GAME ON OR GAME OVER?
– THE COMPUTER GAME MOVIE FACES MOVIE VIRAL JUSTICE IN THE DOCK! –
The thing about movies is that it is all too easy to tarnish an entire sub-genre with a bad label just because it has a few duds or flops. The computer game movie is no exception. This summer did little to improve things, with PIXELS and HITMAN: AGENT 47 hardly smashing box office records or winning universal acclaim respectively.
It’s arguably easier for movies to turn into a great gaming experience than vice versa. Heck, the game format can even give us the sequels we never saw but always wanted, without really risking a franchise legacy (GHOSTBUSTERS; INDIANA JONES; JAMES BOND; GODFATHER and so on).
Shame the favour does not go both ways! So what IS WRONG with the computer game inspired movie? Nothing, inherently. I mean, if entire franchises can be built around toy lines and comic books then why NOT have our pixel powered pals enjoy some of the same limelight?
The key is as always: all in the EXECUTION. IF a truly GREAT cinema experience can be forged from an initially promising computer game inspired pitch then it’s just fine! Hope springs eternal. ASSASSINS CREED is on the way, c/o MICHAEL FASSBENDER and that looks most promising. There is talk of a TOMB RAIDER reboot and so on.
There is also some tentative talk that the STAR WARS STORY (formerly ANTHOLOGY) movies just MIGHT feature direct adaptations of KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (whose aesthetic has arguably impacted the new movies already). It can only be a matter of time too before a GRAND THEFT AUTO movie is released, thanks to the success of the FAST AND FURIOUS series. MONKEY ISLAND (a LucasFilm property) was frequently mooted for adaptation (think PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN meets INDIANA JONES /STAR WARS).
And STEVEN SPIELBERG has announced that one of his new directorial projects, READY PLAYER ONE, will have a gaming theme of sorts (frankly, Steven: you are taking a BIG risk there..just give us INDIANA JONES 5 already and stop being such a big tease!).
Meantime? Well, rather than sit and destroy every single computer game movie ever made, why not look at a selection and seek out at least ONE redeeming feature! It does NOT change the fact that for the most part, these are ‘fails’. But it does remind us that just as even the greatest movies may have the occasional flaw, so too the so called ‘worst’ ones can be salvaged (especially if you are reduced to watching them one rainy day when nothing else is on and the WiFi is down).
Are you ready to begin? Remember: One or MORE redeeming feature per movie..collect as many as possible to graduate to the next level of gameplay. BEGIN…. And remember, dear readers: ‘THIS AINT NO GAME!’..
- STREET FIGHTER (1995)
It is the campest, silliest, childlike piece of inanity ever served up to cinema audiences. Well at least before BATMAN AND ROBIN. A missed opportunity in many senses, the movie resulted in a slowing of JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME’s then blossoming career as ‘the next Arnold Schwarzenegger’. And it has little if any similarities to the actual format and premise of the computer games.
BUT: BLOCK! DEFEND! FIGHT-BACK..
It is HILARIOUS! As in so bad it’s GOOD. There is a truly distinguished cast. Kylie Minogue makes one of her first screen appearances. Raul Julia, alas, makes his last. There were rumours back then that BOY GEORGE would play VEGA and PAVAROTTI would play ZANGIEV (alas, not to be) but even so: wow. WHAT A CAST LIST!
- LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001)
Ok: Lara Croft DID begin life as a kind of lady equivalent to INDIANA JONES. So it made sense to aim for similar beats or echo the tone of the classic adventure movies from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford. But let’s just re-cap that last sentence. GREAT talents teamed = GREAT MOVIES.
TOMB RAIDER alas did NOT have ANY of those greats involved in its development or delivery. Instead, it tries to simply REPEAT certain steps within the sub-genre, slavishly so. Lara even has a relationship with her Dad (Lord Croft, played by Jon Voight: Angelina’s real life Dad is also her..er..’reel’ life one here) and it’s the most tagged on, awkward, superfluous sub-plot in the history of tagged on, awkward, superfluous sub-plots.
JUMP A LEVEL: FIGHT BACK: RELOAD AMMO…
But! It has ANGELINA JOLIE. I repeat: ANGELINA JOLIE. The woman who reduced last years’ foreign secretary in the UK (William Hague) to a giggling giddy fan-boy. Picture her in THOSE Lara Croft combat shorts. Ok, don’t bother: here’s a picture instead. You’re welcome.
Jolie rocks the action scenes and is clearly very hands on in the stunt sequences. She is also joined by then future JAMES BOND, DANIEL CRAIG. He shows his action abilities here and gives a charismatic supporting performance; never emasculated, whilst unselfishly keeping it as Angelina’s gig. The editing and visuals are good. The baddies are funny without losing menace. There was a sequel: CRADLE OF LIFE (2003) and that too has its assets (solid score; Angelina wears a wet-suit).
- SUPER MARIO BROS (1993)
This is one that REALLY flopped /bombed/failed etc and arguably sank the computer game as movie premise for some time. It has a muddled tone to say the least. The budget clearly did not quite match the ambitions of the ‘story’ which by its very nature required cutting edge special effects innovations that simply are not on display here. Bob Hoskins is uncomfortable here. Sure, he was the human lead in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT; but that movie had both a wit and charm that’s lacking here.
BOING BOING BOING…PRESS ‘CHEAT’ and START AGAIN…
BUTTTT….Up a level: DENNIS HOPPER is in the movie and one could regard this as his warm-up for the comeback phase that defined his later career. But for the Mario movie, we might not have had such fun with the man in SPEED just one year later. There’s a catchy theme song called ALMOST UNREAL (by ROXETTE).
And the ‘look’ of the movie is at least potentially well designed, like a latte BLADE RUNNER for kids. But for JURASSIC PARK, one could argue that this movie MIGHT have performed better. Just be thankful in some senses that it did not. Because we’d now be watching a new reboot origin story from Disney, probably going head to head with SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.
GAME OVER (For now). INSERT COINS In 5-4-3-2-1…..
‘Just off to go kick the ass of the next M Byson wannabe’