, I’m going to sit down and watch your playthrough!

    I’m in the tiny dingy of people that like the Super Mario Bros. movie. It’s just a lot of fun with over-the-top acting and a weird twist on a familiar story. I should probably watch the Final Fantasy movie one of these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Like others have said, I watch Let’s Plays only if it is a game I do not intend to play, or to be able to follow a conversation about a game I want to play but I haven’t yet gotten to. The only time I watched a let’s play video for kicks was after finishing Until Dawn, because the game’s nature allowed for a lot of fun commentary.

    From the adaptations I have seen, a couple are complete cheesefests, like Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros. Movies that could be clasified as terrible or so bad they are good, but that require some effort from the viewer to make the best of what they are watching. Granted, I watched them as a kid*, so I don’t think I would find them half as bearable these days. And that’s ok, I am pretty sure I am out of their target demographic by a decade at least.

    Other films are serviceable/good for what they set out to be, like Silent Hill (I’ve only seen the first one) and Tomb Raider.

    These are not on the list, but I have seen In the name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Dead Rising: Watchtower. I found both to be boring, by-the-numbers movies and there are more than a couple things lifted wholesale from other films in the fantasy and zombie genres, respectively. I was told this is the least bad/offensive attempt at adapting videogames from Uwe Boll, so the film has that dubious merit.

    And If we consider board game adaptations then I have to admit I love Clue and appreciate the way they incorporated the “game” aspect to the resolution of the movie.

    I feel like adaptations of beloved works open themselves to harsher criticism by their very nature. Videogames are not the exception.

    As for what makes an adaptation good, I think there are two sets of questions we need to ask:

    1) Is it a good, enjoyable or entertaining film on its own?

    Like others have mentioned, if the film is simply a succession of x, y, z to check out boxes then chances are it won’t be any of those things.

    2) Does it translate the original work’s themes, atmosphere, aesthetics and plot?

    I don’t think an adaptation needs to translate *all* of those elements, but certainly some of them. Play, novel and comic adaptations sometimes change elements to better suit the new medium, and some things have to go if you want to keep the escence of a work. This is a really basic example, but much like books, it could be hard to translate every minute detail from 30 hours of gameplay to a 2 hours of film. Another thing, compared to movies, games have more elements at their disposal to engage you as a player.

    Like others have said, maybe movie-makers have less practice at adapting games. Maybe, more videogame movies should be produced, written and directed by people who like/enjoy videogames (Uwe Boll notwithstanding). And maybe these films should not be made just as a quick cashgrab or attempts to have a “cinematic universe”, but I understand how unrealistic that one sounds.

    *Sidenote: Koopa and his minions’ sartorial choices are…um, not something I noticed as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m generally not a fan of movies based off games. I find they are way off the mark and are too “Hollywood” for me. It feels the makers usually just want to exploit the brand name and not actually cater to those who actually play the game themselves.

    Although, the one exception is and will always be the first Mortal Kombat movie from 1995. As a kid I loved MK, so did my mom and dad. When the movie came out, I was stoked because it looked to be a perfect replication of what the game was about, cool looking characters doing Kung Fu and brutally murdering each other, and it lived up to that. They had all my favourite characters from the early MK games and even through in the cheesy lines from Shang Tsung demanding people to “Finish Him!” Followed my him saying “Fatality”. Great nod to the fans of all ages. Loved this film so much that when we eventually got it in VHS, my friends and I would watch it, and when the credits rolled and that iconic MK theme song hit, we’d all literally shoot up screaming Mortal Kombat and take on some character person a and starting beating each other up. Fun times lol.

    I watch this film now, and it’s actually a really bad film, but it’s so bad that it’s good. With the bad CG, to the horrible acting and cheesy one liners, I still live everything about the first MK movie. And that soundtrack, it’s got some great music.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think if I was going to get into a game movie, it would be Mortal Kombat, just because it seems like it’s such a terrible movie it might be entertaining. But I’m not sure if that’s a boon or not… hm… You’re right that the music is great! I actually have the theme on my mp3 player haha

      Like so many other people are saying, I think any move made from a game needs to be a good movie in its own right, not just a cash grab or an attempt to recreate the game experience without the integral interactivity part.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m actually a fan of the Mortal Kombat movies. They are super dumb, but in a way that’s really fun.

    But yeah, lots of movies that just aren’t very good. I don’t know if there has been a really stellar example of a video game movie. I don’t think it’s anything inherent to video games. After all, for the longest time, we weren’t seeing any good comic book movies either, now look at us. But I don’t think we’ve also had many video game movies that aim for a larger audience than the games, so the efforts behind them have been a bit limited. I don’t think it’s so impossible to build a good film story out of a game, but it takes money and talent and luck, and we haven’t seen the right combination of the three yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s true. There just needs to be a director who takes the story seriously for the movies to turn around a bit and, like you said, appeal to a wider audience. I think that’s key – if they want to get “non-gamers” in the theater, the movie will have to be better than super dumb but fun because hey it’s [fill in name of game].

      For now I guess we’ll keep hoping, then!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Back in 2002, a younger me ordered that Final Fantasy film through PPV while at home one evening alone. When the bill came at the end of the month I was grounded for 3 weeks as my parents thought its name was suggestive enough to be pornography. It took me a week to convince them otherwise. It’s amazing how that’s the only thing about that film I actually remember! Might be due a rewatch…

    Liked by 1 person

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