The Master Emerald

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 gave fans exactly what they wanted. The first movie was fast paced fun, but it still needed to take aspects of the Sega franchise slow. Sonic and Dr. Robotnik were introduced, but not the rest of his supporting cast of animal companions. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is based on the video game of the same name. Along with parts of the third game. I’m still not a hardcore fan, but I did get excited seeing Tails in the mid-credits scene for Sonic the Hedgehog. In the second game, Miles “Tails” Prower is a genius two-tailed fox who can fly and teams up with Sonic. Ben Schwartz was a suitable celebrity voice for Sonic, but voice actress Colleen O’Shaughnessey reprises her role from the games and shows. It’s a little distracting, but I’m sure Tails was a late edition to the first movie. Making me wonder if there was ever an ugly version of Tails. Another promising fan favorite was Knuckles the Echidna.

Knuckles is an honor bound warrior with super strong spiked fists. The only previous reference to him were the Echidna tribe that took out Sonic’s owl mentor Longclaw. Although several tough celebrities would’ve fit, Idris Elba was a perfect choice. Knuckles is a major scene stealer thanks to his self-serious misunderstanding of Earth customs. Despite his dislike of sequels, Jim Carrey returns as a more video game accurate Dr. Robotnik. Sonic still calls him Eggman, but it’s mostly his long bushy mustache and bald head that’s accurate. Hopefully a fat suit comes later if Carrey doesn’t retire from acting. Robotnik leaves the mushroom planet with Knuckles’ help and they form an alliance that will obviously end in betrayal. Sonic tries to be a superhero, but he’s too reckless. The rest of the original human cast returns even though it feels like a completely different movie. After some fatherly advice, James Marsden’s Tom and Tika Sumpter’s Maddie head to Hawaii for her sister’s wedding. Maddie’s sister Rachel was funny before, but it feels like too much attention is given to her and her fiancée Randall.

Later it turns out he’s part of the video game accurate military organization G.U.N. Which is headed by the weird Olive Garden commander from the first movie. Robotnik’s creepily obsessive assistant Agent Stone and Green Hills deputy Wade are also give more attention. Yet Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still heavily steeped in video game mythology. Turns out Tails tracked Sonic to Earth in order to help him in his fight against Robotnik and Knuckles. They’re all searching for the wish granting Master Emerald formed from the 7 Chaos Emeralds. On their way, Sonic and Tails bond in a dance battle and Knuckles joins them when betrayed. The action is just as energizing, but it’s still so surreal to see a live-action Robotnik mech fighting the Sonic trio on the big screen. Just as surprising is seeing Sonic go Super Saiyan Sonic. After eating a chilli dog, Sonic gives up that power, but gains allies in the process. Like before, hardcore fans will appreciate the mid-credits scene introducing Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may be a not so fast 2 hours long, but it blurs the line between video game and movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic teams up with Tails and Knuckles

Preceded by: Sonic the Hedgehog

Gotta Go Fast!

Sonic the Hedgehog cracked the video game movie code. Sega has always been in competition with Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog was created in Japan to be the Super Mario Bros. of their video game company. Sonic became just as iconic with his superspeed and cool demeanor. I’ve played the side-scrolling original, but my brother is the one who played more games and watched all the animated shows. Sonic became so popular that a live-action movie couldn’t come fast enough. The 90’s would’ve been too soon, but the movie didn’t become a reality until 2020. Though I wouldn’t call myself a superfan, even I knew how awful the original design looked. The initial trailer featured a truly ugly Sonic with freaky humanoid legs, small eyes, white hands, and awkward proportions. Rather than ignore the immense fan criticism, Paramount actually delayed the movie just to re-animated the lead character. It’s a good thing Valentine’s Day 2020 was pre-Pandemic, because the change made Sonic the Hedgehog the best video game movie made at the time.

It’s a low bar, but I wasn’t really a fan of Detective Pikachu. The key was actually treating the lore with respect. Even memes are acknowledged. Sonic is high energy and fun-loving thanks to Ben Schwartz. Although he never had an owl mentor named Longclaw in the games, incorporating the golden rings into the story was a clever idea. Sonic uses the rings to portal to various locations. Most of his time is spent alone in Green Hills, Montana. Normally I hate the fish out of water angle in movies like this, but this was a rare time where I actually liked the original human characters. James Marsden is bizarrely typecast as a CGI animal’s human sidekick. Tom Wachowski is a small town sheriff who dreams of bigger and better things in Los Angeles. Tom is married to veterinarian Maddie played by Tika Sumpter. Most of her time is spent with her disapproving sister Rachel and niece Jojo. Sonic longs for friendship, but he inadvertently draws attention by causing an EMP. So the U.S. Government calls in his longtime archenemy Dr. Robotnik.

Jim Carrey seemed miscast, because Eggman is literally egg shaped with a bald head and long bushy mustache. Yet somehow Robotnik ended up being Carrey’s funniest role in a long time. He’s having a blast pressing buttons and dancing to “Where Evil Grows.” He plays off his lowly coffee brewing assistant Agent Stone well, but I think there’s too much of a rivalry between him and Tom. When Sonic loses his rings, the superfast hedgehog takes a slow-moving road trip with Tom to recover them. Along the way recreating the Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past at a diner and quickly dispatching of Robotnik’s drones on the road. Callbacks include Sonic eating a chilli dog, getting his signature red shoes, and calling Robotnik Eggman because of his egg shaped drones. The climax is a fast paced race between Sonic and Robotnik using his quill to increase his speed. In the end, the power of friendship wins the day. After an out of nowhere Olive Garden tie-in and a pixelated credits sequence, Robotnik is revealed on a mushroom planet with his video game accurate design. Followed by a fan pleasing appearance of Tails (more on him later). Sonic the Hedgehog learned from it’s mistakes before even being released.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic goes fast

Followed by: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Diving Without a Parachute

Uncharted is a video game adaptation several years in the making. Sony wanted to make a movie based on the Naughty Dog title ever since the first game was released. It makes sense since Uncharted has always felt very cinematic. The action/adventure franchise is a PlayStation exclusive popular for its classic treasure hunting premise. Most people would think Lara Croft is the quintessential video game explorer, but Nathan Drake is pretty cool too. My brother made sure we played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune before the movie came out. Uncharted had a decade long development cycle that went through a revolving door of directors, writers, and stars.

Directing duties eventually went to Ruben Fleischer, but Nathan Drake was a different story. Although Nathan Fillion was born to play Drake, Sony went with their golden boy instead. Tom Holland is way too young for the part and calling the movie a prequel doesn’t make things better. Mark Wahlberg was another choice to play Drake, but he was instead cast as himself playing Drake’s ill-fated mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Sully doesn’t even get his trademark mustache or cigar until the very end. Another important part of the game left out is Nathan’s main love interest Elena Fisher.

She’s instead replaced by later love interest Chloe Frazer played by Sophia Ali. Nathan Drake searches for the Magellan expedition treasure that his brother Sam was looking for. Sully and Chloe betray Nathan at every turn, but he manages to find the gold by the end. Antonio Banderas and Tati Gabrielle play villainous treasure hunters who also end up betraying each other. Despite a bizarre lack of gun use, fight scenes are pretty good. The central action scene are the perilous airplane crates that appear in the third game. Uncharted is as cliché as any other treasure hunt, but it is entertaining.

Uncharted

Nathan Drake holds on to crates

Flawless Victory

Mortal Kombat (2021) got over a 2 decade absence from the big screen. While the 1995 Mortal Kombat was campy fun, the 1997 Annihilation was one of the worst movies ever made. The video game franchise remained incredibly popular when the reboot was stuck in development hell. When the 2021 movie was finally announced, my brother and I made sure to play Mortal Kombat (2011). Although it was simultaneously streamed on HBO Max, we saw it in theaters among like-minded fans. I’m not a diehard fan, but I do have more expectations. Since every game’s fatalities got progressively more violent, it was nice to know the movie would actually be R rated. It also meant a lower budget which is obvious when the movie doesn’t even include the titular tournament. Earthrealm or Outworld rarely feel grand despite the literal gods and monsters on display.

Costumes are grittier, but a little too detailed for my liking. Specifically the armoured look given to Scorpion and Sub-Zero. The movie begins with their bitter rivalry centuries in the past. Despite having the iconic catchphrase “Get over here!,” Scorpion and Sub-Zero speak Chinese and Japanese respectively. Mortal Kombat (2021) includes many important characters, but makes the idiotic decision to omit characters for the sake of being PC. Fan favorite Hollywood actor Johnny Cage is left out to leave room for Lewis Tan as original Asian American character Cole Young. There are literally dozens of characters on their roster yet they chose to make something up. I absolutely hate anything having to do with the character. Kitana is also left out, but Sonya Blade fills the void. She has a kind of pointless arc where she has to prove herself as a champion. Despite their attempt to keep the story Asian focused, Australian mercenary Kano is still the biggest scene stealer.

Former Jimmy Olsen Mehcad Brooks got jacked to play Jax and Raiden actor Tadanobu Asano already had experience with a thunder god. They could’ve once again made Liu Kang the star, but he spends more time training the others with Kung Lao’s help. Shang Tsu isn’t the imposing force he should be, but he gets the job done. His motley crew of enemy opponents consists of Mileena, Nitara, Reiko, Kabal, and Goro. The latter is obviously CGI, but the four-armed monster loses his menace when he has to fight Cole in a barn. The climax captures the spirit of the game, but there’s too much emphasis on Arcana. Scorpion and Sub-Zero have their final dual, but Scorpion’s revenge was done a lot better in the much more faithful hyper violent animated movie of the same name. The movie finishes with serious sequel baiting for an uncast Johnny Cage. Mortal Kombat (2021) is far from a “FATALITY,” but it’s barely a “FLAWLESS VICTORY” either.

Mortal Kombat

Liu Kang and Kung Lao ready to fight

Reboot of: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Falling Off the Roof

Assassin’s Creed assassinated any hope that an adaptation could break the video game movie curse. No matter how promising it seemed. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, but I know how iconic it is. The movie had a very long production with Michael Fassbender always intended to star. Although the games usually followed a different assassin, I’m sure creating original characters was their attempt to keep fans from turning on them. Fans are probably the only people who will understand it since the convoluted plot is barely explained to casual audiences.

Cal Lynch is a modern day death row inmate abducted by the shadowy Abstergo Foundation. His body is hooked up to an advanced Animus rig that uses his DNA to unlock memories from his ancestors. Cal’s ancestor Aguilar de Nerha is part of the Assassin Brotherhood who fight the Templar Order during the 1492 Spanish Inquisition. It’s probably a lot more fun to play then to watch. Since all of his memories play out without him affecting them.

All the wrist bladed fights, rooftop jumping, and leap of faith aren’t as exciting as they should be. It doesn’t help that the signature white Assassin cloaks are a painfully dull grey. Not even a respectable cast consisting of Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, or Brendan Gleeson can save it. The horribly cliché plot centers around the Apple of Eden that can affect free will. I honestly forgot most of the movie because it was so boring. Assassin’s Creed has such a unique premise that’s ultimately wasted on yet another video game failure.

Assassin's Creed

Aguilar de Nerha’s leap of faith

Prince Dastan and the Quest for the Time Dagger

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was Disney’s first attempt at trying to recapture the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Both are rated PG-13 with swashbuckling action/adventure. Disney also enlisted Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell and even made dated LEGO sets for the movie. The difference is Prince of Persia being based on a video game. Something I wasn’t aware of when I decided to go see the movie by myself. The 2003 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. I never played or even heard of it beforehand, so I judged the movie without expectations.

Prince of Persia is actually one of the more entertaining video game adaptations, but just as flawed as the rest. The unnamed Prince is given the name Dastan and Jake Gyllenhaal was chosen to play him. Gyllenhaal is more than capable of doing a big budget action role, but the Prince is basically Aladdin if he were Persian. Gemma Arterton and Toby Kebbell have the same problem as Dastan’s love interest and brother respectively. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are the only actors who fit as the obvious twist villain and untrustworthy mentor figure respectively. They do manage to capture the action of the game with a heavy emphasis on jumps and parkour. The adventure kicks off when Dastan retrieves a magic dagger from an enemy kingdom.

Like the game, the dagger contains the “Sands of Time” which allow the user to travel back in time for one minute. A useful power that isn’t used as often as it should be. Prince Dastan goes on the run with the shrewish Princess Tamia in order to stop a plot to take over the Persian kingdom. Along the way fighting snake henchmen, spike throwing assassins, and his own uncle with a very cliché motivation. Like most time travel movies, the solution to undo everything kills a lot of character development. Regardless of quality, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has more effort put into it than most movies based on video games.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time

Prince Dastan evades enemies

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: Tomb 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