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Game Changer

After decades of lackluster releases, the video-game-turned-film genre may have finally found its royalty
By BRETT MICHEL  |  June 4, 2010

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BEDROOM FARSI Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It might be the best movie adaptation yet of a video game — but it didn’t do well in its opening weekend.

For the worse part of two decades, Hollywood has been trying to discover the formula for successfully adapting video games to the big screen. Beginning with Super Mario Bros. (1993) — which featured such notable names as Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, brothers and overall-wearing plumbers who battled the late, great Dennis Hopper's serpentine King Koopa — and continuing on through last year's Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, the formula has produced one cinematic disaster after another.

Not only was The Legend of Chun-Li (which had no reason to be made after the failure of the first Street Fighter movie back in 1994) unable to attract any big-name talent (unless you happen to be the fan of American Pie's Chris Klein), but I'd swear it was responsible for the burst appendix that hospitalized me just hours after I endured the film, even if my doctor might disagree.

Still, producers continue to churn out one gut-busting flop after another, the biggest offender being Uwe Boll, this generation's Ed Wood (apologies to Mr. Wood). The supremely untalented, scrappy (he famously boxed five of his films' critics — and won) German filmmaker has made no less than eight video-game-based movies (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Postal, BloodRayne II: Deliverance, Far Cry, and the upcoming BloodRayne: The Third Reich), four of which have cracked the Bottom 100 on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), which lists and ranks every movie ever made.

And he's not the only offender.

Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with There Will Be Blood auteur Paul Thomas Anderson) produced 2006's little-seen DOA: Dead or Alive (locally, it opened only in Revere) and the Resident Evil films (a fourth, Resident Evil: Afterlife, is set to be released in 2-D, digital 3-D, and IMAX 3-D formats this fall), which had the distinction of discarding the plot lines of the popular series of zombie-killing "survival horror" games from famed Japanese developer Capcom.

Other misfires include 1994's Double Dragon (Robert Patrick followed up his unforgettable role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day with this fighting game–derived downgrade; where is he now?), 1999's Wing Commander (a space non-epic starring Scooby-Doo co-stars Matthew Lillard and Freddie Prinze Jr.), 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (the commercial failure of the role-playing game-derived science-fiction drama forced the closure of fledgling studio Square Pictures), 2005's Doom (based on a first-person shooter and starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, it shot box-office blanks), 2006's Silent Hill (a compromised adaptation that evoked the look and sound of the game, if little else), and the two Tomb Raider films released in 2001 and 2003, which found the perfect Lara Croft in Angelina Jolie, while adding ill-conceived male sidekicks/love interests (future stars Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler, respectively) who tempered the character's strong-willed independence from the games and kept her tomb raiding to a minimum.

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