Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
[ Release: 2001 - Studio: Columbia Pictures ]
Probably the most controversial of all of the movies on this list, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within is easily my favorite video game feature film. That's right, this is my favorite. I'll admit that it is flawed, and I understand why some people don't like the movie. When the movie was first being rolled out the previews made it look like a serious action movie, yet the finished product is more of a character-driven drama. I suppose that's true to form, Final Fantasy VII was advertised using nothing but the amazing looking cinemas, imagine people's surprise when they got it home and realized it was a turn-based role-playing game. So yes, The Spirit Within is slow, but it gives the story enough time to develop these characters and make you care about them. Some argue that the movie didn't feel like one of the Final Fantasy games, but if you look at the story it does feature many of the same themes found in the long-running franchise. A group of characters are off on a journey collecting items, getting into battles and eventually fighting a villain that doesn't understand how evil he has become. The themes are all there, people just miss the 50 hour stories and turn-based gameplay. My only real gripe with The Spirit Within is the acting, which should have been better. These are good actors delivering painful lines of dialog. Then again, that explains Final Fantasy XII, too.
Of the video game movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is by far the most successful. And not just when it comes to money, but most of the actors from the film have gone on to win Oscars and land major roles. Don't believe me? After this movie came out Angelina Jolie became the sexiest woman in the world, commanding millions of dollars per movie and eventually landing Brad Pitt. And let's not forget Daniel Craig, who has gone on to become James Bond. But beyond the actors, Tomb Raider works as a solid popcorn action flick. It never quite reaches the level of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but at the same time it manages to do its own thing successfully. Best of all, the acting and dialog in this film isn't completely dreadful. After watching so many video game movies it feels out of place to actually compliment the acting and writing, I feel kind of icky. Tomb Raider succeeds at capturing the spirit of the Lara Croft character, something I wish more video game movies could get right.
Let's just get one thing straight, I don't like this movie. I feel that this movie is unnecessary and pointless, and I wished they would have left this franchise as a video game. I also hate how they changed the story to the point where it doesn't even resemble a Resident Evil plot. The movie has characters acting in ways they shouldn't, a lot of cliche action and a bunch of pointless kill shots. It's poorly written, the acting is sub-par and the soundtrack is obnoxious. And yet as much as I hate it, I can't give this movie a "stop". The truth is, most zombie movies have all of those problems, yet people enjoy the zombies. This film tries to make a different kind of zombie movie, and I feel that they didn't quite hit their mark, I applaud them for trying. This isn't my cup of tea, but I would rather the mindless teenager go and see this instead of House of the Dead or Wing Commander.
House of the Dead
[ Release: 2003 - Studio: Brightlight Pictures ]
If you were to make a checklist of every mistake you could possibly make in directing a video game movie, House of the Dead would have them all checked off. And not only would it have all of the checkmarks, but it would be inventing new mistakes to add to the list. House of the Dead is a mess, it's just a pathetic attempt at making a movie. For one thing, it doesn't take place in a house, the closes the movie gets is a cabin (I guess Cabin of the Dead didn't have the same impact). And then there are those scenes where the movie cuts in shots of the original House of the Dead for no reason whatsoever. Oh, and you know your movie is going to suck if it features alterna-rocker Bif Naked. This movie is just a disaster from beginning to end, and not in the so-bad-it's-good sort of way. Avoid House of the Dead at all cost!
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
[ Release: 2003 - Studio: Paramount Pictures ]
Tomb Raider 2 isn't as good as the original, but as a fun little action film the movie manages to deliver. Again we get a solid cast of actors and a story so ludicrously stupid that only a woman with a pair of double-Ds can make any sense of it. Again we get fun action sequences with silly one-liners. It's Tomb Raider, that's for sure. But maybe that's the problem. This sequel, while technically fantastic, just feels like more of the same. It has great visuals, solid acting and amazing special effects, but it doesn't have the heart of the original. Worst of all, it just feels like it's going through the steps. However, as much of a retread as it feels, the action is solid and most people that enjoyed the original will like this one as well. It's a tough call for me, but I say Tomb Raider sequel just doesn't deliver it enough to be a wholehearted recommendation.
I'm certainly not a fan of the original Resident Evil, but I'll give it credit for being an original take on the zombie movie formula. Resident Evil: Apocalypse is essentially a carbon copy of the first movie, only with bad cinematography and an even messier script. It almost doesn't even matter what the movie is about, because at the end of the day all you're going to remember are zombies rushing at people and Milla Jovovich doing acrobatic stunts. Unfortunately sprinkled between the stunts and the zombies are run-on conversations that are pointless and dull. Worse yet, things in the movie seem to happen at the convenience of the story, so nothing ever feels natural. Throw in a ludicrous twist or two, terrible directions and a plot that doesn't hold up to scrutiny and you have a terrible video game movie. The Resident Evil franchise should have never made it this far.
Alone in the Dark
[ Release: 2005 - Studio: Lions Gate Entertainment ]
Alone in the Dark is everything bad about horror movies. It goes for cheap scares, cliche plot twists and acting that even Roger Corman would have passed. In other words, it's another Uwe Boll special. But Alone in the Dark is especially bad, it's an unconvincing waste of time that should never have been made. You know you're in for a treat when you realize that it stars Christian Slater, Tara Reid and Stephen Dorff. When was the last time you saw something good with any one of those three actors? I'm serious. Christian Slater hasn't been in anything of quality since 1998's Very Bad Things, while Tara Reid pretty much peaked at American Pie. Oh, and Stephen Dorff? Has that guy ever been in a good movie? Well, this group of misfits comes together to create what may be the worst horror film of the last fifty years. It's bad enough that these three couldn't act their way out of a cardboard box, but they are completely wrong for the roles. Tara Reid plays an archaeologist and museum curator. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about Alone in the Dark nothing will.
Doom is more than just a ludicrous first-person shooter scene. It's a poorly assembled Aliens-wannabe with an asinine plot twist, hammy overacting and no real scares. If you've seen either of the first two Alien films then you know every plot point coming in this corny B-movie, yet every time you predict an outcome correctly a little part of you dies inside. I couldn't believe how hopelessly predictable the whole film is, it's so bad that I found it distracting from an otherwise terrible movie. After everybody has died and it comes down to just a couple people the movie goes from bad to worse. I guess because it's based on one of the earliest first-person shooters that the movie should go into a first-person perspective. And that's what happens for a good ten minutes; you watch everything happen from the soldier's point of view. It's annoying, it's hard to look at and it's wholly unnecessary. Then again, if it wasn't for that lame first-person mode I wouldn't even remember watching this turkey.