Blockbuster film director J. J. Abrams is on a hot streak right now, from his muscular Star Trek reboot to being anointed as director of the Star Wars revival. But, in less well-publicised news, he has also agreed to adapt a video game – the ground-breaking 1998 first-person shooter Half Life.
One look at the wreckage of previous video-game adaptations that litter the movie landscape and it might appear to be a foolish quest. Which brings us on to our own endeavour: to find the five worst computer-game adaptations (like hitting a barn door with a plasma rifle).
Five worst film adaptations:
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Motonori Sakakibara
The first film to attempt photorealistic computer animation hasn’t aged well, but its failure is on a more basic level: plot. It may have portrayed a beautifully rendered, post-apocalyptic landscape, but when you’re spending more time fixating on the way the characters’ strands of digital hair billow in the wind then following the incoherent plot about vengeful extraterrestrial spirits, then the film has failed.
Super Mario Bros. (1993), directed by Annabel Jankeland Rocky Morton
Two Italian plumbers jumping, climbing and bouncing their way around a colourful fantasy world may be the perfect recipe for a computer-game franchise but it’s an awful premise for a movie. A ridiculous gurning Bob Hoskins and his charisma-free side kick are transported to a dino-themed world beneath the streets of Brooklyn. Narrative and character development gets left in Brokklyn, along with Luigi's tool belt, as the bungling plumbers search for Dennis Hopper’s evil lizard King Koopa. “It’s the worst thing I ever did” admits a chastened Bob Hoskins.
Street Fighter (1994) , directed by Steven E. de Souza
When the Hollywood scribe behind action blockbuster Die Hard decided to try his hand at directing an action spectacle of his own, the film world waited with baited breath. But this appalling action flick was the result. Jean Claude Van Damme plays Street Fighter 2 character Guile, head of a task force sent to penetrate the hideout of renegade warlord, General Bison. Sadly Van Damme has an ear for dialogue like co-star Kylie Minogue has a fist for martial arts. De Souza has since quit directing films.
Should video game creators direct movies? If you’re Wing Commander video game creator Chris Roberts, the answer is a resounding no. Freddie Prinze Jr plays a cocky young space fighter pilot in this Lucas-lite sci-fi adaption that pits a marauding alien race against a ragtag fleet of pilots. What's remarkable about the film is how the cast’s performance is easily eclipsed by the original video-game actors, with Mark Hamill playing the titular role with significantly more charisma in the game’s cut-scenes.
Alone in the Dark (2005), directed by Uwe Boll
This cataclysmically bad fantasy-horror thriller stars Christian Slater as a paranormal investigator with a secret past. It’s helmed by German director Uwe Boll who has hit a run of form as the world’s most atrocious video-game adaptor, spewing out about one critically panned cinema-nasty a year. This appalling adaptation doesn’t have anything resembling a narrative. Rather, we get an unholy mess of rampaging CGI monsters, random scene switching, a lot of flickering darkness and an aching desire to be left alone.