In 1995, Paul W.S. Anderson directed Mortal Kombat, a movie based on the popular video game. In the 23 years since the CGI has become dated and none of the fight scenes have aged particularly well – the choreography isn’t bad but isn’t anything to write home about either. Its most high profile actors – Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa – both have very hammy performances and none of the other principal actors really had breakout careers. Since then, technology for both video games and movies have improved and video games have more and more interesting stories to tell. And yet, despite all that, Mortal Kombat is still generally regarded as one of the best video game movies ever made and possibly the best of them all – by video game players at least.
These past two days I saw both Rampage and the new Tomb Raider, and I can tell you that neither of them will come close to the best video game movie ever made. Neither of them were the worst video game movie ever made either – I’ll get to what holds that title later on – but they were sufficiently bland enough to knock themselves out of the running to be a favorite.
So why is it that video game movies have such a bad rap? Movies that are based on books, or comics, or TV shows, or pretty much any other form of entertainment – they can turn out well. But when you add “based on a video game” to a movie there’s going to be a loud groan and a fierce rolling of the eyes. It’s almost expected for video game movies to be bad, and people are “pleasantly surprised” when they’re “not awful.” But why? Well, I’m going to dissect Rampage and Tomb Raider and hopefully provide a little insight as to how Hollywood keeps making clunkers out of possible interesting storylines.