The biggest challenges facing big screen blockbusters these days is their immense dependence on marketing and building awareness for their films. With the tremendous costs incurred in producing those movies, building a name and recognition for a title previously unheard of, is a pretty tedious task. But what if these movies already had a formidable reputation and an enthusiastic clientele; wouldn’t that make things a hell of a lot easier? Well, it’s complicated.
The video game industry and its following is tremendous to say the least. With the computing power of today’s gaming consoles and groundbreaking graphics of today’s games, money pouring into the industry is no small deal; unlike a decade ago, it’s no longer child’s play.
Hand in glove with this increased budget in the industry is the meteoric rise in external interest demonstrated towards these franchises; interest that previously skipped these fields for greener pastures. And – you’ve guess it – it comes from Hollywood.
When big production houses make the play to take over the rights to turn video games into movies, it isn’t the easiest of tasks. One prime benefit of course, is the ever-ready audience; a following of millions that would readily put down their big bucks to see their childhood fantasies in a more spectacular light. But with that fandom comes a great cost, arguably every entertainer’s nightmare – Expectations.
Over the course of the past few years, we have seen quite a few such transitions being made. Some of them turned out pretty well; some others on the other hand, not so. Here is a take on a few titles that had their date with the box-office, and my opinion on whether they make the cut – or not.
Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo’s Mario franchise is unarguably one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, starring title character – Mario. Initially introduced as a standalone protagonist in 1983’s Mario Bros., Mario has featured in over 200 video games; perhaps most notably, in the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ series.
1993 saw the immensely successful game, Super Mario Bros. adapted into a movie of the same name, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi respectively. With ratings of 4.0 on IMDB and 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, coupled with a $28 million loss, it’s quite safe to say this $48 million movie was nothing short of a disaster.
Among the most iconic games of all time, fighting game – Mortal Kombat first saw light of day in 1992. Since then, with their twenty-one iterations so far, Mortal Kombat has managed to build a formidable brand, spinning off films, television series, comic books, music and even card games. Included among its numerous laurels are seven world records awarded in 2008; ten as of 2011.
Mortal Kombat, in its film outings, has garnered mixed results. The first, a 1995 movie of the same name, was a financial success. Spending three weeks at the top of the U.S. box office, the film raked in worldwide earnings of $122 million, in spite of receiving mixed critical reviews.
Following the huge success of its first cinematic venture, a sequel titled Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was released two years later. Unfortunately, this version was met by box office doom. Despite having twice the budget, the movie made quite a bit less than half of its precursor’s earnings.
Tomb Raider, is an FPS/Action thriller series based on the adventures of fictional english aristocrat and archaeologist – Lara Croft. Once again, one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, it debuted in 1996, spawning a total of around seventeen titles thus far, with a lot of upcoming releases in the pipeline.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’s box office debut in 2001, was spectacular. Starring Angelina Jolie in the title role, the blockbuster certainly made a mark. Although met with largely negative critics, its sky-high earnings of $274 million probably cushioned it all. It even held the title for the highest-grossing video game adaptation, only to be surpassed nine years later, by one of our other features.
Lara Croft’s box office ventures did not end with its first. A sequel – Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, was released just two years after. This movie however, witnessed a certain turn of events. Despite surpassing its prequel critically, it got hit where it hurt most, with earnings reducing to $156 million. That being said, it was still a great flick.
Resident Evil is a horror fiction franchise that first saw light of day in 1996, and subsequently releasing a tremendous lineup totaling twenty-four titles so far, and counting. Based on apocalyptic scenarios, the series follows trigger-happy law enforcers as they investigate and try to survive the outbreak of a deadly virus that turns humans into what are essentially zombies.
The film series, starring Milla Jovovich follows a different storyline from the games, although retaining its concept and basic direction. Expanding over five films, plus a pending final 2015 release, this series has done well for itself, financially. Garnering mostly negative reviews, the movies are really not too different from just watching a video game being played from different angles, and with decent cinematography. But after all, they did make the money, crossing $915 million in earnings over the five films.
Doom, in its most recognizable avatar, is an MS-DOS based game following the story of a Space Marine fighting off invading demons from hell while on Mars. Sounds a bit much right now, but if you were a 90s kid, chances are this game had a sizeable impact on your childhood.
The Doom franchise had its Hollywood outing in 2005’s eponymously titled thriller, starring Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike. Set in the year 2046 on Mars, the movie’s name seems to have predicted its fortunes as well. The lacklustre plot and shoddy performances were something even their reasonably star-studded cast could not make much of. Listed by Time on their list of ‘Top ten worst video game movies’, this is one movie everyone wished didn’t happen.
Stealth Action video game, Hitman first came to light in a 2000 release of the same name. A hugely successful franchise, it brought to the table a genre that was unlike the run-of-the-mill action titles.
Based on the story of a genetically enhanced, rigorously trained, human clone named Agent 47, the game has you playing through the eyes of this bar-coded master assassin, performing nerve-racking assignments as you progress through the game. With a total of six iterations until present day, this franchise has more than proven its mettle.
2007 saw Hitman make it to the big screen, with Timothy Olyphant playing the title character. Breaking even by a decent margin, the film seems to have done just enough to make a watchable movie, but not much beyond that. A weak and confused plot coupled with unappetizing performances, this movie did not do the video game justice in any way.
Max Payne, is a third-person shooter video game based on an NYPD detective seeking to avenge the murder of his family. Released in 2001, the game brought an innovative turn to the game in the form of ‘Bullet Time’ or slow motion game-play. Critically raved, this title counts a BAFTA among its numerous laurels.
Mark Wahlberg, in 2008 decided to take up the mantle of the bereaved policeman in an eponymously titled film. Despite an amazing lead cast, this film was tremendous dud. An insult to the franchise, it’s hard to believe it ever happened. And we’d rather not.
Prince of Persia
What initially started off as an MS-DOS game in 1989, Prince of Persia had a successful tenure, before being re-christened in a much graphically advanced Sands of Time series. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was released in 2003 to rave reviews and high ratings. Praised for its intuitive, acrobatic game-play and immersive storyline, the game, along with its three sequels, was a gamer’s delight.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the movie adaptation of the first game in the reboot series, featured a completely altered storyline. The Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton starrer was a resounding success. Grossing $336 million, it is by far, the most successful video game movie adaptation ever.
Need for Speed
Need for Speed, one of the most popular racing car game franchises to have ever been made, has had one heck of a ride. Debuting in 1994, the franchise has a total of twenty primary titles to its history. Evolving over the years, it has always managed to stay right on top in the car racing video game fraternity.
The Need for Speed film was one of the most anticipated films of 2014. Starring Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ fame, the movie was met with a hoard of negative reviews and ratings. Fortunately though, its financials spoke otherwise. With earnings topping off at $203 million, Paul wasn’t so ‘bad’ after all.
Until this year, we have seen this huge assortment of titles, some of which did very well in upholding their respective legacies; and some others for whom it may have been their worst nightmare. As a whole, the industry is still learning and has a long way to go. Should video games be kept away from the big screen? Most certainly not. The fact that a few adaptations made it big is proof that this isn’t a lost cause; just that it might require some additional attention and tailoring. But largely, you can bet there’s a lot to look forward to.