Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Extra Lives: Five Video Games That Should Never Be Movies


Most of these games are awesome, but none of them would make good movies. In no particular order:

The “Sonic the Hedgehog” series

Sonic the Hedgehog is a game that went from exciting 2D platforming to awkward 3D adventure games faster than you can say Sonic Adventures. This is not the primary reason why the Sonic games would make a bad movie property.

My primary concern is that it would be animated (likely CGI), and if any of the recent Sonic cartoons are any indication, Sega has no interest in really putting out a consistent quality product.

In fact, the only good Sonic cartoon was the Saturday Morning animated series that ran on ABC in the early 90s.

He is the fasting thing alive, and has a rocking Early 90’s intro song, but probably not going to get a movie anytime soon.

The “Legend of Zelda” series

I am a huge Legend of Zelda fanboy, and I’d love to see a good movie made about the series. But I don’t think it’s possible. Link is a character who doesn’t speak and acts as an audience-surrogate in the game. Making him talk would raise the question as to what Link’s character is. Which, if the 1980s is to be believed, recalls the catchphrase “Excuse me, Princess.”

In fact, any time Link has opened his mouth has led to bad times all around.

But, leaving Link mute would probably make the movie extremely difficult, if not impossible, to properly execute. This, on top of the what would likely be a live-action budget in the $50 million area, this has the potential for disaster written all over it.

Chrono Trigger


Again, we have a mute protagonist. Discounting that, although the game is one of the best RPGs (possibly ever) and has some real depth of character and designs it would be long. I’ve seriously spent many many hours playing through Chrono Trigger, with New Game + and seeing all the endings it could take probably upwards of 40. I’d be concerned with what would have to be cut to preserve the epic story, with all its labyrinthine twists and turns.

And also, Magus would get a huge fanboy boost and probably be in way too much of the movie than he realistically deserves.

No offense to the Magus fanboys, but if there’s somebody who should get limited screentime in a Chrono Trigger movie, it would be this pale son-of-a-gun over here.

Mass Effect


Mass Effect was one of my favorite games of recent memory. But it would make an awful movie, because part of the fun is investing in the Commander Shepherd you create (be s/he a badass spacer with a haunted past or a noble war hero,) and, as anyone who watched me play through the game knows, it’s really boring to watch somebody else’s vision of this character go through without any of that investment.

The Sims

The Sims is fun to play, but, unless done right, it would be just be…people. Doing stuff. And maybe some aliens, zombies, vampires, werewolfs, robots, sasquatches, and witches (thank you expansion packs.) But even with that stuff, it can be a tad dreary unless you are micromanaging your own Sims.

But that doesn’t mean Sims machinima aren’t occasionally awesome:

So, these games are very fun, in general, but they should perhaps avoid making the jump to the big screen anytime soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Extra Lives: Five Video Games That Should Be Movies


I’ve said what was good and what was bad, but what do I think should be used from this rich medium? Here are my five choices below.

5. Bioshock

Bioshock would be the easiest transition because it is already so cinematic. This First-Person Shooter sets you down in the corrupted underwater utopia of Rapture, the dream of Rayndian Objectivist Andrew Ryan. A dream that has become a nightmare. It is a creepy, creepy, game, and I think it would translate great as a kind of unique horror film.

4. Battletoads

Battletoads is probably one of the hardest beat ‘em up games ever. It also has anthropomorphic frogs (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple) who fight the evil Dark Queen. I think this would make a good movie because: 1) I honestly just want to see a movie with asskicking CGI frogs, and 2) you’ll get at least some cache by linking it to a rather hilarious internet meme.

3. Earthworm Jim

The first of the two extremely more overtly comedic examples, Earthworm Jim could be a great CGI action-comedy: he’s already PG-friendly, he’s got a lot of great characters and ideas to work with (like Evil the Cat and Planet Heck, or Professor Monkey-for-a-Head, or so on.) Earthworm Jim also had an awesome Pythonesque cartoon show in the mid-90s.

2. Sam and Max

If you have an afternoon free, go and watch all the episodes of the painfully briefly lived Sam and Max Freelance Police series, or play the games, and give me a legitimate reason why this hasn’t already gotten picked up by some animation studio or another.

1. Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

The first to put the Miss in Misdemeanor, before Missy Elliot, was Carmen Sandiego. Besides putting the Seoul in South Korea and making Leningrad cry uncle, Carmen Sandiego would make a great movie primarily because it has aspects of a spy-thriller, espionage, and mystery genres. Again, if done correctly, I think the Carmen Sandiego character would be a more-than-adequate character to base a film (and maybe a franchise) on.

‘Nuff said.

Next up, Five Video Games That Should Never Be Movies. Tune in!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Extra Lives: Top Three Video Game Adaptations


After writing such mean things about video game movies, here are three that I thought actually worked (or almost worked). In fact, with the exception of one of these, I actually kind of mildly dislike these movies as well.

3. Street Fighter (de Souza, 1994)

This film makes me sad primarily because it was Raul Julia’s last film, and an unfitting way to remember Gomez Addams.

That being said, despite the presence of Jean Claude Van Damme (who I generally dislike) and some nonsense about my favorite Street Fighter character (Blanka,) this is actually not a bad movie per se. Not especially good. Were I to rate it, it would be a solid C.

You can also spot in that trailer a brief cameo of singer Kylie Minogue as Cammy, in-between doing the locomotion and being unable to get you out of her head. (Apologies to any Australian readers, but this is about all I know her for.)

2. Pokémon: The First Movie (Haigney and Yuyama, 1999)

The Pokémon games are really addictive RPGs if you actually ignore all of the media produced outside the video games. Forget about the media blitz itself; the games are not bad.

That being said...I don’t hate this movie very much either. The plot is convoluted with cloned pokémon fighting regular pokémon, and the voice acting’s kind of insufferable. But on the other hand, it did not make me actively upset the way any of the Bottom 5 did.

Although the title did give me issue at the time. It is somewhat presumptuous to assume your movie is the first movie of multiple sequels (a problem some big budget films, like the recent Golden Compass and even Bottom #2 Super Mario Bros. are guilty of.) But, again, all I can do here is damn with faint praise.

Way to get #2 with lowered expectation, Pokémon movie.

1. Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1994)

As I mentioned last time, I like this movie, and I like it primarily because it stays true to the spirit of the game without trying too hard to explain the nonsense that is going on. Even though the special effects are early CGI that did not hold up, which is generally true of special effects from around this time (watch Spawn and try to remember how cool the effects looked, for example.)

Also, it has Christopher Lambert in it, and that’s almost enough for me.

Can you think of two more? Seriously, I could only come up with three. I haven’t seen Hitman, but have heard it was passable, but still don’t want to extol it without having seen it. The upcoming Max Payne looks like it might not suck. Any others?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Extra Lives: Bottom Five Worst Video Game Adaptations


For whatever reason, many video games have not made the transition to movies very well. In video game’s defense, many movies have not either.


I’m looking at you, E.T.

Anyway, here are the five movies I think of when I think of as particularly egregious examples.

5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (West, 2001)
Game Premise: Platform Adventure game. Female Indiana Jones with proportions Russ Meyer can only dream of looks for treasure in various ruins, most likely battles crippling back pain.
Movie Premise: Lara Croft, British socialite, goes seeking relics that, somehow, allow her a through time confrontation of her father, played by Jon Voight. Most shocking of all, Voight doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by this.
What Went Wrong: I want you to go to the imdb page and see how many people were involved with writing this movie?

Don’t worry, I’ll be here.

If you don’t didn’t go check, there are 8 writer’s credited on Tomb Raider. And it shows. There are easily six movies in there struggling to get out, and you can almost tell where one stops and the other starts.

Many of the examples here are guilty of having way to much story for their own good.
4. Double Dragon (Yukich, 1994)
No, not this:

But this:

Somehow, unlike many of the other concepts here, in staying true to the original game, this is somehow worse. Having Scott Wolf in it doesn’t help. .

3. BloodRayne (Boll, 2005)

Uwe Boll has a reputation as a hack. And, I mean, to his credit, it’s difficult to make something about a pseudo-bisexual leather-clad vampire-killing-vampire work as a legitimate piece of story. But, really, as easy as it is to screw up such an idea, Uwe Boll manages to screw it up in a way so fantastic it boggles the very mind.

This movie also has Ben Kingsley in it. Ben. Kingsley. Gandhi. One of the best actors of his generation. Thankfully, his presence in the film is minor (in fact, the only villain role given less time in a movie is John Malkovich in the equally godawful Eragon.)

I tried to find a video on youtube, but most of them were Goth-y AMV’s that kind of made me throw up in my mouth a little bit each time I looked. You’ve been warned.

2. Super Mario Bros. (Jankel and Morton, 1993)

This would be #1 if my choice for #1 wasn’t so godawful. The problem here for Super Mario Bros., like Tomb Raider above, is the sense to make sense of out of what is essentially a senseless premise. Instead of going with “there’s this other world full of dragons and walking Goombahs” (whatever Goombahs actually are…are they mushrooms?) there was a lot of attempts to allegorize characters, rationalize saving the Princess, and all other manner of business that the film’s target audience (boys under 10) not only will not appreciate, but will be downright antagonistic towards.

Also, Dennis Hopper, in the midst of his villains phase (including movies like Water World) gives arguably one of the worst performances in his career as King Koopa.

Everything in this movie, besides being too much story, has a feeble attempt to allegorize Mario monsters into people. So instead of “Big Bertha”:


We get Big Bertha:


...Which is in and of itself symbolic about the problems with the movie.

1. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Leonetti, 1997)


Now, I actually quite like the first Mortal Kombat. That is because, primarily, it’s essentially Enter the Dragon with name changes and a sideplot where Johnny Cage beats up a four-armed demon prince to prove himself as a real fighter. I’ll talk more about it when listing my top three video game adaptations.

But MK:A is stilted, it’s bogged down in character mythology and too much of the story from the game which, at that point, had been so saturated with characters (I believe they even managed to work in the Animality combos from the third Mortal Kombat game, as well as characters from that game like Sektor and Cyrax [who as Robot Ninjas are almost awesome].)

They also couldn’t get Christopher Lambert to reprise his role (the best one in the movie) as Raiden. Clearly, there could be only one. (/highlander-joke.)

Tune in next time, same Son of Double Feature Channel, when I talk about the other side of the coin, my three favorite video game adaptations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October is “Extra Lives” Month on Son of Double Feature

This month on Son of Double Feature I’m going to tackle a set of articles around a theme. The theme in question is video games and movies, either adaptations of one or the other. Video games are one of the most profitable new forms of media out there, and, as such, movies have utilized games, both as cross-marketing tools, and also as a way to adapt properties to the big screen.

That isn’t to say video games aren’t, of themselves, a rich and interactive medium that has its own strengths. There is a lot of innovation in video games in terms of interactive mechanics and storytelling, from the sandbox-style of a Grand Theft Auto or the massive immersion of a Sims or Spore (or Mass Effect), video games aren’t just about collecting coins anymore.

And Hollywood has taken notice, from as early as Tron to the latest big budget attempt (Jake Gyllenhaal is currently filming an adaptation of the Prince of Persia series.) This week I want to look at some of the best (and the worst) of the video game to film transition. Join me, won’t you?


Friday, October 3, 2008

Nothing Says Class Like a Glass Skull Full of Diamond-Filtered Vodka

For those unaware, according to Variety, Columbia is planning a third Ghostbusters movie, after years of prodding by co-writer and principal Dan Aykroyd, with script written by two co-executive producers of the American version of The Office.

Of course, I’m genuinely excited (see my now-epic The Greatest Movie Ever Made.) That being said, I think the only guy who might be more excited would be Dan Aykroyd himself. Aykroyd genuinely believes in the paranormal. As a matter of fact, according to the DVD commentary for the special edition of Ghostbusters (with Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, and I believe Joe Medjuck providing commentary,) the original draft of the script was much less comedic and much more focused on these kinds of paranormal activity.

Here is an infomercial I found on the internet for his brand of vodka (filtered three times through carbon, then through diamonds before being bottled in an intricate skull shaped bottle) marketed by Dan Aykroyd himself.

Aykroyd, of course, knows a lot about the world of higher energies we do not understand. After all, he did once witness a mass sponge migration, and knows the ins and outs of an ectocontainment system (notice how he says ectoplasm around 1:03.)

Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself.

“I didn’t know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture!”

I’m going to put up a poll, feel free to participate. The question is:

Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka: Viral Video Hoax or Genuine Madness?

Vote now! And comment and discuss if you feel so inclined!

Also, expect an update about an exciting theme this month for Son of Double Feature.