Her Legend Begins

Tomb Raider is the gritty reboot everyone assumed would be great simply because it was the opposite of the fun Angelina Jolie movies. Coming as no shock to me, it wasn’t. The video game movie curse won’t be broken that easily. Lara Croft is a character I’ve always liked because she had brains, brawn, and beauty. So I haven’t been a big fan of the grounded take the character’s had in her more recent games. Ditching her iconic outfit just makes it feel less unique. Tomb Raider is also an origin story. So some of her other trademarks are either absent or briefly teased with no payoff. Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft’s life as a working class citizen (since she can only be likable if she’s not rich). When she returns to her estate, she discovers her father may have discovered a tomb that holds world destroying power. Instead of having mythical creatures, the movie brings things to almost generic levels of realism. The action isn’t too bad, but Lara gets thrown around so much that the realism wears off. Not to mention the tomb being as cliché as possible. Ironically Alicia Vikander was also an Oscar winner beforehand. The main difference being that she’s actually British. Despite her best effort, I can’t help but find her miscast. If not for a Lara Croft mobile game I got addicted to, I wouldn’t have seen Tomb Raider in theaters.

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Lara Croft takes aim

Reboot of: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The Search for Pandora’s Box

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life is the second video game movie sequel released. Since the first movie was a financial success, Angelina Jolie claimed that this was the one she really wanted to do. While I saw Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at least twice, the sequel was a different story. I only saw The Cradle of Life once back-to-back with the first movie. I didn’t find it nearly as memorable. I have a hard time remembering what it was even about. Not that it’s a weaker sequel. It’s just as convoluted as before, but the action was a bit less cheesy. The Cradle of Life centers around Lara Croft’s retrieval of Pandora’s Box. Along with the help of Gerard Butler. It takes her on a more global adventure to exotic locations where the action comes out more in exciting stunts. Like motorcycle chases or deep sea diving. With the occasional monster thrown in. Although unlike the one scene in the first movie with her iconic outfit, Lara doesn’t wear it in the second. Not that she doesn’t still have her fair share of sexualized moments. It didn’t last though. Since The Cradle of Life was the last we saw of Angelina Jolie’s memorable portrayal of the heroine.

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Lara Croft dives

Preceded by: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Raiders of the Lost Tomb

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brought the iconic PlayStation heroine to life for the first time. Everyone in the video game community and beyond recognizes Lara Croft. Her first game appearance in 1996’s Tomb Raider was an instant success. Her trademark braided hair, light blue tank top, brown short shorts, and curvaceous figure made her video game’s first sex symbol. So casting Angelina Jolie in the role was a stroke of genius. Which they took full advantage of by giving her a steamy shower scene. Lara Croft is a wealthy British heiress/archaeologist proficient in combat including duel gun usage. Lara Croft: Tom Raider sees her face off against the Illuminati in an attempt to recover an artifact that controls time. Since this is an early 2000’s video game adaptation, it’s of course full of cheesy effects, improbable action, and iffy performances. Not Angelina Jolie though. Her charm and sex appeal are perfectly suited for the character. Although her British accent is just ok, while Daniel Craig’s American accent is terrible. The movie also united Jolie with her real life estranged father Jon Voight. Unlike most video game movies, I felt like they knew not to take it too seriously. She fights robots and living statues, while also bungee fighting. It’s supposed to be dumb fun. So with the exception of its overly convoluted plot, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brings down the tomb.

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Lara Croft locks and loads

Followed by: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life

Finish Him

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation just might be the most ambitious live-action video game adaptation made at the time. It’s also one of the worst films ever made. Sporting a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. When will they learn that movies based on games about nothing but fighting simply do not work? Taking place mere seconds after Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation now follows the plot of Shao Kahn to take over the world using Kitana’s mother or something to that effect. Who cares when it’s clear constant mindless unprovoked combat is all they care about. This time using just about every single playable character from all three Mortal Kombat games. Even dead characters like Scorpion and Sub-Zero return. I’d name the rest, but that would take up a whole paragraph. It’s also worth mentioning that even though this came out 2 years after the first movie that clearly set up a sequel, only 2 actors reprise their role (Liu Kang and Kitana). Everyone else is recast. If you thought the effects were bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Every creature looks like a poorly rendered video game effect (ironic isn’t it). While the writing and acting have somehow gotten worse. Watch the opening exchange between Kitana and her mother and you’ll get the idea. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation sets the bar even lower than it already was.

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“Too bad you will die”

Preceded by: Mortal Kombat

Fatality

Mortal Kombat arguably wins the battle for greatest fighting game of all time. Due to its extreme bloody violence, fantasy/horror based characters, and catchphrases. Including “FATALITY,” “FINISH HIM!!,” “FLAWLESS VICTORY,” and Scorpion’s famous catchphrase “get over here!” They all helped Mortal Kombat become a hugely successful video game franchise. However, they’re not without their controversy. Since it was one of the earliest games to depict M rated bloody kills. Which has just gotten worse since the games have evolved. So why on Earthrealm is the movie PG-13?! Mortal Kombat actually came out within a year of Street Fighter. Making it the fourth live-action video game adaptation overall. Mortal Kombat also suffers from bad writing, a cheesy approach to the story, and over-the-top performances. But it actually does have some mildly redeeming qualities. The story of several unique fighters being taken to a tournament and engaging in Mortal Kombat is true to the game. While the presence of every playable character is also fun to see. One-eyed merc Kano, thunder god Raiden, Shaolin warrior Liu Kang, movie star Johnny Cage, flaming skull Scorpion, freezing Sub-Zero, special forces Sonya Blade, four-armed Goro, villainous Shang Tsu, and sequel character Princess Kitana. Even if their fights are mostly meaningless without an R rating. Really the only thing genuinely good about the movie Mortal Kombat is that awesome theme song. “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!

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Sub-Zero vs. Liu Kang

Followed by: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

It’s So Bad

The Wizard, much like the Power Glove, is so bad. By far the most high selling Black Friday present for any kid from the 80’s to the present are video games. Which is what The Wizard turns out to be when you strip away all the story and characters. A glorified commercial for video games. Nintendo to be specific (as well as Universal Studios near the end). So releasing the movie close to Christmas was a clever marketing ploy on their part. The Wizard of course stars late 80’s early 90’s “it kid” Fred Savage. He’s part of a trio of kids that includes himself, a girl that reluctantly helps out, and his unresponsive young half brother, all heading to California. They discover the kid, Jimmy, is a wizard at playing video games. So they enter him in a gaming competition to prove it. The Wizard is every bit as cheesy as it sounds. Although I was surprised by how long it took to get to the games. The most infamous moment of product placement involves the Power Glove. A product launched the same year as the movie. That became a colossal failure, but birthed many memes in the process. It’s most successful product placement though was for Super Mario Bros. 3. An unreleased game that kids were seeing for the first time. The Wizard may be a product of its time, but there’s no denying that they knew what they were doing.

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“I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad”

P.S. It’s much more fun to play games then it is to watch people play games.

Yatta

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is the exact opposite of the first Street Fighter. In the way that it’s not even trying to honor its source material. Everything in the movie resembles a bad martial arts movie with the most generic revenge story you can think of. Now all the focus is on Chun-Li. Who only wears her blue outfit and two sided bun once in the entire movie! Most of the time she just looks like Kristin Kreuk using kung-fu. Chun-Li is also known for her strong leg based attacks and Kristin Kreuk’s legs are way too skinny. I loved her on Smallville, but she’s very miscast in this. Speaking of miscast characters, Neal McDonough is M. Bison in name only. I don’t even know what they were thinking with him. Michael Clarke Duncan is a more physically imposing Balrog, but without the boxing gloves you couldn’t tell its him. Charlie Nash and Crimson Viper suck as well. Without the names and concepts that tie it to the video game, you could honestly be watching any random action movie. Making Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li one of the weakest attempts at a video game movie ever.

Chun-Li

Chun-Li (left) dances with Cantana (right)

For Me, it was Tuesday

Street Fighter is Capcom’s flagship video game franchise. Due to its fast-paced fighting aesthetic and international characters. It also happens to be the third live action video game movie released. Although unlike what came before, Street Fighter doesn’t leave a single character out. Seriously, every single playable character plays a part in the movie. Guile, the All-American war hero. So of course he’s played by Belgium martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme. M. Bison, the villainous dictator. Played by Raul Julia in what is sadly his final performance. Though he’s actually the best thing about the entire movie. Chun-Li, the Chinese fighter with a personal connection to Bison. Played by Ming-Na Wen in one of her more well known roles. There’s also Ken and Ryu (resorted to a supporting character). Cammy, Dhalsim, Zangief, Balrog, Blanka, Dee Jay, T. Hawk, Vega, E. Honda, and Sagat. All with some kind of subplot in the movie. Like most video game movies, Street Fighter suffers from a ridiculous tone and an overstuffed plot. A plot that’s just your average world domination storyline. With almost no street fighting for a movie called Street Fighter. But that didn’t stop it from gaining cult status due to those problems. Making Street Fighter a nonsensical button masher. “Of course!”

The Street Fighters strike a pose

Total Destruction

Rampage is the movie everyone thought would break the video game curse. Against all odds… it wasn’t. Although it is the best reviewed movie based on a video game. 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, which still isn’t saying much. It seems like big special effects and a big star like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson aren’t enough sometimes. I didn’t see Rampage on the big screen. Though I probably should have since its city destroying is the only thing to look forward to in the movie. I actually went to see Truth or Dare, while my brother went to see Rampage. The only time we ever saw 2 different movies simultaneously, but it seems neither of us got to see anything great. Rampage is based on a series of old video games I’ve never heard of or played. Where the objective is to simply destroy buildings. It featured a trio of giant animals; George the gorilla, Ralph the wolf, and Lizzie the lizard. Although in the movie George is changed from a brown ape to an albino ape. In order to avoid King Kong comparisons. While all of the action takes place in Chicago with Dwayne Johnson’s character trying to look after George. For me the biggest problem with the movie is how long it takes to get to the destruction. As well as wasting most of the actor’s talent on a weak script. Like my brother, you might find some enjoyment in it, but for me Rampage barely packs a punch.

George wrecks Chicago

P.S. I’d much rather see an adaptation of the 2003 PlayStation 2 game War of the Monsters.

Rumble in the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle seemed like a bad idea at the time, but somehow against all odds, it works. The only initial problem with the movie was bad timing. The announcement came about a month after Robin Williams past away. Making the sequel remake reboot whatever idea seem kind of disrespectful. People were even more skeptical when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart were announce as the leads. Needless to say, I had no idea what the movie would even end up being about. Not until the trailer was released and I was immediately sold on it. Jumanji was simply about bringing the game into the real world. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is about bringing the player into the game world. It picks up a year after the first movie when the untouched board game evolves into a video game cartridge. 20 years later, a group of Breakfast Club style teenagers find the game and start to play it. They get sucked into the game and transform into video game avatars. The Rock plays a nervous geek, Kevin Hart plays a jock, Karen Gillan plays a socially awkward misfit, and Jack Black plays a popular girl (which is hilarious). The star power, body swap humor, video game references, and jungle based action are what makes the movie work so well. Even earning the movie a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 932 million dollar box office gross. It seems like movies about video games are always better than movies based on video games. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle shouldn’t have worked, but I’m so glad it did, because it’s a complete thrill ride.

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Playing Jumanji in a video game

Followed by: Jumanji: The Next Level