Have you heard? There's a new Street Fighter movie coming out this month! No, I'm not kidding, this isn't an early April fool's joke, I'm dead serious, somebody has decided to make another Street Fighter movie. Who would do such a thing? The first movie earned scathing reviews and failed at the box office, and didn't that movie come out 15 years ago? Who green lights these things anyway?
To celebrate the upcoming release of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li we've decided to look back at all of the big video game movies of the last 16 years. From 1993's Super Mario Bros. to last year's Max Payne, we have the entire list of theatrically released video game motion pictures. I hate to tell you this, but the list isn't pretty. In fact, this may be the most negative list of reviews I've ever taken part in. I'm not kidding; this is a list that will depress the hell out of you. But at the same time it will tell you once and for all which movies are good, which are bad and which are kind of a mixed bag. Judging from this list of movies you shouldn't be holding your breath for Street Fighter. In fact, you may just want to make plans for February 27 right now, because you won't be at the theater. To see the track record we turn to a little article I like to called the 16 Years of Video Game Movies!
Super Mario Bros.
[ Release: 1993 - Studio: Hollywood Pictures ]
You can't blame a studio for trying. Let's face it, the idea of turning the popular Super Mario Bros. video game into a feature-length motion picture isn't the worst idea you've heard. Hollywood had already tried movies based on books, TV shows and even comic books, so why not video games? I'm sure that the studio bigwigs felt that they had a guaranteed hit on their hands. Unfortunately that's not how things worked out for Super Mario Bros. There's a lot of blame to go around for this turkey, from the terrible acting decisions (Latin-American comedian John Leguizamo as an Italian plumber?), to the awful script to the nonsensical dialog. It's all bad, and it gets worse every single time you watch it. Throw in one of the most obnoxious soundtracks of the 1990s and some cringe-worthy overacting from Dennis Hopper (as Bowser, no less) and you have a kids movie that is dark, dreary, depressing and annoying as well. Super Mario Bros. was a bad place to start. Little did we know that video game movies weren't going to get much better.
Although Super Mario Bros. may have been a bigger franchise, Double Dragon was a better fit for a live-action movie. This 1994 movie pairs Scott Wolf (Party of Five) with Mark Dacascos (the Chairman on Iron Chef America) as a couple of kung fu warriors ready to save the city. Unfortunately this movie is not known for its strong lead stars, but rather the casting of Alyssa Milano and Robert Patrick as the supporting cast. So here's my confession, while I freely admit that Double Dragon is not a good film, it's certainly a lot more enjoyable than Super Mario Bros. The dialog is silly and the plot could have used a rewrite, however the action isn't bad and this is no worse than your average Steven Seagal action flick. Plus, it's fun to watch Robert Patrick humiliate himself in roles that are beneath him.
[ Release: 1994 - Studio: Universal Pictures ]
Street Fighter II is one of the most important games of all time. It singlehandedly created the one-on-one fighting game market, it introduced us to some of the most memorable characters of all time and it told us complex story about sixteen superhuman warriors. There's just one problem, none of it makes a lick of sense. While everybody seems to have a story, none of them connect. So Ryu may be fighting all of these people for one thing (honor or something like that), while Guile has a completely different motive. And best of all, it's never actually clear if any of this is going on at the same time. This little problem didn't concern Steven E. de Souza, veteran Hollywood writer, director and producer. He decided to throw caution to the wind and give everybody a part, even when it made no sense to. For example, in the movie Chun Li is a television reporter who employs E. Honda and Balrog. I'm not joking. The whole thing is so ridiculous that I almost expected space aliens to come down and kill M. Bison. Sadly the closest I got was watching somebody turn into Blanka. With terrible acting from Jean-Claude Van Damme to Kylie Minogue to Ming-Na, Street Fighter proves to be among the worst video game movies ever made.
[ Release: 1995 - Studio: New Line Cinema ]
Of course Mortal Kombat was going to be better than Street Fighter, for one thing I don't think you can get any worse than Street Fighter and this was the franchise that had the better story. With its bloody battles and soap opera story about different dimensions and creatures with special powers, it was clear that Mortal Kombat would make for a better movie. However, the reason that Mortal Kombat is remembered fondly is because it doesn't fall into the same traps as Street Fighter. For one thing it doesn't bother itself with trying to fit every character into the plot. They also didn't worry about the boring side-stories found in Street Fighter, instead they knew what they had to do and they did it. The movie features a number of well shot fight sequences, a silly, but exciting story and a nice mix of special effects. It also has extremely hammy overacting, but I suspect that's part of the charm of Mortal Kombat. Taking this franchise seriously is a bad move, while there is violence and blood and death, the game has always had a sense of humor. The movie never gets too bogged down with being gruesome and it feels like everybody there is having a good time. Mortal Kombat isn't going to win any awards for being a moving film experience, but as far as video game movies go it's one of the better ones.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
[ Release: 1997 - Studio: New Line Cinema ]
You know all those good things I said about the Mortal Kombat movie? How it was a guilty pleasure, had exciting fights and some cool special effects? Well, none of that applies to its sequel, a pointless exercise in bad acting and even worse writing. For starters the cast was overhauled, which would have been fine had they been replaced by people that could act. To this day I'm convinced that the movie was cast by just picking random people on the street, regardless of their acting abilities. But as bad as the acting is, it's the writing that really steals the show. As I watched this pile of crap I kept wondering what color the crayon was that Lawrence Kasanoff used to write this dreck. Throw in some laughably bad special effects and it's clear that this was a speedy follow-up done for cash. The movie was so bad that it not only killed the chances of a Mortal Kombat 3, but it also stalled the game series for a number of years.
[ Release: 1999 - Studio: 20th Century Fox ]
Talk about an abject failure, Wing Commander couldn't even top $20 million at the box office. This is a movie based on a PC game franchise that was well past its prime. As a PC CD-ROM, Wing Commander featured all sorts of movie inspired cinemas, even incorporating real actors from popular sci-fi movies. However, the moment you turn that into a movie you have to compete on the same level as some of the biggest science fiction films of all time. Wing Commander, starring such "gifted" actors as Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard, just could not compete at the same level. It's a poorly written sci-fi action movie that is overflowing with groan-worthy cliches. The movie grossed around $12 million at the box office, and half of that movie came from Star Wars fans wanting to check out the exclusive trailer for The Phantom Menace. Wing Commander may not have been the worst video game movie of the 1990s, but it certainly didn't end the millennium on a high note.