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Saturday, June 10, 2023
June 10, 2023

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Movie adaptations of video games often are good

In recent years, such film projects have gained more respect


Sunday’s buzzy premiere of “The Last of Us” on HBO inspired some thinking about other video game adaptations, which have often been maligned as unsuccessful, though in recent years they’ve gained more respect. “The Last of Us” went in the prestige TV direction, with Craig Mazin from “Chernobyl” collaborating with game creator Neil Druckmann on the gritty, grounded series starring Pedro Pascal as Joel, a man who has to transport a young girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), through a post-apocalyptic America that has been decimated by a fungal zombie pandemic.

The first movie based on a video game, 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.” starring the late Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, was a disaster both on the set and at the box office. In fact, it’s not even streaming anywhere at the moment, though an animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is hitting theaters later this year (with the voice of Chris Pratt as Mario).

Critically, most blockbuster video game movies haven’t been successful, despite the pedigree of the filmmakers behind these projects. Just last year, “Uncharted” — another property by Naughty Dog, which produced the “Last of Us” game — finally received its long-developed movie adaptation, with Tom Holland taking on the role of treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Though the reviews weren’t great, it’s a pretty fun “Indiana Jones” lite, and it’s streaming on Netflix if you’re in need of a globe-trotting romp that isn’t too taxing.

Many of the best video game movies land in the lighthearted romp territory, like the recent animated adaptations of the popular mobile game “Angry Birds,” which spawned two supremely silly feature films in 2016 and 2019, featuring the voices of the best comedians in town. Rent them both on all digital platforms. The live-action/animated hybrid movies of the classic “Sonic the Hedgehog” game have also been fun, due in large part to the irreverent attitude and a bravura performance from Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. Rent both on digital platforms, while the second is also available on Prime Video, Paramount+ and Epix.

While some game adaptations succeed by going quirky, like 2019’s “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” (rent on all platforms) and 2021’s “Werewolves Within” (streaming on Showtime), others go straightforward, attempting to create the look, feel and lore of the more mature games. Aussie auteur Justin Kurzel tackled the “Assassin’s Creed” games in 2016 with an adaptation starring Michael Fassbender, and though the critics were harsh, the film is far more visually and thematically interesting than it gets credit for. Also released in 2016 was “Warcraft,” the adaptation of the massively multiplayer online role-player game “World of Warcraft.” That film was straightforward hardcore fantasy, filled with wizards and orcs. Rent both on all digital platforms.

Of course we have to mention the classics, including the arcade game adaptation “Mortal Kombat,” which inspired the tremendous theme song by The Immortals. Both the 1995 movie and 2021 remake/reboot, featuring a wealth of martial arts talent, are available to rent on all platforms. Then, of course, there’s the multiple adaptations of the “Tomb Raider” games, with a couple starring Angelina Jolie (both are on HBO Max) and a 2018 reboot starring Alicia Vikander that isn’t half bad (rent it).