If someone told my 13- year-old self that Hollywood was going to make a film out of my favorite video game I would have been perplexed. I loved Pong, but couldn’t imagine that it would make an exciting movie. Tetris maybe, but not Pong.
Times and technology certainly have changed. The prehistoric blips of light that characterized the video games I played have been replaced by games with storylines and three-dimensional characters called avatars. With improved quality came a proliferation of video game movies like this weekend’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
Video game movies get a bad rap — critic Nick Schager called House of the Dead an “astonishingly idiotic piece of entertainment”— but not all of them are, as another critic said, “as bad as getting your eyelid caught on a nail.”
The first video game movie was 1982’s TRON, about a hacker abducted into computer world. While it wasn’t directly inspired by a game storyline, the idea came when director Steve Lisberger played my beloved Pong.
“I realized that there were these techniques that would be very suitable for bringing video games and computer visuals to the screen,” he said. “And that was the moment the whole concept flashed across my mind.”
Since then dozens of games have made the leap to the big screen. Mortal Kombat (released in 1995) only scores 24 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes but this Christopher Lambert movie about three martial artists whose skills will decide the fate of the world topped the box office for three weeks, features lots of great cheesy dialogue like, “You can look into my soul, but you don’t own it,” and has some good fight scenes.
Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans and Oscar winner Roger Avary transformed the Konami Silent Hill game into an effective Grand Guignol shockfest. Avary’s script kept the game’s theme of survival while adding a story about a woman’s somnambulistic daughter who gets lost in a ghost town called Silent Hill. Gans top loads the film with so many surreal images Roger Ebert said it looks “more like an experimental art film than a horror film,” but the result is a strangely unsettling thriller.
Hardcore gamers will have already seen those adaptations, but fear not, there are some interesting sounding movies on the way. 28 Days Later scribe Alex Garland is penning Halo, and Tom ‘The Sum of All Fears’ Clancy is involved in bring Splinter Cell to the big screen.
Now if only we could pair my favourite filmmaker with my other favourite video game. Imagine: Martin Scorsese’s Tetris!