Video Game Movie Reviews

By The Video Game Critic
videogamecritic.com
Updated 9/17/2009

Over the years there have been numerous attempts to bring hit video games to the big screen, most being ill-fated. Here's a collection of reviews I've written for movies in my own personal library of video game-inspired movies. Note that each flick is given two grades. The first is based on how the film rates in terms of a general audience. The second grade is from a gamer's perspective, taking into consideration he may find certain aspects of the film more interesting than the non-gamer.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
General Audience grade: D-
Gamer grade: D
Apparently the writer and director team of Resident Evil Extinction believed they could generate horror and suspense in broad daylight. Can you can delusional? Extinction is Resident Evil meets The Road Warrior, and its script is as bland as its desert scenery. Milla Jovovich, star of the previous RE films, is decked out in the most unflattering outfit imaginable. Only the fact that her "clones" appear naked early and often gave me any reason enough to stick it out to the end. The story is incredibly dumb, with the holographic little girl (a computer) conveniently used to provide the pointless exposition. The highlight of the movie is the showdown with "Tyrant", but wasn't he the boss of the first RE game? Had the filmmakers employed the plots of the games instead of using their tired Hollywood platitudes, this series would have been a whole lot better.
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Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind (2009)
General Audience grade: F
Gamer grade: F
This 65 minute animated video was included with the Street Fighter IV Special Edition. I can appreciate Japanese anime to some degree, but this video comes off more like a cheap television cartoon that a full-length movie. Ties that Bind is short on fighting but long on bad dialogue and inconsequential subplots. The premise, which is truly awful by the way, revolves around Ryu possessing some kind of "inner power" necessary to arm an evil weapon. Is this the best they could come up with?! Instead of conveying the story through their actions, the characters prefer to tell it through long, drawn-out conversations. The exposition is ridiculous, and the lack of fighting is unforgivable. There are two legitimate battles in the whole flick, and even those have more melodrama than hand-to-hand combat. The dialogue is full of empty expressions like "Our last battle cannot occur until we truly find ourselves." When Ken and Ryu share a touching moment near the end of the film ("I can feel it in you too, Ken"), it's just nauseating. Most of the Street Fighters characters aren't even represented in the movie, and some, like Balrog, and Vega, only make token appearances. At the very least they could have done something with Blanka, considering the story begins in the Amazon basin! Not to mention the fact that he's on the cover! Ties That Bind would have been an ideal vehicle for introducing the new characters of the Street Fighter series, but it's just a pointless waste of time.
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Alone In The Dark (2005)
General Audience grade: F
Gamer grade: F
The first Alone in the Dark video game introduced the genre of "survival horror", but this film is Alone in the Dark by name alone. Directed by Uwe Boll, who has a pretty sorry track record of bringing games to the big screen, this thing is absolutely wretched. Christian Slater manages to keep a straight face in the lead role, but Tara Reid's "acting performance" is borderline hilarious, and the head of the "paranormal government agency" looks more like some punk teenager. The logic-defying storyline involves evil monsters unleashed as some ancient relic is uncovered. These monsters look just like raptors, and convey zero sense of fright or mystery. I actually had to fast-forward through a good bit of this mess, as I could feel it slowly sucking the life force from my body.
Check for the Alone In The Dark DVD on Amazon

Silent Hill (2006)
General Audience grade: C+
Gamer grade: B
For the first 30 minutes or so, Silent Hill perfectly emulates its survival horror namesake, employing haunting visuals and off-kilter audio to construct a growing sense of isolation and desperation. It doesn't last however, as the story gradually degenerates into an incoherent mess that awkwardly incorporates religious cults, witch burnings, crime scene investigations, and demonic possessions into a tale of revenge. As a substantial number of characters are introduced, the sense of mystery evaporates and the logic goes out the window. At one point, the film practically bends over backwards to explain what's going on, and the exposition is almost embarrassing. Some of the creatures introduced early are disturbing enough, but they are soon substituted with generic gasmask-donning goons wielding lead pipes. Silent Hill's over-the-top acting reminded me of something you'd see in a haunted house attraction, and hackneyed dialogue like "It's going to be ok; everything's going to be ok" doesn't help matters. But despite its flaws, the film is kept afloat by its first-rate cinematography, which somehow transcends the muddled narrative. The general look of the film is amazing, with decrepit scenery and dramatic camera angles inspired by the game. Silent Hill's soundtrack is equally outstanding, with moody music and unsettling sound effects that combine to form a haunting cacophony. The music video-style closing credit sequence is arguably the highlight of the entire DVD. As a movie, Silent Hill rates only slightly above average, but fans will appreciate how good this spooky town looks on the big screen.
Check for the Silent Hill DVD on Amazon

Bloodrayne (2006)
General audience grade: C-
Gamer grade: C+
Director Uwe Boll has been the whipping boy of many critics for his mishandling of game-inspired movies, but Bloodrayne isn't half bad. If nothing else, it's infinitely better than his "House of the Dead" debacle. I happen to be a fan of the Bloodrayne video game series, known for its bloody hack-n-slash gameplay set in medieval Europe. Assuming the role of the knife-wielding, half-vampire "Rayne" is Kristianna Loken, best known as the "Terminatrix" in Terminator 3. She certainly looks the part, although she's a bit too tall and not quite athletic enough to pull off the acrobatic stunt scenes. Whoever designed her costume did all of us a great disservice by not replicating the skin-tight outfit of the video game. There's plenty of cleavage up top, but those baggy leather pants look horrendous. I was surprised at the movie's star-studded cast, which includes Ben Kingsley (of Gandhi fame), Billy Zane (Titanic), Michael Madsen, Meat Loaf, and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious). Sadly, little if any thought was put into the dialogue, and as a result the performances generally come across as "wooden". The narrative is a mess and the exposition is clumsy, but this is compensated for by the gratuitous nudity and brutal violence (at least in my "unrated" version). A few of the sword fighting "injuries" are so over-the-top that they border on comical. In the end, Bloodrayne doesn't amount to much, but it does a reasonable job of bringing the game to big screen.
Check for the Bloodrayne DVD on Amazon

Doom (2005)
General audience grade: C
Gamer grade: B
Not expecting much from this action flick, I was pleasantly surprised with its high production values and unconventional plot twists. Doom stars "The Rock" as Sarge, a hardened soldier leading a squad on a mission to exterminate monsters at a base on Mars. Yeah, it sounds awful, and the plot borrows heavily from films like Aliens and Resident Evil. There are a lot of dark corridors, creatures jumping out, machine gun fire, and the ensuing gore. But just when you think the movie's falling into the standard formula, Doom surprises you. Interestingly, the fact most of the creatures are not computer-generated gives them a stronger screen prescence and makes them appear more organic. Doom contains ample references to the video game franchise (primarily Doom 3), including an awesome first-person sequence that's sure to delight fans. I had fun watching this, and the fact that my wife also enjoyed Doom proves it has appeal beyond the gamer crowd.
Check for the Doom DVD on Amazon

House of the Dead (2003)
General audience grade: F
Gamer grade: D
This by-the-numbers zombie flick looks more like a college film project than a profession movie. What does this even have to do with the video game? The characters are totally undeveloped, the plot is non-existent, and the special effects are horrible. House of the Dead fails to build any sort of tension and provides no legitimate scares. The director latched onto the ludicrous idea that zombies can run like they're at a track meet, and it just looks silly. The only thing this movie has going for it is the island scenery and a dilapidated house that looks spectacular from the outside.
Check for the House of the Dead DVD on Amazon

House of the Dead 2 (2005)
General audience grade: F
Gamer grade: D-
This dreadful sequel was never released theatrically, but apparently appeared on the Sci-Fi channel (in an edited form I'm sure). The best thing I can say about House of the Dead 2 is that it contains gratuitous nudity. The uninspired premise sends a squad of soldiers to an "infected" college campus, and you can pretty much fill in the rest. I noticed a few references to the game, but they were very subtle. The zombies look ugly enough, and there are one or two mildly interesting scenes, but I was terribly bored during most of this. The actors and director make the most of the limited budget and lousy dialogue, but it's the scriptwriter who really drops the ball. Couldn't he come up with a more scary location than a college campus? I'm sure it made filming House of the Dead 2 very easy, but it makes watching the movie very, very hard. This one makes the first House of the Dead look respectable - now that's scary!
Check for the House of the Dead 2 DVD on Amazon

Mortal Kombat (1995)
General audience grade: B
Gamer grade: A
Few video game movies live up to their namesakes, but Mortal Kombat hit the nail of the head. This surprisingly entertaining action flick features likeable actors, decent special effects, believable fight scenes, subtle humor, and a killer soundtrack. Christopher Lambert does a superb job of playing Raiden the thunder god. Best of all, Mortal Kombat manages to remain faithful to the video game, capturing its dark, mysterious atmosphere without being violent or gory. In fact, I don't think there is a drop of blood in the whole film. As a huge fan of the video game series, I've seen this flick a dozen times and still can't get enough.
Check for the Mortal Kombat DVD on Amazon

Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997)
General audience grade: F
Gamer grade: D+
Attempting to capitalize on the success of the first film, New Line rushed to release this pathetic sequel that's inferior to the original in every way. It's a bad omen when ninjas literally rain from the sky in the very first scene, but the fact that it's done with the worst special effects since Clash of the Titans makes it even more reprehensible. Few actors from the first film returned for this, although I think the new Raiden does a respectable job. Annihilation's storyline makes no sense, the special effects are beyond pitiful, and the dialogue is a disgrace. Here's a sample: Kitana: "Mother, you're alive!" Sindel: "Too bad YOU... will DIE!" Still, Mortal Kombat fanatics like myself will force themselves to watch, if only to see dream matchups like Sub Zero versus Scorpion. In fairness, the movie does exude a "so bad it's good" quality when the viewer is under the influence of alcohol.
Check for the Mortal Kombat Annihilation DVD on Amazon

Resident Evil (2002)
General audience grade: D
Gamer grade: C
Hollywood has a knack for taking promising game premises and watering them down to nothing, and that's what happened to Resident Evil. Instead of using the claustrophobic old mansion from the original video game, this film adaptation is set in a boring, sterile underground lab environment. The result is a forgettable series of generic gun battles between zombies and a group of survivors. The movie would be a total loss if not for the gratuitous Milla Jovavich nude scenes, which my friends forced me to view frame-by-frame. Damn them!
Check for the Resident Evil DVD on Amazon

Resident Evil Apocalypse (2004)
General audience grade: D
Gamer grade: C
Apocalypse looked great on paper. This time the zombie carnage encompasses an entire city, and there are not one but TWO sexy heroines. Jill Valentine looks absolutely stunning in her tube top, miniskirt, and boots (whoa). You also have the acting debut of the hideous, unstoppable Nemesis creature (from RE3). So why is Apocalypse such an ordeal to watch? I suspect it might have something to do with the absurd plot and laughable dialogue. Lacking any real substance, this feels like the fast food of movies, leaving you feeling unsatisfied.
Check for the Resident Evil Apocalypse DVD on Amazon

Street Fighter (1994)
General audience grade: F
Gamer grade: C-
Unlike Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter failed to make a splash on the big screen. The cast of characters is certainly respectable, with Jean Claude Van Damm as Guide, Kylie Minogue as Cammy, and the late Raul Julia in his as Bison. Unfortunately, the ill-conceived storyline extends far beyond the scope of the video game. It involves some nonsense about a small nation invaded by an evil dictator (Bison), and a military force sent to stop him, led by Guide. There are no memorable fight scenes, Dhalsim is nowhere to be found, and Blanka looks like a goofy clown. The film is a complete mess, and even the most devout Street Fighter fans may find this hard to sit through.
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Tomb Raider (2001)
General audience grade: C
Gamer grade: B+
It's a shame Paramount decided to go so "over the top" with this, because I think a movie based on actual scenes from the Tomb Raider video games would have been far more exciting than this hackneyed "end of the world" garbage. Still, it's obvious they spared little expense on this great-looking action flick, with its exciting stunts and truly impressive set pieces. The Cambodian ruins scene looks exactly like something from the game, and the "boss" payoff is huge. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is mediocre and the script makes little sense. The beginning and end are both extremely far-fetched, and numerous lulls dominate the middle of the flick. Still, fans will enjoy watching the video game icon Lara Croft brought to life by Angelina Jolie, in the role she was born to play.
Check for the Tomb Raider DVD on Amazon

Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003)
General audience grade: D
Gamer grade: C
Saddled with yet another incomprehensible storyline, Cradle of Life falters worse than the previous Tomb Raider flick. There's plenty of high-flying stunts and generic shoot-outs, but precious little actual "tomb raiding" to be found. The first scene set in an underwater Greek temple is interesting, but it's all downhill from there. Oddly, Lara has a male partner for most of this one, probably to remain consistent with the ill-conceived Tomb Raider 5 game released at the same time. There's really not a memorable scene in the whole movie, and the ending is awful.
Check for the Tomb Raider Cradle of Life DVD on Amazon