Ever since "Super Mario Bros." disappointed children everywhere in 1993, video game movies have been synonymous with abominations. Though video games have increased in mainstream popularity over the past twenty years, they haven't increased in quality. However, in honor of the somehow fifth "Resident Evil" movie hitting theaters this weekend, I'll attempt to be optimistic and list the five most tolerable video game films.
5. "Resident Evil: Apocalypse"
The second installment of the lifeless, yet somehow immortal "Resident Evil" saga is not a particularly good movie. The special effects are goofy, the performances are embarrassing, the costumes are hilariously distracting and the action is the series' usual brand of unconvincing wire-fu kicks and punches. However, I would argue that "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" is the closest the series has come to being fun. It's got the feel of an old-school zombie movie, bringing the series closer to the actual source material. If written and made a little smarter, it could have been an entertaining, "Piranha 3D"-like combo of B-movie chuckles and scares. Instead, most of the laughs and enjoyment are of the unintentional variety.
4. "Resident Evil"
When you ask most people what the best video game movie is, the majority of film fans will say 2002's opening installment to the "Resident Evil" franchise. It's not glaringly flawed and features a few decent action scenes and jump scares. Plus, since it's the beginning of Alice's battle with the idiotically devious Umbrella Corporation, the plot isn't quite as nonsensical as its successors (but it still makes no sense).
That being said, there's something inherently depressing about "Resident Evil." Writer/director/hack Paul W.S. Anderson took the essence of the original video game series, threw it out the window and replaced it with a loud, generic Euro-trash action film with a bland lead (who has improbably become the series' main character despite not existing in any of the games) doing fake-looking flips and kicks. It is watchable, though, which is more than I can say about "Alone in the Dark."
3. "Max Payne"
The Max Payne video game series, a gritty noir saga about a cop with a tragic past, came essentially pre-made for a movie. The 2008 adaptation takes a few of the ideas from the game but for the most part is a convoluted mess involving dead families, evil drugs and strange winged demons. It also features Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis attempting to act with cold intensity, but it mainly comes off as just not acting.
However, in a genre strewn with cheap-looking "Matrix" knock-offs and other bland features, "Max Payne" has a visual style that is actually pretty impressive. Director John Moore may not have many ideas about storytelling or guiding his actors, but his black-and-white slow motion visuals are often captivating. It's a painful movie to think critically about, but at least it's pretty to look at.
2. "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"
Much like "Max Payne," the "Tomb Raider" series of video games seems perfect for a movie adaptation. They're essentially just Indiana Jones adventures but with a lot more misogyny. The first film, unfortunately, was a confusing slog. All I particularly remember is a climactic dream sequence in which Angelina Jolie and the villain run up opposite sides of a pyramid. Or at least, I think that's what happened.
The second film, directed by "Speed"'s Jan de Bont, isn't a great feature by any stretch of the imagination. Its story, though streamlined, is still weak, and if a chase or action scene isn't breaking out, "Cradle of Life" loses most of its already minimal steam. Thankfully, De Bont has a decent sense for stunts and action, so if a moviegoer goes in expecting just some fun chases, the second cinematic adventure of the world's worst archaeologist isn't awful. And for a video game adaptation, "isn't awful" is like a four-star review.
2005's "Doom," the cinematic adaptation of the ridiculously popular 1993 first-person shooter, is not a great movie. It is not even a particularly good movie. It's a far dumber, far cheaper version of "Aliens" directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the man behind "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li," one of the worst films I've ever seen.
What "Doom" manages to do, however, that no other video game adaptation has, is entertain on an almost consistent basis. The horror-infused action has some moderately cool, creepy moments, and it stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who is unmatched when it comes to radiating macho charisma. There's even an effective twist near the end, an unexpected feat for a video game movie. "Doom" can be defined by a sequence near the end that replicates the first-person perspective of the original video game. It's silly and technically sketchy, but what the heck, it's goofily entertaining.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published April 16, 2014
You never know where you might meet your future bandmates. Maybe you'll meet them through a mutual friend. Maybe it'll be a chance meeting in a railway station. Maybe you'll meet them half a world away. That certainly wasn't the case with Milwaukee rock outfit Commander Tang. In fact, George Phillips didn't even have to leave his front lawn or his Washington Heights block.
Published April 15, 2014
"Sabotage" finds Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly pushing his persona in a new direction. It's not simply that the film is unexpectedly more murder mystery than action thriller; "Sabotage" is easily the meanest, most vulgar and most violent movie on Arnold's resume. Credit where credit is due for trying something new, but considering the film's brainlessly scummy ugliness, it qualifies merely as a not-quite-noble failure.
Published April 15, 2014
Even though Corey Pieper's latest single "One More Time" isn't conventional Milwaukee, it's obvious the up-and-coming pop singer has love for his home city. The musician namedrops "the 414" near the beginning of the track, and the regional callouts - along with shout outs to his Hawaiian heritage - aren't merely for show.
Published April 14, 2014
When Wake Owl first arrived in town, they were at the bottom of a three-band bill at the Cactus Club with their freshly released debut EP, "Wild Country." Since then, their crowds and popularity have only grown, moving up to a $10 Pabst Pub gig last June and now a Friday night headliner gig at Turner Hall Ballroom. And instead of a five-song EP, Cameron and company arrive with a brand new full album, "The Private World of Paradise."
Published April 13, 2014
Much like the first movie, "Rio 2" is colorful and vibrant and cracks a few good jokes here or there. It's a generally enjoyable film, albeit one that feels like several animated features audiences have seen and forgotten long before.
Published April 11, 2014
"Draft Day" is an ad, less for the NFL Draft - though it is conveniently coming up in just a month - and more for the league itself. It's a hopeful attempt to get people to mindlessly consume a sport that's becoming more and more difficult to mindlessly consume. The mildly impressive thing is that, under "Ghostbusters" helmer Ivan Reitman's eye, the light, fluffy football trifle goes down almost as easily as designed.
Published April 9, 2014
Milwaukee got its first taste of TED last year with a TEDx conference - a local, self-organized talk event, run independently but guided from afar by TED - in Harambee. And now, thanks to some ambitious students at UWM, it seems the city will get a second taste of TED.
Published April 8, 2014
A small wooden and plastic model of a stage has now graduated into a full stage, lit with lights and bright, colorful, comic book influenced projections. Superglue will no longer be necessary to keep it together. Now, the stage merely waits for its actors, an audience and a story to unfold. That story is writer David Bar Katz's "The History of Invulnerability," the story of Jerry Siegel and his famous creation: Superman.
Published April 8, 2014
Edward Albee's one-act drama "Zoo Story" is a fairly small production. After all, it features merely two actors, one set - a park - and one necessary set item, a park bench. For the upcoming staging at Marquette University, however, director Grace DeWolffe is working with much more than merely two guys and a bench. In fact, she's got $1.5 million worth of technology to bring her show to life.
Published April 7, 2014
For a band called The Living Statues, the locally based three-man rock 'n' roll outfit has done a very poor job of keeping still. After touring and gigging around the region, the time seemed right for the band to put together its first EP. Before "Knockin'" hits, however, OnMilwaukee chatted with The Living Statues about coming together, recording in Brooklyn and bouncing between the music scenes in Madison and Milwaukee.