If, like me, you are a fan of video games, you’ll know how frustrating the film industries inability to adapt them successfully is. Good is generally an overstatement. The best we’ve got this century were average at best. Tomb Raider is out soon and I honestly cannot find any excitement or interest for the film, despite really enjoying the games. Looking back at what we’ve had to contend with in the last few years when it comes to adaptations, I feel my worries are justified.
Way back in 2001, the descent into mediocrity begun with ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ which boasted Angelina Jolie in the titular role. Considering there wasn’t much history with video game movies before this, the fact it was so poorly received cements how dreadful this really was. Its’ main faults were the incredibly basic plot and there was next to no emotional impact during its’ run time. Compare this to the video game series and it’s even more baffling as Laura Croft is a character millions invested in and cared about while exploring new tombs never got dull. By taking away the core values of the games, it became abundantly clear this was an original story hidden behind a known franchise.
The following year, gamers were ‘treated’ to another film based on a classic series; this time in the shape of ‘Resident Evil’. Whilst more faithful than ‘Tomb Raider’, it still managed to make a botch of what it offered. It may have had a killer lead actress in Mila Jovivich and action set pieces that were high octane, but it was missing key elements that made the games so memorable, mainly the horror. By neglecting what made the game so unique and ground breaking, fans felt a lack of interest for what was on screen and soon realised it was just a generic zombie film filled with easter eggs.
Despite the critical mauling from fans and critics alike, each film made enough money to fast track a sequel. While neither suddenly started trusting their source material, one was the end of its respective series while the other kick started a while franchise. ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ embraced that it was just dumb fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’ on the other hand, was just plain dumb. People were able to get behind ‘Resident Evil’ for being a guilty pleasure, something to just unwind with and enjoy a bucket load of action. ‘Tomb Raider’ just bored the audience to sleep
In the years that followed, gamers had to put up with not one, but two films from Uwe Boll. ‘House of the Dead’ was dreadful but compared to ‘Alone in the Dark’ it doesn’t look half bad. Considered one of the worst movies ever made, Boll further cemented a growing belief that it was near impossible to create a good film based on a video game. It was also discouraging that directors like Boll were allowed 2 attempts in such quick succession. In the same year of his second failure, ‘Doom’ was released. For once it seemed like we may be onto something. The cast was above average, it was given a cool $60 million budget to make it stand out and it was going to homage the series with a first person view point within the film. It sounded promising. However, there’s a reason that Dwayne Johnson stated in an interview years later that the film was a cautionary tale of what not to do when adapting a video game. It was really pants. And what was worse is it didn’t even make it’s budget back. Usually these duds were at least bringing in the cash so studios would keep investing in them, but after ‘Doom’ crashed and burned, the next few years had noticeably less video game adaptations
Five years passed and spewed out some real stinkers with it. ‘Silent Hill’ got the atmosphere and setting spot on but was another adaption that had a muddled plot, poorly written dialogue and an overbearing run time, something that was becoming all too recurrent. In 2007 the third chapter of ‘Resident Evil’ came out in the form of ‘Extinction’ and, while an improvement on it’s predecessor, was still a bad film. It was the mark of when the series really started to disregard the game series it owed it life to and just do it own, action based adventure with a few awful jump scares. What was worse is that ‘Resident Evil’ 4′ had been released on consoles two years prior and changed the gaming industry forever with it’s creepy, derelict setting and genuine horror. This film felt like a giant middle finger to that.
Months later, we got something outside of the ‘horror’ genre with ‘Hitman’. Guess what? It sucked (Bonus points if you already know why). Yet another weak plot and some really awful acting. Once it became clear Timothy Olyphant wasn’t a convincing Agent 47, everything else fell apart. Fast forward one year and ‘Max Payne’ came and was quickly forgotten about. Ignoring basically everything from the critically acclaimed games, this one turned fans of the series against it with a fiery passion. What became obvious was that the film was going for style over substance, making character development almost non-existent as well as a coherent plot. Worse still was that the style wasn’t even that impressive.
After a decade of the same mistakes, gamers were becoming sick of stale stories, wooden acting and a blatant disregard for the source material. Many had given up hopes for anything half decent. But who knew, maybe the start of a new decade would usher in change within video game adaptations? On the one hand, surely it couldn’t get any worse? The highlight of ten years had been ‘Resident Evil’ and that is entirely forgettable. The good news is that the quality of adaptations did improve. The bad news? Not by much.