It’s no secret that movies based on video games have a history of being awful. It’s almost as if the Super Mario Bros. movie from the early 90s created some sort of curse that would carry on for decades. Films like Doom, Max Payne, Assassin’s Creed, and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li completely missed the mark. It seems like the filmmakers either wanted to rely on fans of the games buying tickets, were hired to create movies based on games they did not actually play, or just didn’t care and wrote the project off because they deemed video games as beneath them. There have been some decent ones that slipped through the cracks, like the first Mortal Kombat movie or the original Resident Evil, which was fun despite it being almost entirely different from the Resident Evil video games. However, that small handful of decent films are far from as great as the beloved source material deserves.
Within the last few years, however, there has been a surge of video game-adapted films that are actually good. Rampage is surprisingly fun for what it is. Detective Pikachu is extremely entertaining and allows long-time fans to see Pokémon in live action, but has its share of flaws. Werewolves Within is absolutely brilliant and should be seen by all, but doesn’t take place in medieval times or have any of the same characters seen in the game. The first Sonic the Hedgehog movie is extremely entertaining, but holds back and focuses on human characters and a world not seen in the source material too much. Uncharted is an absolute blast and matches the spirit of the video game series quite well, but abandons the story set up by them and uses a cast who’s much younger than the characters originally are.
Each of these movies are fantastic and I would highly recommend all of them, but they all shy away from fully embracing their video game roots. Video game movies are finally being made well. The next step, though, is to have them actually feel like the video games while also being great films. The closest that we’ve gotten is Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Sure, there are a couple of lengthy scenes featuring the human characters that interrupt the central plot, but it’s easily the best video game movie out there and feels like a love letter to the games. It’s the closest we can possibly get to that next step without fully taking it.
The next couple of movies being made based on video games are the upcoming Super Mario Bros. animated movie and the live action Borderlands film. With a cast of big-name actors signed on to voice Mario, Luigi, and their friends, many fans are concerned that there will be a lot of talking from these characters who typically don’t do a lot of speaking outside of “woohoo,” and may be too different from the source material they love. From what we know about the Borderlands movie, it’ll focus on a weird mixture of main characters and side characters, but will exclude certain main characters. It may still have potential, but many fans don’t seem to have high hopes. Only time will tell as to how good they actually are.
As of right now, the state of video game movies is past the black leather X-Men stage, but not quite at the Marvel Cinematic Universe stage. The early 2000s X-Men films are fantastic, but the filmmakers were too afraid to fully embrace the comic books. Wolverine wore a white tank top instead of his iconic superhero uniform. The same went for the rest of the team who wore edgy black leather instead of their blue and yellow outfits. The MCU, however, is willing to go all in with adapting comic books to live action.
With Sonic the Hedgehog 2 being the exception because of how great it is, video game movies are currently stuck in the middle. If this recent trend continues, it’s safe to expect movies based on video games to be ruling the box office in a handful of years similar to how comic book movies are now. It all depends on how well-made the next group of video game movies are and whether or not they are well-received. If the Super Mario or Borderlands films don’t do well, I have faith that Sonic the Hedgehog 3 will be the step forward video game movies need.
Hopefully the success of the Sonic movie franchise gets movie studios to understand what gamers and fans want for these adaptations and actually put the effort behind future projects. There are also quite a few video games, like The Last of Us and Twisted Metal, that are being adapted for TV, and those being done well can only help. As of right now, video game movies are finally improving, but aren’t quite what they could be.