We can all agree that there hasn't been a single film adaptation of a video game that can be labeled a masterpiece, but if we set aside our minds and watch the film as entertainment, there are a few films that are fun to watch (even if they don't portray the video game's story properly). Keeping this in mind, let's review the five most entertaining video game adaptations -- and yes, they are sorted by entertainment value:
1. Max Payne
You might find it ironic that the movie ranked number one on this list is the one that many fans have considered the farthest from the source material, both in quality and content, but if you put this aside, it's certainly the most entertaining film on this list.
The plot is fairly typical and does borrow some aspects of the source material, including the big twists and key events, the only real difference being the effects of the drug focused on in the film (such as seeing mythological Norse beings). Granted, this major change was pretty drastic and affected a lot of other key aspects in the film, but I repeat, we are talking entertainment value.
As just another action film, it's an incredibly stylish, well-directed and very fast-paced thrill ride that rarely takes its foot off the pedal. Director John Moore shows great talent in setting up some incredible shots to add both drama to the scenes that require it and an intense feel to the action scenes.
The visual effects are also great for a film with a reported budget of $35 million, setting the New York skyline on fire in an explosive and vibrant fashion as the Norse Valkyries fly around the skyline circling the city.
The performances themselves are also great, with Mark Wahlberg doing a great job of encompassing the grittier, more depressed side of Payne. While it would've been nice to see more of his smart-ass humor from the source material, Wahlberg still showed strength in his drama and his internal pain.
The Hitman film franchise has been an unfortunate one, because both films were successes at the box office (the first earned $99.9 million against a $24 million budget, with the reboot earning $81.9 million against a $35 million budget) but neither seems to have done enough for 20th Century Fox to greenlight another sequel, but rather reboot each time.
But, for now, let's focus on the first attempt to depict the legendary Agent 47 on screen, 2007's Hitman. Starring Timothy Olyphant as the titular character, we see Agent 47 get ensnared in a political conspiracy and pitted against the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation), Interpol and his own Agency as a result.
Now, the plot is fairly typical and formulaic, but it does follow many aspects of the video game well, including the tattoo on the back of the head, the Agency themselves having a major role and Diana playing a key part in many scenes in the film.
The action and direction more than help make up for the formulaic aspects of the plot. The fight scenes are very stylish and well-choreographed, the chase scenes are well-shot and well-edited, and the special effects are very solid.
The performances themselves don't really affect the film's entertainment value, for the most part; the two exceptions are Olyphant and Robert Knepper. Olyphant brings both the proper look and quiet charisma to the title character, and still has the right amount of intensity and grit in his lines. Knepper, while more of a laughable character than a serious one, still brings a little bit of entertainment to the table.
3. Resident Evil
As a franchise based around the games, this would certainly be at the top of the list. But as a franchise alone, the number three spot is the perfect place for it. The Resident Evil film franchise has been a long, and almost never-ending one that has lasted for six films, the sixth being the final chapter in the saga of Alice, the zombie-fighting protagonist.
The film focused on Alice, two survivors and a group of commandos as they traveled to the menacing Umbrella Corporation's Hive facility underground to investigate a lockdown in which all of the employees inside supposedly died. However, it turns out the lockdown was caused by the release of a virus that turned the employees into brain-dead zombies, and the group's objective changes from investigating the disruption to ensuring the virus doesn't spread to the surface.
The plot acts as a sort-of prequel to the video-game franchise itself, telling the story of how the T-virus was initially released and how it made it to the surface, which led to the destruction of Raccoon City. While there were a few plot holes and a lot of formula (plot, not chemical), it still left the film wide-open for a sequel in the right ways.
The plot, however, is not what places the film so high on this list, but rather the action and effects. For a film made and released in 2002, the effects are really quite vibrant and solid, creating some disturbing and intense antagonists in addition to the traditional semi-slow moving undead. The direction from Paul W.S. Anderson and cinematographer David Johnson set up some incredibly stylish and thrilling moments in the film, especially a particular sequence of commandos versus lasers.
The performances themselves are fairly mediocre, with Michelle Rodriguez really trying to hard to come across as the female badass of the group, while Milla Jovovich can't seem to decide on whether to be a victim or a fighter. Now granted, Jovovich's character Alice is an amnesiac who doesn't know about her fighting talents, but even as she discovers these skills along the way, she still acts like a victim, leading to a confused performance.
The "Doom" video-game franchise is not one that I have personally played, and therefore, I cannot give an accurate opinion on how faithful the film is to the original games. But, being a fan of bad action movies, I can say without a doubt that Doom earned its number four spot on this list.
The plot followed a group of commandos who travel to an archaeological dig on a search-and-rescue mission after the facility is attacked by an unknown virus causing the scientists to mutate (*cough, cough* Resident Evil in space *ahem).
But aside from the obvious plot ripoff, the film is actually a lot of fun to watch, and successfully captures the B-movie feel it was going for (at least, I hope it was going for). Thanks to a handful of cheesy one-liners and choppy editing, we get the sense that the movie isn't trying to be an Oscar-worthy action flick, but rather a fun, suspenseful film to watch with a bucket of popcorn.
The action and visual effects are great, delivering some awesome sequences that are well-edited and well-shot, including an excellent first-person action sequence that gives us the feel as though we're back behind the controls of the game (even if the guy won't do what we're trying to control him to do).
The performances are both great and terrible at the same time, as the actors do their best to work with the terrible screenplay they've been given, and actually make some of it work. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson brings a lot of B-movie strength to his role very much, in the vein of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, and Karl Urban shines in his role as the lead protagonist (though we don't even realize he's the lead until the final half-hour of the film).
5. Silent Hill
Now the Silent Hill video-game franchise has been considered to be one of the most successful horror franchises of all time, thanks to its disturbing and bizarre visuals and antagonists, as well as its terrifying atmosphere and psychological-horror elements versus survival horror. When the film came out in 2006, many critics and fans alike, according to Rotten Tomatoes, found the film to have a "muddled plot and overlong runtime," with some citing its plot as being too wandering and distracting from its great visual effects and set designs.
My feelings are pretty mutual, as the plot can be a little too confusing with the progression of events and the main antagonist of the film becomes unclear. The only thing that remains clear is Rose Da Silva's mission to find her missing adopted daughter, Sharon, in the twisted and haunted town of Silent Hill.
But what saves the confusing plot are the film's incredible visual effects and style that help to create the town's creepy and menacing atmosphere and some of its more terrifying villains. From the moment Rose and Sharon arrive on the outskirts of town to the final, bloody conclusion, our pulses race and our nightmares come to life thanks to the stunning direction from Christophe Gans and cinematographer Dan Laustsen.
The performances also help to encompass the horror that is Silent Hill, as well as the fear of never escaping the town and its evil manifestations. The best performances came from lead Radha Mitchell, playing the desperate mother searching for her child (even if her daughter is adopted) and Deborah Kara Unger, who perfectly portrays the creepy woman warning everyone of the dangers to come (and is therefore disbelieved and labeled as a crazy woman).