Despite currently sitting at 21% on Rotten Tomatoes (including a less-than-glowing review from our very own Ben Kendrick), Resident Evil: Afterlife was number one at the box office last weekend and already has sequel on the way. What does this say about us and videogame movies? Are we as a people so desperate to see our treasured videogames translated to the silver screen that we’re willing to ignore awful reviews and years of cinematic abuse for a fourth helping of pain and suffering? The answer, apparently, is yes.
Sure, sometimes videogame movies make money, but there has never been a videogame movie that was at once financially successful, critically successful, and popular amongst the fans. Heck, I can’t even recall a single videogame movie that was either A) critically successful or B) overwhelmingly popular with fans, and Hollywood has been making these things for the past two decades.
One of the many problems, in my opinion, is that movie studios continue to adapt games that are themselves far too heavily influenced by movies. Mortal Kombat was just Enter the Dragon with magic. Resident Evil was just Night of the Living Dead with more guns. Doom was just Aliens without a single moment of tension. And Prince of Persia was just Aladdin with white people.
The following top ten list includes the videogames that should be made into movies precisely because they’re so unique. Not just as videogames or movies, but as stories, as concepts, as fully-developed worlds, and as stylistic expressions. Certain games were left off the list due to the fact that they’re already in-development (Mass Effect and World of Warcraft, for example), while others were left off for their heavy reliance on movie references and/or cinematics (Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted, and Metal Gear Solid, to name a few). That, and there were only ten slots.
Check out our list of ten unique videogames that could be awesome movies:
10. The Longest Journey
Funcom's The Longest Journey was a moderately successful point-and-click adventure game that came out immediately in the wake of the so-called “death” of adventure games. In it, you control April Ryan, an art student living in the futuristic, high-tech world of Stark, who has dreams about a fantasy realm called Arcadia filled with dragons and mermaids and monsters and more. Or…are they dreams?
Eventually, April learns that she’s a shifter—a being who can traverse between the two worlds known as Stark and Arcadia. Stark, a world steeped in science and technology. Arcadia, a world steeped in magic and miracles. Whether she likes it or not, it's April's job to restore the balance between these two worlds before it’s too late.
The Longest Journey combines the best parts of both science-fiction and high-fantasy, which is why two drastically different filmmakers would be necessary to realize it. First, think James Cameron—king of sci-fi. Second, think Guillermo del Toro—while not exactly “king” of fantasy (yet), he’s really, really good at it. These two renowned filmmakers are already working together on At the Mountains of Madness, so why not tackle The Longest Journey in their spare time?
Now imagine Zooey Deschanel as April Ryan and all that’s necessary to get this film off the ground is to actually convince the filmmakers that it's worth doing. Shouldn’t be too hard.
9. Fear Effect
Eidos' Fear Effect is a survival horror game in the vein of Resident Evil and, to a lesser degree, Silent Hill. In terms of gameplay, it didn’t try to push any boundaries (unless being awesome is a boundary) - don’t fix what isn’t broken, I guess? What it did do, however, was craft a really creepy, atmospheric and interesting tale—a combination of the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi genres—with great characters and an unparalleled visual flair.
In the not-too-distant future, you control three mercenaries—Hana, Glas, and Deke—on the hunt for the runaway daughter of the head of the Chinese Triad (or something). You aren’t out to save her, per se; you just want to find her so you can collect your reward or, if necessary, your ransom. Before you know it, Hana and her mercenary friends find themselves in the middle of an ancient Chinese horror story, with hook-handed demons, monsters made of paper, and green zombies galore.
At one point, the nefarious Uwe Boll wanted to direct the film adaptation of this forgotten gem of a game, much to my intense chagrin. (Which isn’t saying much—at one point, Boll threatened to adapt every videogame in existence.) Thankfully, such an atrocity never came to fruition, leaving the game wide open for a director who actually knows what he or she is doing.
For my money, Sam Raimi would be perfectly suited to take up the reigns. He’s the master of highly-stylized horror movies and I’d love to see his take on Chinese folklore with a cyber punk backdrop. Throw in Maggie Q. as Hana, Bruce Campbell as Glas, and Hugo Weaving as Deke, and Fear Effect the movie is good to go - just so long as the filmmakers don't slap the dreaded PG-13 rating on it.
8. Chrono Trigger
Squaresoft's Chrono Trigger is probably the company's most famous RPG game after Final Fantasy. In fact, it's basically a Final Fantasy game...but with time travel! That might sound like I'm being sarcastic and therefore mocking the game, but I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.
After a crazy experiment goes wrong, Chrono and his friends (a tough-as-nails princess, a neurotic science geek, a sensitive robot, and a sword-wielding frog) find themselves traveling through time to the prehistoric ages, the Middle Ages, the post-apocalyptic future, and else-when. Epic adventures, random battles, and leveling-up ensues.
Imagine a Chrono Trigger animated by Pixar—and, more specifically, directed by Brad Byrd (The Incredibles). Since Finding Nemo, Pixar has continually branched out in terms of subject matter. With The Incredibles, they covered superheroes; with Wall-E, they covered the future, robots, obesity, and global warming; with Up, they covered the elderly; currently, they're helping with Andrew Stanton's adaptation of the classic John Carter of Mars and they may, in the near future, adapt a Marvel comic book. I'm just saying, can a videogame be too far behind?