21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: On Games and Movies

Jack Clarkson

Videogames and Hollywood have never really got along all that well. The games industry keeps making awful games that cash in on blockbuster movies, and in return, Hollywood likes to make absolutely sure that any movies that even looked at a controller once are absolute flotsam! What I want to ask is why? Why can’t we play a good videogame and then watch a good movie about the same characters we’ve grown to love and care for over our spare time?
I guess we had better start with looking at how it’s gone so far!

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Starring ‘The Rock’

In the beginning, there was DOOM… Well that’s not entirely accurate, but Doom certainly kick-started the entire FPS genre. The game is often classified as Horror, but the combination of there being almost no story in the game aside from a couple of paragraphs supplied in the manual and the fact that any tension is immediately destroyed by the fact you’re soon armed with a Massive Chainsaw simply rendered the game a mindless bullet ridden gunfest! Not that that’s a bad thing. However, of all the games that could be adapted into a movie, Doom wasn’t exactly high on my list.

The story of the movie goes that archaeologists found remains of some kind of teleporter thingy that sends people to Mars. Since you’re already on a planet by virtue of a temperamental alien machine that nobody really understands, the brass decided they might as well go all out with the old horror movie cliché’s by performing illegal military experiments on people, oh well. Within the first five seconds of screen time the shit has hit the proverbial fan and a team of Space Marines led by the Rock are sent out to investigate and deal with the threat.

The Space Marines themselves are introduced in their barracks discussing what they’re going to do on leave, from that one conversation I had arranged the entire team in the order of which they were going to die (With one exception, one of them was revealed to be a self harming religious fanatic later, but I couldn’t have known that.) There was the Pervert, the Asshole Black guy, the Nice Black Guy, the Naïve rookie, the Guy-With-An-Actual-Backstory, and The Rock… I’m no military expert, but I’m pretty sure not even your mundane current day Earth Marines allow such neurotic and messed up people into the military. You would at least expect them to frown upon them talking about gang rape in everyday conversation.

Anyway, the Space Marines sweep through the facility and find nothing with the exception of a distraught scientist holding a severed hand, breathing erratically, who proceeds to even rip his own ear off in front of everyone else… In strict adherence to all the most retarded things you could do in a ‘horror’ movie, they decide to take him to the medical room and wrap him up in a blanket… In real life even if you discount the ‘Zombie Virus Protocol’, if you find someone in that state you don’t leave them on a bed to their own devices, it was a severed hand for gods sakes.

And so the extravaganza of stupidity begins! Everything from the marines splitting up, to running off to the toilets to surreptitiously betray the others in a dark and gloomy toilet cubicle… Do the marines actually employ the most stupid people that society has to offer? (well at least that part’s realistic).

And that’s not even the worst of it! While examining the remains of the aliens that used to live on mars and spouting truly awful expository dialogue, the sympathetic marine with a backstory discovers that the aliens were humans who had an extra pair of chromosomes that gave them super-powers, rather than… you know… Downs syndrome.

After that cavalcade of awfulness, things get even worse and the only surviving marines are the one with the backstory and the Rock… Who has just gone a bit insane and started killing absolutely anyone in the facility in order to contain the outbreak of infectious monsters and shot all of his remaining teammates. The good marine wakes up and we are treated to the only attempt at originality in the entire film! It’s done in first person.

In a loving homage to its gaming roots, the film has an entire scene filmed in the style of a first person shooter, with nothing but the marines’ arms on display and his gun pointing out at whatever horrible creature is around the corner… As good and quirky this idea is; it’s still not perfect. The games work with this viewpoint because the player is in control, when you watch it on a big screen as a movie, it either gives you motion sickness or looks tame and boring. In a real game the camera tends to move around really quickly, checking every corner, every hidey hole, every angle in order for the player to remain aware of their surroundings, which can get really confusing if you’re not the one holding the mouse (or control stick if you’re silly enough to play an FPS on a console.) Causing what we like to call Blair Witch syndrome. In order to avoid this, the camera moved very little, this coupled with the fact that there was only one camera angle actually destroyed any tension the scene would have had and left me glad to actually see the characters face again.

If we have leaned anything from this first movie, it is that sometimes what made the game good will not translate over to the big screen. And that the shortcomings of a game that people tolerated in the original may become painfully apparent when it is adapted to the big screen… You may notice this trend as I go on!

Street Fighter.
Directed by Steven E. de Souza
Distributed by Universal Pictures (USA) and Columbia Pictures (Everywhere else)
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme

Just as Doom was instrumental in creating the FPS genre as we know it, Street Fighter was instrumental in creating the one-on-one fighting game as we know it. The game gave you a range of varied and quirky characters and simply placed him, her or it into an arena with an opponent to beat the tar out of. It wasn’t perfect, some of the characters were wildly overpowered, some of the moves allowed certain characters to simply mash the buttons to beat their adversary and the only story the game had was a short paragraph for each character in the games manual (and nobody ever reads those! The only reason I read through mine was when I was trying to work out how to perform Ryu’s Ansatsuken move when I had dug the SNES out of the dusty corner of my room a couple of years ago!) So how on earth could they expect to create a movie based on something that doesn’t even have a proper story? By making a story as execrable as is humanly possible so nobody could possibly even think of trying to follow it should not come to mind first.

Well, after several shots of tequila to prepare I sat down and set the DVD to play… And now I know how Vietnam vets feel! You weren’t there man! You haven’t seen it.

The story tries to follow every single character, but if there was a protagonist, it would have to be Guile, played by Jean Claude Van-Damme. Yeah, the dude with the blonde Mohawk and the American flag tattooed on his shoulder is being played by the Belgian guy who isn’t even trying to hide his accent… thinking of which, where the hell is that Mohawk? Or his signature Sonic Boom special move?

These were just a number of the pointless omissions in this movie. And while I’ve always been in favour of removing extraneous elements of stories in order to further the plot, I finally realised that there was a point at which that stopped being a good thing. Namely when the omissions don’t actually help the plot or the movie in any way whatsoever!
This movie actually tried to take itself seriously! Do you honestly think you can actually have a proper action movie about an Indian guy who can stretch his arms and legs, a green man monster thing who can electrocute people and a Hawaiian sumo wrestler? (Don’t even get me started on that last one!) They tried to tone down the first two examples, but that still doesn’t help.

What resulted more resembled a hastily written fanfic written by a nine-year-old in his lunch break! The fact they cast Kylie Minogue as one of the main characters only further confirmed that fact.

This movie tried to fit absolutely everyone in. This made the movie feel cluttered and disjointed; especially when they had to change entire characters in order to shoe-horn them into the film! Dahlsim for instance, is an Indian guy who can extend his arms and legs to attack his opponents from a distance and belch fire with the power of Yoga. He is now a scientist reluctantly working for the villain of the movie. The viewer is treated to a solid minute of screen time in which he even looks like his videogame counterpart because his hair has all been burned off and he doesn’t have a shirt on… This doesn’t help the film, and simply made people like me get up and scream "What the hell! Seriously! Dude!" before unleashing a tirade of obscenity that could burst eardrums and tarnish silver, we’re a rather eloquent bunch when we are angered…

This was a movie from the early nineties school of movie adaptations, where the screenwriters treated the original source material as merely a series of mild suggestions at best, and a urinal at worst. They created their own movie, shunted approximations of the characters in and then included a few in-jokes about the source material, such as Ryu using a move that would look a little similar to his trademark Hadoken special move if you removed the impressive blue fireball… As I say, these do not make the fans of the original feel like they are appreciated, it makes them realise that whoever made this movie was simply cashing in on the games original popularity. And thankfully, that practice is frowned upon a little more nowadays.

If they had followed the game a little closer, actually made the characters resemble the hilarious caricatures they were, the movie would have been about them joining a fighting tournament with the villain M. Bison as the reigning champion, every one of the entrants has his or her reasons for joining the conflict, and the whole thing would end when several of the more sympathetic characters realise they don’t have to fight amongst themselves and team up in order to thwart the villains schemes which involve cheating their way to the top of the competition behind the scenes.
Why couldn’t they have done a movie like that?
Oh wait…

Mortal Kombat!
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Distributed by New-Line Cinema
Starring Christopher Lambert, Robin Shou, Linden Ashby and Bridgette Wilson.

Just as Street Fighter was instrumental in creating the one-on-one fighting game as we know it. Mortal Kombat expanded upon the idea by adding gore and violence to the genre. This sounds pretty much perfect for a movie adaptation, make a martial arts movie with the occasional flamboyantly gruesome death… Sounds simple right?
WRONG! The problem with gore in movies and videogames is that in videogames it looks fake, whereas movies have always strived for realism; somehow I don’t think they would allow a movie to show Johnny Cage get his arms ripped off and then get thrown into a wall of spikes… The grainy sprites from the games gave the horrific violence a comical feel, if they tried to replicate it on the silver screen it would probably end up with something resembling Saw, except if Saw was actually entertaining… okay, maybe it would have rivalled Citizen Kane and Casablanca as the worlds greatest movie, but only with an 18 certificate, and that would cut off almost everyone who enjoyed the original game. The unfortunate thing about gamers is that only twelve year olds actually find buckets of blood and the ability to rip someone’s heart out fun.

The story follows Liu Kang a Chinese martial artist, Sonya, a Special forces policewoman (or something) and Johnny Cage, an actor who does his own stunts. All three of these guys are called upon by Raiden, a god of lightning to fight in the tournament of ‘Mortal Kombat’… With the fate of the world at stake, will this band of misfits triumph over evil? Well, yeah of course they will, but you already know that.

Most of the movie follows the events of the tournament itself after a quick introduction of all the characters and how they were all manipulated by Raiden and the villain into boarding a mysterious and rickety looking sailboat to whatever alternate dimension holds the tourney… yeah… Obviously none of the protagonists ever watched those educational programs about how you shouldn’t get in a strangers van. It may not be a van they’re getting in this time, but the only real difference here is between rape… and gang rape before being thrown overboard. Maybe Sonya learned the secret art of the dentata in police training or something. Either way, they’re now in a strange land filled almost entirely by ominous looking mountains and fire… And here we’re greeted to a very familiar and welcome sight… Sub-Zero and Skorpion.

The villain shows Sub-Zero off to the characters by having him fight one of the villains minions, who spends a full thirty seconds showing how strong and powerful he is by punching and kicking the air randomly. Have any of you noticed that in any movie, the amount of time a disposable character spends showing off is inversely proportional to his life expectancy. This theory shows its true colours when the henchman decides to leap in a flying kick at Sub-Zero… who casually freezes him in mid air so he shatters on the ground in front of him. Awesomeness prevails, antagonists are portrayed, and I’ve taken a shot for another cliché.

Unlike the massive turd Street Fighter was, Mortal Kombat realised that if they just made an approximation of the games formula and simply gave the gamers exactly what they wanted, to see their favourite characters fighting each other on the big screen, they would be happy. The film itself is awful, but in a way that was still fun to watch… I don’t know if you understand exactly what I mean… But I enjoyed this movie, the acting was pretty bad, the script is wooden and trite, and the special effects really haven’t aged well… But that theme tune man, that theme tune.

Somehow when those techno chords ring out with the announcer screaming MOOOORTAL KOMBAAAAAT! You can’t help but love this film. It knows it’s based on a videogame, and is not ashamed of it. The fact the movie opens with it, and the tune comes back several times throughout the film, I found myself becoming excited, I felt like I was ten years old all over again. The gleeful anarchy just worked so well… It was a bad movie, but it wasn’t trying to be anything else, it knew what it had to do, and it decided to do it really, really well…

I can’t believe I’m actually saying nice things about a videogame movie. But it does show something about the conversion process. Compared to Street Fighter, this film looks like Citizen Kane! However, when comparing the two games, Street Fighter has always been, and always will be, ball crushingly better than Mortal Kombat. The latter simply gaining notoriety for the pixelated blood and the fatalities. When you’re twelve years old you don’t care about character balance or difficulty curves when you can send squares of red flying from your enemies with every blow, and then watch a glitchy animation of Kano tearing a slightly bigger, pulsing square of red from the enemy’s chest at the end of the bout.

It just goes to show, while what makes a game great can’t always help the movie. Interesting characters, well developed plotlines and cool plot twists aren’t always needed for a game to become popular, the likes of Tetris, the Mario franchise and Pong for example. This movie simply took what would convert over, martial arts, magic powers and cool hats, and ran with it.

So all that remains is that we all link hands and sing along… Da da da da da da Dunn dunn dunn MOOOORTAAAAAALLL KOMBAAAAAAT!

Dead Or Alive
Directed by Corey Yuen
Starring Jaime Presley, Devon Aoki and Holly Velance

I have never owned a Dead or Alive game… I take pride in that.
For those of you not familiar with your VG pop culture, the first Dead or Alive game introduced the concept of "Jiggle Physics" to the medium… And we’re not talking about the characters car keys here!
The game itself is another one-on-one brawler, just like the last two reviews. Why these games are so popular when there are so many perfectly good story based games out there I have no idea. But as beat-em-ups go, just as Street fighter achieved fame through balanced and nuanced gameplay, and Mortal Kombat through Gore and guts, Dead or Alive did it through titties.

Gameplay wise, Dead or Alive is nothing more than a button masher , but unlike Street Fighter which had a token Female character in the form of Chun-Li, The majority of Dead Or Alive’s characters are girls, and all of them have at least DD breasts, and not a single one of them even thinks of wearing a sports bra… Give me a few minutes while I resist the urge to make a joke about gamers specialising in playing the game with one hand…

Now, by no means, Dead Or Alive is not the only game to have jiggle physics. Some of my favourite games of all time, Soul Calibur 2 and Ninja Gaiden, have exactly the same. And there are many games out there that strive for realism, even anatomically. But it really says something when the newest incarnations of the game dispense with all the male characters entirely, and the genre changes from Beat-em-up to BEACH BLOODY VOLLEYBALL!!! And that the head designer, the man behind the entire concept, has faced criminal charges for sexual harassment at work. These games are insipid, they exemplify every negative stereotype gamers have, and they don’t even make up for it by being any good.
So guess how much I wanted to watch this movie?
After weeks of masterfully crafted procrastination, I finally managed to steel myself and pluck up enough courage to actually allow the DVD into my computer…

I feel a retraction is in order, I described the games as insipid, but the movie adaptation is better than that, it’s merely bad! As I watched this movie, I played a drinking game with my cheap Co-Op brand Rosé wine, every time there was a plot hole, a special effects failure, a blatant story cliché or anything just plain retarded that happened I took a shot of the stuff. I shall tally my results throughout the review.

The story goes as follows… Princess Kasumi of some Japanese ninja tribe (Who all speak English for some reason) leaves the settlement in order to find her brother, Hayate… However, in doing so she will become an outcast to her people, a Shinobi. <Scene result: Two shots, one for the ‘outcast’ plot device, another for the mistranslation of the word Shinobi (It actually means ‘High level Ninja’). I spared myself two more for the fact the idea of an entire clan of ninja is really stupid and the terrible fight scene in order to pace myself>.

We are next introduced to Christie, an ex-wrestler who fights off a band of pirates from her private yacht. And Holly Valance (I think her characters name was Tina, I had already stopped paying attention at this point.) Who fights off three members of Interpol while carefully hiding her breasts from the camera. <Two shots, one for the hilariously contrived nature of the fight scene, and another for the annoyingly bad CGI on the towel that had to magically cover her shame>.

Are you noticing a trend here? It keeps going for most of the movie. The three girls are each visited by some kind of magic Shuriken which manages to impale some random inanimate object without hitting any of the contestants. <one shot for each appearance, and anther each time for the fact I was already wishing whoever threw them would just aim for their face.

The shuriken has an invitation to the "Dead or Alive" tournament held on some millionaire’s private island… All the contestants must board a plane and then fight each other in an orderly fashion in order to win… However, in a twist nobody could ever see coming, it turns out the millionaire has been using magical technology to gain all the contestants power and skill in combat…

If you’ve noticed that the whole previous paragraph is almost exactly the same as the plot of Mortal Kombat, you would be totally right. At this point I just stopped keeping track of the shots and just started chugging from the bottle… But no amount of alcohol could wash this pain away.

Just as the original games were a rip-off of Street Fighter, this movie was a rip-off of Mortal Kombat. And just as Mortal Kombat’s movie adaptation watered down its over the top Gore, this movie managed to somehow water down it’s over the top soft-core pornography nature. And despite all its attempts to emulate it, Dead or Alive forgot one very important element, Mortal Kombat at least managed to be entertaining.

This was a movie that tried to show off the actresses assets every step of the way, every scene was an attempt to show some leg, arse, or as much cleavage as the 15 rating would allow… However, even in my adolescent, slightly-drunken-at-this-point state, I failed to find a single scene even the slightest bit libidinous throughout the entire movie. I kid you not. This movie is anti-porn. It was a celluloid cold shower! A movie that fails to achieve its goal of juvenile titillation with a scantily clad Holly Valance, Devon Aoki and Jaime Pressly in the main cast must have been doing its very, very best effort to fail. Maybe it was the terrible Wire-Fu, the unspeakably bad dialogue, or the woefully bad choreography in the fight scenes that did it. Whatever it was, it failed… miserably… at everything it tried to do, the fight scenes failed to excite, the ladies failed to excite, the story failed to excite… I guess that means they’re being true to the source material at least.

This film was pornography without the nudity, and an action movie without the action. It wasn’t unspeakably, bad in a way that you can poke fun at, like Street Fighter. It was simply a steaming pile of mediocrity that failed to excel in any way possible. Not good enough to enjoy, not bad enough to laugh at. If the girls had simply got their kit off every now and again I might have tolerated it, as it was, I hope the games follow this turd into the fiery pit of anonymity.

Resident Evil
Directed by Paul Anderson
Starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius and James Purefoy

Finally. A game that isn’t a beat-em-up! Finally, a game that actually had a coherent story, one that only followed two characters. This means the movie’s going to be good right?
The original game kick-started the "Survival Horror" genre, and pioneered the now obsolete use of pre-rendered scenery in order to create more detailed graphics and sound than had ever been done before. This created one of the most tense and dramatic games for its time. If you had read the footnote right there, you would have seen that the technology at the time had its limitations. Resident Evil took the gaming community be storm by taking those limitations and using them to its advantage. The pre-rendered backgrounds meant you couldn’t change your view, so if you couldn’t see round a corner, you had no choice but to edge up to it slowly and hope nothing was hiding round there… This coupled with the lack of analogue control sticks meant that controlling your character felt a lot like driving a cheap RC car. Up made them creep forward, down made them move backward, left or right made them ever… so… slowly… turn round. If a zombie jumped out at you from the side you had to either slowly turn away from them to run away, or slowly turn towards them so you could use the five or six bullets you were given to fight them off.

Needless to say, I’m not sure it would have made the movie any better either. The movie starts with a load of exposition about your typical evil corporation who, for some reason, have a massive underground lab for biological weapons… As per horror protocol, one of the fancy test tubes gets broken by a shady character who will be revealed in a ‘shocking’ twist later (Here’s a hint, it’s always the love interest). In response to this, the A.I. system that controls the place starts killing everyone in a bid to contain the virus. Now bear with me, this may seem pedantic, but if your corporation deals with things like the T-virus, which turns people into shambling corpses animated by nothing but the desire to eat the flesh of the living, then maybe you would do well to invest in plastic test tubes instead of glass ones that tend to shatter so dramatically… Or in the very least NOT HAVE THE LABORATORY WITH THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS IN IT BE CONNECTED TO THE SAME AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM AS THE OFFICES. Who have they been hiring for God’s sake?

You will probably also have noticed that this film has almost nothing to do with the original game apart from references to Umbrella Corp, Racoon city and the Zombies. Which I will admit is no bad thing. Having to spend five minutes watching the main character run around trying to find the piece of the statue to open the door to the next room would probably make your eyes bleed.

Anyway, we soon meet the protagonist of the film, who apparently was an employee of Umbrella Corp who has lost her memory; she accompanies a SWAT team down into the evil laboratories in order to shut the evil computer down. This all goes to shit when almost all of the SWAT members are killed by what I can only describe as a "Magic laser hallway of doom." You know the drill, lock your prey inside a hallway, and have lasers run down it… Every government facility has one right?

Anyway, they manage to reboot the evil computer, and manage to shut down all the machines that held all manner of horrible creatures (Maybe they were being run off of the same extension chord or something…) Either way, it’s not long before they meet their first zombie. Why oh why can’t we have a movie where the characters have actually played one of these games? The method is simple, if they are acting weird, you stay away from them, if they don’t answer in any human way, shoot them once in the head. It’s not hard! And for Christ’s sakes why is it that if someone says "one step closer and I’ll shoot" they always mean "Here’s your chance to get within biting distance of me before I even think about doing anything!" God I hate horror movie characters.

So now, all because of their own stupidity, they have to fight their way out. And after many more encounters with zombies and bad special effects. They escape and are greeted by a government cover up and sequel hook. Oh, and you get a glimpse of Milla Jovovich’s Vagoo for good measure…

Maybe it’s because I’ve played so many games where I have calmly and methodically mown my way through thousands of shambling corpses… From Timesplitters to Half-Life. But this always annoys me in every movie I’ve seen. And the fact that this is a movie made to attract people who have played these videogames just makes this unacceptable. If you see someone acting in a feral manner, you shoot them in the head. How many times do I have to say it. If it turns out they didn’t have the living dead lurgy, then they had to have something to make them want to bite people didn’t they?

There is no way to take this kind of movie seriously, after Shaun of the dead was released, zombie hordes seemed to lose their seriousness. Even the Resident Evil franchise itself decided to dispense with them entirely when they reached number 4.

Tomb Raider
Directed by Simon West
Starring Angelina Jolie
The libido of the gamer is an interesting thing. Feminists quite rightly don’t like the fact that women are constantly portrayed as nothing but objects of desire, inert creatures that exist to do nothing but support a pair of tits for us boys to look at… This form of thinking is what we call "FHM syndrome". However, when you look at the likes of Lara Croft, you know what most boys are thinking about, but if you tried to oggle this girl’s tits she would probably snap you in twain.

What is it exactly with the warrior woman we geeks like so much I have no idea? Your average football watching lad will have a poster of a pin up girl in a French maids outfit, while your average geek will have a girl in a conveniently torn up spacesuit and a ray gun in her hand. Seriously, we have such an obsession with girls that could kick our ass. Samus Aran, Lara Croft, Alyx Vance, Joanna Dark, Wonder Woman. No wonder Tomb Raider became so popular!
Tomb Raider was one of the first games to attempt to sell itself through sex appeal. The graphics of the 32-bit era weren’t very good at giving our dear Lara anything other than cube shaped breasts and polygonal thighs, yet somehow the seed was planted and thousands of early teenagers were given their equivalent of an Amazon goddess to worship. The first true matriarchal society, but with a fictional character…

The gameplay was mediocre at best, fiddly platforming sections combined with awkward shooting mechanics did little to stem the tide of thirteen year olds with holes in their pockets. There’s not really much more to say about the game… Go to Google and do an image-search for Lara Croft to see why it became so popular.

The movie on the other hand, was surprisingly not that bad. Apart from one shower scene and a couple of wet T-shirts there was nowhere near as much fanservice as Dead Or Alive. And the movie itself was much more entertaining.
If you wanted a basic summary of Tomb Raider, I’d suggest "Indiana Jones with Boobies". The fact Harrison ford didn’t want to play Lara for some reason still baffles me… Lara Croft (Played by Angelina Jolie no less), is an eccentric millionaire archaeologist who after an extended fight scene in a tomb (who would have guessed) with what turns out to be nothing more than a robot with a jukebox in its chest (I’m not joking!) in some kind of training game Lara has set up herself in her mansion, she finds a valuable artefact in her mansion left by her father. The artefact turns out to be the first clue to finding the ancient secret of time travel… And Lara finds herself embroiled in an ancient Illuminati conspiracy to take over the world, Yeah. In all fairness, if you expected gold you’re not really reading the right article, but in all fairness, it’s a lot better than some of the drivel we’ve seen so far. Oh, and Lara gets to see a pre-bond Daniel Craig stark bollock naked...

There’s really not much else to say. I was surprised by how little skin Ms Jolie bared for this part, considering how much is demanded as such by the fans. And the attempt at a genuine story is almost adorable, like watching a child dress up in their mum’s high heels.

Tomb raider gave you a tomb, and then you raided it… while trying to look at her tits as much as possible. In that respect, this movie was pretty damned faithful. The sad fact is that rarely does a game with a genuinely good story become profitable enough to warrant a movie adaptation. Hence our almost criminal lack of the Eternal Darkness or Grim fandango movies.

Street Fighter: The animated movie.
Directed by Gisaburo Sugii
Distributed by Toei

When my trusted and valuable audience read my previous article about Street Fighter, the first question they always asked was if I had seen the animated movie as well… this coupled with the fact I had received a copy of the newest remake of the Street Fighter 2 game, I decided to take the risk that this might be awful in the hope that I would uncover a hidden gem. A genuinely good movie that had simply been lost in obscurity due to a terrible live-action iteration and the insipid subjugation of animation in western audiences…

I was wrong. The movie was terrible. A boy can dream, but as Neil Gaiman once said, ‘dream in one hand, shit in the other, guess which one fills up first!’

What little story there is follows Ryu, who for some reason is now treated as in control of the almighty Hadoken. An ability that makes him almost unstoppable as an adversary, and one of the greatest fighters in the world… That’s funny, I don’t quite remember it that way… Down, Diagonal, Forward and then one of the punch buttons… It’s not that hard to pull off. And it only did a little more damage than a kick or two. Am I being pedantic? Maybe. But it was a sign of things to come… Especially between him and Ken.

A little more background is in order. The original Street Fighter 2 (don’t ask where Street Fighter 1 went… Trust me.) predated the concept of multiple costumes or colourings which allow two players to be the same character. If you both wanted to be Zanghief, the massive soviet warrior, tough luck, two players favour Chun-Li with her kick-spam attack, too bad. But if one of you wanted to be Ryu, then you could be Ken instead. He was exactly the same character, except he had a red Gi and long blonde hair. They both fought in exactly the same way and had exactly the same attacks…

Neither the game nor the instruction manual said anything about them wanting to stuff each other like Christmas turkeys.

The movie’s nebulous story follows all the other characters from the game trying to find Ryu because he’s really awesome for some reason… Including Ken, who seems to have some seriously homoerotic implications as the flashbacks to their training together in Japan become more and more intimate. There’s nothing wrong with Homosexuality… But if I’m not mistaken, isn’t Zanghief supposed to be the gay one!

The real problem with this movie was the fault of both Capcom and the fans. The fans for demanding that every single character be included, and that each fight they are involved in include at least one of their iconic special moves… It’s a sorry day that we see a street fighter movie without a Hadoken or two… But who the fuck is Cammy? And more importantly, who cares! This resulted in at least five scenes in the movie that I would happily cut for the sake of pacing.

There are two animated movies, unless someone tells me the second somehow manages to turn water into wine before heralding the second coming of Christ, I’m not interested… The only good movie about the Street Fighter games was made by a bunch of nerds on the internet… Search for Street Fighter: The later years. You won’t be disappointed, unlike these other two abortions of movies!
You know what? Screw it! I’m going to review it anyway!

Street Fighter: The later years.
Distributed across the internet by

"After a while the royalty cheques just stopped coming. I took up this shitty job, every once in a while I pull out the old SNES, and I beat the shit out of myself. It makes me feel better somehow."
This entry differs from all the others due to the fact that this isn’t a professional movie; it was made by a bunch of film students and released on in 2007. This just adds insult to injury for Capcom when I found out just how much this movie beat the shit out of any of the other efforts!

The story opens with a washed-up and down-on-his-luck Zanghief losing his job as a caretaker at an arcade when a couple of gamers inadvertently pointed out how useless a character he was (In all fairness... He was) and finding Dhalsim who has taken up cab-driving to make some extra money… They both decide that they should go back to the old ways by rounding up all the other characters and starting a new tournament with the help of a now wheelchair-bound M. Bison.

You may notice that this movie makes these guys all look a bit pathetic, and you would be right. And in doing so, this movie became so much more charming. This thirty minute show wasn’t made by a bunch of suits in an office somewhere trying desperately to sell more copies of the game to us. It was made by a bunch of nerds like us who deeply loved the games in their youth and decided to mock it for the amusement of everyone. There is no way in hell Capcom would have sanctioned Vega calling Blanka a "F**king electric Oompa-Loompa" or Guile being a foul-mouthed Brooklyn hot-dog vendor who occasionally shouted "Sonic-F**kin’-BOOM!" in his fights. And most importantly, Capcom are portrayed as the villains, milking the characters and their franchise for money mercilessly in an evil corporate slave trade… Which is pretty much exactly what they do (The games were released in 1990, in almost twenty years they’ve only pulled their trousers up long enough to make two proper sequels. but NINE rehashes of Street Fighter 2 have been released to the growing boredom of the general populace.)

This movie was made on a shoe-string, and in some places it shows. Vega’s mask is a cheap paper one, and he has a Freddie-Kreuger glove instead of his wolverine claws from the game. But in some ways, that made me like the movie even more, when something was out-of place or inaccurate you could usually tell it was because they couldn’t afford it, or because it would be funnier. And because they were actually funny you just laughed and waited for their next joke. Maybe it’s because it’s made as a cheap fan-effort rather than a marketing ploy, but this movie has been the best adaptation I have seen so far, and you can feel the love the creators and actors had for the source material. And there is something about the fact that they are the plucky underdogs poorly trying to laugh off the fact that they’re scared shitless that Capcom was going to pull a copyright infringement lawsuit on them. I couldn’t help but root for them.

Directed by Xavier Gens
Starring Tim Olyphant

Thank the Lord and all his wacky children! A game with a good story and good gameplay gets the movie treatment! This one’s going to be good right? Right? Oh who am I kidding? It’s going to be another horrible concoction designed to rape all the memories of my childhood!
Wait a minute… This isn’t actually that bad.

The original games revolutionised the concept of stealth in videogames. All games beforehand like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell relied on you skulking in the shadows, silently moving outside the guards field of vision… The Hitman games shat on this concept by relying on you putting sedatives in a guard’s tea while he’s not looking, stealing his uniform once he’s out cold and then walking in as if you owned the place.

The imaginativeness of some of the levels and the fact you could tackle any level in countless different ways from silent sneaking, brazen and bold fraud or just plain shooting your way to the target made the games popular alone… What made it a classic was the story. You were Agent 47, a genetically engineered super-soldier working for "the Agency", a shadowy group who just gave you your missions and paid you afterwards. You learn about 47’s origins in the first game, and try to atone for them in the second. Only taking jobs in order to pay for assistance in finding and rescuing the kindly priest that took him in when he turned to god in repentance for all the lives he has taken. In Hitman: Contracts, we are guided though 47’s mind as he undergoes hallucinations while bleeding to death from multiple gunshot wounds. The plots behind the games have never been less than excellent.

The slower, more contemplative nature of the gameplay was perfect for a slower, more contemplative movie about a man who has been bred to kill, even if he doesn’t particularly want to do it. And while it wasn’t perfect, the movie at least made a bit of an effort to try to deliver that aspect.

If you’ve played the games before, the first thing you’ll notice is that they’ve dropped the cloning aspect of the assassin training program that created 47, and if you haven’t, well… you won’t. Okay, I can deal with that. Our friend 47 is sent out to assassinate the president of Russia, after a perfect run that in the games would have earned him a "Silent Assassin" rating and unlocked a secret weapon (probably Silenced handguns, it’s always them on the first level.) He is informed that a young woman saw him and that he will have to kill her as well. 47 finds her in the street, and, not recognising her at all, decides it’s not worth killing her… Everything goes to pot for our numerical protagonist when the media proclaims that the president pulled through and that is still alive and well despite 47 practically blowing his head clean off when he shot him. Suddenly 47 finds himself being hunted by the likes of Interpol, the Russian Government and his own agency. On the run with nobody to turn to, 47 ends up working together with the girl he was supposed to kill.

Mildly formulaic I will admit, but I at least had a little fun watching the head games unfold on all sides. As crime capers go, this one tried to be intelligent, compelling and satisfying to watch. It wasn’t perfect, it was still a mildly pungent movie. But you can’t say they didn’t try.

This movie seems to thrive on the idea of taking two steps forward before stumbling one step back. For every scene where 47 outwits his opponents or shows genuine finesse, there is a scene where we find out he hides a couple of swords under his jacket. I could point out things like the fact that they would show up on metal detectors or would be visible even to the human eye. But that wouldn’t portray the sheer stupidity of these scenes in any way that does them justice. Thankfully these scenes are in the minority, so this movie manages to come out in a good, albeit tarnished light.
It may not be perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction, and hey. It could be have been a lot worse! At least they didn’t try to make it a PG rating.

Final Fantasy: The spirits within
Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi
Starring Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin and Ving Rhames.

Before I had the disposable income to afford more than one games console, I used to have Nintendo consoles pretty much exclusively. This is the reason why I have never played any of the Final Fantasy games. But it’s up there on the list of things to do before I die between car-jacking the pope-mobile and fist-fighting a bear.

The Final Fantasy games debuted in the 8-bit era on the NES, and it paved the way forward for the RPG Genre. Almost all Japanese RPG’s are at least in part inspired by this series of games.

It wasn’t until Final Fantasy 7 rolled out on the Playstation that the series really took off. The deep and involved storyline combined with the cutting edge FMV cutscenes and the gameplay that felt more like heroin than electronics soon sent young gamers into an apoplectic fervour over the games. So, they must be rather good I guess.
The film on the other hand…

There’s a reason movies made in CGI tend to be overly stylised and cartoony looking nowadays. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within taught the film industry exactly why, in one of the industries most expensive lessons since Waterworld.
It’s called the uncanny valley. The theory goes that the more lifelike something is, the more a person likes it… until the thing is almost, but not quite perfect, when it looks okay, but there’s something not quite right about it… It puts you on edge because our fear reflex assumes it’s some kind of predator out to trick us or something. If you spend the entire duration of the movie assuming the main character is going to unzip her face and reveal the mandibles underneath before leaping out of the cinema screen and biting your nipples off… Then you’re not exactly going to recommend it to your friends now are you?

The first thing I felt when I started watching this movie was an immense feeling of sadness, sadness for the people that had to spend so many hours of their lives working on animating the protagonists hair, sadness for the writers who obviously had some kind of crippling mental deficiency, but sadness most of all for the poor sods who actually paid money to see this in the cinemas.

The Final Fantasy games have always confused newcomers to the franchise by not actually being pure fantasy. They’ve usually been some kind of horrible chimera of steam-punk or science fiction with fantasy elements. For some totally inconceivable reason, they decided to totally remove the fantasy part of the story from the movie. Making another bland science fiction movie… Call me mental, but isn’t it a bit silly to remove the fantasy from "Final Fantasy", it’s like removing the jam from a jam sandwich… And just like the resulting two slices of bread, this movie was bland, boring and incredibly hard to swallow.

The story goes that for some reason, alien ghosts landed on earth on an asteroid and have started worrying the human populace, driving the remaining survivors into cities with force fields around them to keep the ‘phantoms’ out. The main character, Dr Aki Ross has been infected by one of these ghosts and is going around looking for specimens or the Eight ‘Spirits’ in order to cure herself. She’s found six already and the movie is the race against time to find them and save Gaia, the planet’s soul… Yes, the planet now has a soul. Most of the characters in the story are as surprised as we are. But since the camera is focusing on Ross and her mentor who believe this load of balls, it means they are obviously right and we have to side with them over General Hein the dude in the awesome leather jacket and control over a satellite based artillery platform… I’m sorry mister Sakaguchi, you say he’s supposed to be the bad guy? Well I beg to differ! You see, in your effort to give him character development whilst making the main characters as obnoxious as possible, you made me root for him every step of the way.

But I digress. General Hein (or Mister Awesome Coat as I call him), demands that the council give him permission to shoot the alien nest with lasers until they are all dead. Ross suggests creating a magical "kill all monsters" spell by collecting the last two plot devices and swilling them together in her chest cavity where her alien infection resides. The fact that everyone apart from Ross thinks she’s talking absolute bollocks means she has to start going renegade… like in every fucking movie out there!

Joined by a bunch of soldiers led by her former boyfriend, they find the penultimate plot device and escape… and are betrayed by Mister Awesome Coat, who has a plan to push the government into allowing him to use his space laser by shutting down part of the force field around the city and fighting the aliens off himself… like all plans involving letting aliens into your home, this doesn’t turn out well. After getting most of the pointlessly forgettable side characters killed, leaving only Ross, her love interest, and the mentor. The three go to the nest and start looking for the final plot device…

In a shitty scene in which Mister Awesome Coat dies because he tried to use the space laser too many times… The love interest sacrifices himself in order to kill all the ghost aliens, who, in a shocking twist nobody saw coming… were ghosts from another planet… the movie ends, and I assume I’m supposed to have learned something about environmentalism… All I learned was that hippies are twats and that the world needs more orbital space lasers.
Why they chose to remove the fantasy element I have no idea, why they made the entire thing in CGI when they could at least have used live action actors to better effect, and why the whole thing had to be so terribly written I have absolutely no idea either! There are probably reasons for each one of my questions… But I don’t care what the answers are! This movie lacked gunblades, and for that it shall soon be forgotten as just another bad movie based of a good videogame!

Max Payne
Directed by John Moore
Starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis

If I asked you where the term "bullet time" originated, you would tell me it was from The Matrix right?
The term was coined by Remedy Entertainment when they made Max Payne. A Film-Noir-esque John Woo style Gun-a-thon (and I’m pretty sure that’s a real word now.) that took the games industry by storm.

At first glance, Max Payne is an unremarkable third-person shooter, but then you click the right mouse button and everything slows down… Unlike the other games in the genre, Max isn’t actually particularly faster or more durable than any of his enemies, your only advantage against your foes are your ability to aim under less pressure in bullet time, and the ability to strategise in those precious seconds afforded to you as they raise their weapons. Plus your ability to leap into the air while firing your weapon in slow motion enabled you to perfect the art of running into a hallway, and then diving halfway across just so you landed behind cover. Mastery of these skills led to a surprisingly cerebral game that would have made it relatively famous as it is… But I still haven’t said anything about the presentation.
Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far past the point-of-no-return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it.
I would have laughed, if I could have remembered how.

The drama in-between levels played out in the form of a narrated comic book, with each panel appearing as the action happened in the radio-drama playing in the background. While the first game had typically over-the-top bad acting (mainly because the voice work was done by the developers themselves in order to save money) the writing managed to keep you enthralled all the way through. This only got better in the sequel which put a greater budget into the storytelling and moved the symbolism from Norse Mythology to Paradise Lost. For god knows how many years I would quote "It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" to the game rather than John Milton.

The movie took everything that was good about the games… and threw them on a big fire or something. Seriously, where the hell did they go wrong? It was all there! They didn’t have to worry about the conversion of gameplay to celluloid, the story was RIGHT THERE.

What exactly did the film have in common with the games? The name… Check. Dead Wife and Daughter… Check. Norse Mythological references… Err? Do CGI demon angels count? No, no it damned well doesn’t.

The general trend of these movies tends to be taking the supernatural elements of the games and trying to give them a basing in reality, presumably in order to avoid confusing the more unimaginative audience members or something. I can roll with that. So why does this game which has a story about a cop who slowly goes off the rails and starts a murderous rampage against the criminal underworld of New York while taking way, way too many painkillers than is good for him suddenly have to involve crazy drug-fuelled hallucinations of bat winged, things with burning embers for eyes. It’s not as if I don’t think they looked kinda cool, but they had absolutely no place within the confines of this movie.

I can imagine some wizened film executive sitting in his office with a cheap prostitute under his desk explaining that since this movie was based of one of those videotron things the kids like playing with nowadays, then they must put in at least twenty minutes of footage with CGI monsters in it. Then leaving the exasperated writers to try to make the idea a little bit less nauseating.

While watching this horrible, horrible film, I paused it about twenty minutes in, grabbed a pen and made a list of predictions for the end of the movie. When the film ended I checked the list, every, single, one of my predictions came true. Not because the story stuck to the game’s plot or anything, it was just so infuriatingly formulaic I almost soiled myself out of sheer boredom.

This movie took something quirky, fun, emotional and profound but with a sense of humour and turned it into another cop-drama with absolutely no distinguishing features to set it apart from other boring movies.

Maybe it’s because I loved the original games? No, Street Fighter and Hitman hold just as big a place in my heart as Max Payne. This movie was just plain awful, and not awful in a way you can even laugh at. Street Fighter was so hilariously abysmal it brought a smile you your face, Mortal Kombat seemed to be too silly for you to really hate it, and Hitman tried to actually be like the original game it came from… The first two movies have been remembered, even if it’s for how bad they were… Like many other terrible movies in this essay, I can only hope this one will be forgotten to the depths of time sooner rather than later.

If you enjoyed the games and want to see what made it good on the big screen, then go watch The Matrix and Shoot ‘em up in quick succession and you’d have a pretty good idea how this movie should have been!

© Jack Clarkson March 2009
Jack is graduating this year from the University of Portsmouth

Directed by Zack Snyder.
Jack Clarkson
If you’ve read the book, go watch the movie, you owe it to yourself, and frankly, they deserve the price of admission

More about Film


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.