We talk endlessly about the "video game curse" but does it really exist? You know the cycle, one that seems to repeat every year; a high-profile movie based on a video game comes along, the stars and critics proclaim it will finally be the one to shatter the old “video game movies suck!” argument – and then winds up being a disappointment.
2016 featured two such efforts – Assassin's Creed and Warcraft – that promised to jump over that barrier. Both movies were based on wildly popular game franchises and had talented casts and filmmakers behind them. While they both turned a profit, neither fans nor critics were satisfied with the end results; many found Assassin's Creed dull and self-serious, while Warcraft was burdened with too much lore and exposition.
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It's a dispiriting pattern for sure, and it promises to start all over again with 2018's Tomb Raider reboot and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Rampage. While it's possible they could both be awesome and change the perception of the whole subgenre, from the outside they look like silly fun at best. Even Rampage director Brad Peyton recently acknowledged the so-called video game movie curse in an interview and outlined how his movie would avoid past mistakes.
While the genre is still a long way off delivering The Godfather of video games adaptations, it's time to retire the tedious cycle of expectation/disappointment when it comes to a new adaptation - and acknowledge there isn't really a "curse" anyway.
Are All Video Game Movies Bad?
The video game movie genre got off to a poor start with 1993's Super Mario Bros., which was such a mess Nintendo refused to license their games for another movie until very recently for - ironically enough - an animated Super Mario movie. It only got worse from there, with the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, House Of The Dead, Alone In The Dark and Doom making both game and movie fans alike quake in fear.
The most fundamental issue with these movies is the people who made them had little understanding of the games they were adapting. In many cases, they felt that so long as the movie featured the title and some recognizable characters, it would be a success. They either deviated too far from the source material or remained blindly faithful, satisfying neither loyal fans nor newcomers.
Which isn't to say the genre is a total washout; Silent Hill is often cited as an ambiguous, artfully made adaptation, and while the screenplay (and Sean Bean’s redundant subplot) are common critiques, the film has many defenders. And while the Resident Evil movies are lambasted by game fans, in addition to earning over a $1 billion worldwide and turning Milla Jovovich into a female action icon, the first movie functions quite well as a suspenseful prequel to the original game. The cult of Jake Gyllenhaal's underrated Prince Of Persia movie seems to grow each year too.
Digging a little deeper, Warner Bros. Animation's Batman: Assault On Arkham featured a plot centered on the Suicide Squad, and was a most enjoyable spin-off of the Arkham game series; some fans even found it superior to David Ayer's Suicide Squad. Most recently, Netflix's Castlevania series proved it was possible to have an anime video game adaptation that honored the games whilst having a surprisingly good script, beautiful artwork and likable characters.
- Tomb Raider (2018) release date: Mar 16, 2018
- Rampage (2018) release date: Apr 13, 2018