On July 24th, Adam Sandler’s Pixels is hitting the big screen. While not explicitly based on any one game, Pixels is bringing iconic gaming characters such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to the silver screen in the format of a goofy, typical Adam Sandler summer blockbuster film.
Pixels will no doubt find an audience, which will consist of gamers, lapsed gamers that recognize characters like Pac-Man from their childhood, and the casual moviegoers that flock to every Adam Sandler film without fail. Whether or not the film will actually be good is up for debate, but considering Sandler’s track record, it’s not likely to be anything to write home about.
This wouldn’t make Pixels anything different from most video game movies out there. For the most part, video games have greatly struggled in the transition from games to films. While video games have been represented well in projects such as Reign Over Me and Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, for the most part video game movies are just as dismissible as movie-based video games. They’re typically rushed, poorly thrown together efforts that are insulting to the target audience and the source material. Here are 5 of the best examples of bad video game movies:
5. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
It’s fitting that the video game film adaptation movement started with a movie based on Super Mario Bros. After all, Super Mario Bros. is arguably the most popular and well-known game series of all time, so a film adaptation probably seemed like a no-brainer to Hollywood executives in the early 90s.
Super Mario Bros. pulls a few elements from the games, and then attempts to twist them into an almost adult-oriented science-fiction movie. Production of the film was apparently troubled thanks to friction between the husband and wife directing team and a lack of confidence from the crew. The film was ultimately a box office bomb and a critical failure as well, setting the tone for the countless game adaptations to follow.
4. Double Dragon (1994)
Not long after Super Mario Bros. “graced” the silver screen came another film based on a game from the NES era. Double Dragon may look almost watchable based on the trailer, but in all actuality, it is absolutely awful, weighed down by terrible dialogue, hilariously bad acting, and an absurd plot. Considering the games are essentially just about two guys beating people up, it’s not surprising that the makers of the film struggled to turn it into a feature length movie.
3. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)
The first movie based on Konami’s survival-horror series Silent Hill is actually not that bad. For a video game movie, it’s one of the better ones out there for sure, and it is a fairly faithful recreation of the first game in the series, despite its flaws. The sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, throws out all of the good bits of the original, resulting in one of the worst video game film adaptations ever made. The plot makes no sense whatsoever, and not even the talents of Sean Bean can do anything to save this train wreck.
2. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
Like Silent Hill, the first film based on Mortal Kombat is not so bad when compared to other video game movies. While incredibly cheesy and low budget, the first Mortal Kombat was at least entertaining and had decent special effects for the time. The sequel? Well…
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is an absolute failure on virtually every level. The plot is even more poorly written than the first film, and the bad acting is compounded by the fact that almost all the returning characters have been inexplicably recast. Whereas the first film has earned a cult following of sorts, Annihilation is a complete and utter mess, with special effects easily outdone by even the weakest episodes of Power Rangers.
1. Anything from Uwe Boll
Uwe Boll’s video game films are so poorly made and so numerous that if not collected under one item on the list, a film from the director would’ve taken every single spot.
Among Boll’s transgressions are a film adaptation of Alone in the Dark, which holds a remarkable 1% approval rating on film review aggregate website RottenTomatoes, as well as critically panned adaptations of BloodRayne, Postal, House of the Dead, and Dungeon Siege. His films are notable for terrible acting, poor direction, laughable writing, and just generally lackluster production value. Boll’s video game films are so bad, that there was once a petition asking him to retire from making films that amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures. Lately he seems to be moving away from film adaptations of video games, so we’ll consider that a win.
While the history of video games and films is bleak, the future looks bright. Video game movies are now being made with much more care and respect than ever before, with larger budgets and more talented people behind them. Upcoming films like Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed seem to be staying true to the source material and have significantly better production values (check out Warcraft‘s orc Orgim Doomhammer) than many of the video game films that preceded them.
Sony is also working to bring its video game properties to life on the big screen, with feature film adaptations planned for both Ratchet & Clank (which features an all-star voice cast) and Sly Cooper, both of which look quite good, especially considering the video game movies of the past. These movies are all due for release in 2016, so we’ll have to wait for next year to see if Hollywood has finally figured out how to make high quality video game film adaptations.