Fact: movies based on video games tend to suck.
Fact: video games based on movies are either really good or really bad. There are no merely mediocre video games based on movies. You never say ‘Meh’ to a game based on a movie (for extra credit, Google the video game based on E.T.).
It’s a tough life being a video game. Unless you’ve got a huge, pop-culture gimmick (Guitar Hero, Singstar, &c.), the only people who are going to play you are people who obsessively complain about everything. Case in point: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It was a beautiful game. It was absolutely stunning. The story was interesting. The puzzles were fun. The music was divine. Evil Zelda and Midna at the end of the game were super hot.
(Anybody who complains about spoilers there can go to hell. If you haven’t finished the game, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you worry about knowing the ending — as if the amazing twist was somehow the only thing worthwhile in that game — then you should be doubly ashamed of yourself)
But what did people complain about? 1. Not enough like Ocarina. 2. Too much like Ocarina.
These nutbags would have rocked up to Seneca’s Medea and then simultaneously complained that it wasn’t enough like Euripides’ version (‘Boohoo, it’s in Latin and not in Greek.) and that it was too much like Euripides’ version (‘Boohoo. It’s already been done. Give us something fresh like… y’know… Plautus‘). Jerks don’t know what they’re talking about.
So basically, you’re doomed if you’re a video game. Gamers don’t seem to realise this yet and that — just maybe — game designers might figure that, given the choice between making the Platonic Ideal of Video Game (which would be ridiculously criticised for both X and not-X) and spending half a day making yet another game about playing a musical instrument (which would be a best seller and requires absolutely no effort), wouldn’t even wait for the thinking music. Why put up with gamers?
So if there’s a popular movie with broad appeal, they might as well make a game to bask in its reflected glory. Why not? You don’t have to pay for advertising — the film’s already done it for you.
Which is odd. A movie is more expensive than a video game so you’d think that companies would mitigate the risk of flop films by letting video games test the waters first. A flop video game does less damage than a flop movie.
Eager to capitalise upon (/vampirise) anything popular, a really successful video game might make the jump to the cinema. I’m having difficulty thinking of any that were good.
Nope. Nothing. Final Fantasy, maybe.
Thinking of awful films is a toddle. Super Mario Bros., complete with its Roxette soundtrack, seems forever burned in my memory. Not the actual film, mind. I don’t remember much about it (except something about interdimensional dinosaurs) but the feeling of utter revulsion seems to spring from the mere words ‘Super Mario Bros. Film’.
Resident Evil fits into a similar category as does Street Fighter (oh God… Kylie Minogue acting…). I haven’t even bothered to pirate D.O.A. despite Sarah Carter weilding a sword in it.
The Tomb Raider films do not count, because — despite sucking — they were never going to be flops on account of the casting. Angelina Jolie mostly naked except for a bit of gold paint is the only reason Beowulf didn’t sink without a trace (‘I will kill your Monstarr’ seemed more like a line from SilverHawks than Anglo-Saxon poetry).
Despite two decades of flops with movies based on video games, they seem to do okay in Japan. While it is readily recognised that Japan is the home of all known perversion, there are a myriad of successful VG-movie franchises. Pokémon (the accent makes it high art), for example, seems to be still churning out movies which make profits (but only in Japan — straight to DVD here, along with all the Disney sequels, prequels, and Ultimate Universe imprints).
Instead of trying to recreate a video game in movie format, they take what’s fun about the game and build a movie around it. The Pokémon games are fun because the bright lights and nonsensical creatures magically bypass your critical thinking faculties; the movies — or, at least, the two that I’ve seen — do the same thing while ignoring the level grinding which makes up 99.99% of each game.
The Mario movie ignored the source material, Resident Evil tried to create a movie out of cut scenes, and Street Fighter had Kylie Minogue trying to act in it.