Pixel to Projector: Game-Inspired Movies
With movies like "Gamer," "Tekken" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" either nearing release or well into filming and production, now is a good time to look back at past intersections of videogames and Hollywood. Even if you leave the work of Uwe Boll out of the mix (and we will), there's a rich, bizarre history of trying to channel videogames' unique texture onto the silver screen. Read on for a subjective list of classics, clunkers and question marks.
1. Do see: "Grandma's Boy"
Though it didn't manage to level up at the box office, this slapstick comedy about a game tester secretly developing his own title has managed to pull an "Office Space" and become a cult obsession. Played by Allen Covert, lead character Alex must live with his grandmother after a series of raunchy mishaps leaves him homeless. The movie's overall plot stretches plausibility as far as gaming authenticity goes, but the cringe-inducing laughs make up the difference. Also, there's a monkey in it.
2. Don't see: "The Last Starfighter"
During the holidays, after too many eggnogs, we game journos like to retort to our parents that "Yes, all that videogame playing is good for something, after all! And nope, no grandkids yet." According to this 1984 film, games also serve as great training for interplanetary conflict, as Alex gets drawn into a massive battle between two extraterrestrial alliances. Where "Starfighter" goes really wrong isn't in the wish-fulfillment aspect of its core premise; it's in the wholesale exploitation of "Star Wars" frenzy that was still sweeping the nation in the wake of "Return of the Jedi." It's so blatant that Alex's trailer park may as well be on Tatooine.
3. Don't see: "Doom"
Who ever thought a first-person shooter where story always seemed like an afterthought would be a great game to turn into an expensive movie? The action-horror film starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Karl Urban as space marines investigating mysterious deaths aboard a Mars research outpost. A long sequence of the movie adopted the familiar gun-centric view from the Doom games, but the lonely creepiness of the game never manifests itself.
4. Don't see: "Super Mario Bros."
Ah, the 1990s. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing Snap!'s "The Power" blaring at you. Even, apparently, the Mushroom Kingdom. Honestly, this 1993 flick inspired by Nintendo's flagship characters was so bad we're surprised that Nintendo wasn't a smoking ruin after its release. You look at this trailer and think, "The geniuses who thought up the Wii let this tripe happen?!" We can't front on the golden-lizardy cornrows Dennis Hopper's sporting as Bowser, though. Those are fresh.
5. Do see: "WarGames"
"Would you like to play a game?" These words almost set off an international incident in the 1983 thriller that starred a very young Matthew Broderick. Broderick's hacker manages to access a military supercomputer and, after engaging in gamelike strategy simulations with it, all hell breaks loose when the AI threatens to launch nuclear missiles at the Russkies in an attempt to win the "game." "WarGames" gets fondly remembered not only for launching Broderick's and Ally Sheedy's careers, but also for the way it crystallized Cold War psychological tensions about a full-scale nuclear war.
6. Do see: "eXistenZ"
This psychological thriller from acclaimed director David Cronenberg postulates a fusion of man and machine as a new massively-multiplayer online game, which requires players to physically plug into bio-organic consoles, gets tested. When a killer threatens the game designer's life, she and a bodyguard embark on a journey that blurs the boundaries of the real world and the game world. "eXistenZ" plays like a smarter, more existentially savvy version of "The Matrix," but doesn't quite measure up in the action department.
7. Do see: "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"
Gaming's most prominent heroine cliff-jumped onto the big screen into the form of Angelina Jolie. The future Mrs. Brad Pitt affected an English accent and Lara's trademark outfit in the 2001 movie. The film worked in elements of Lara's established history, like her father's disappearance during an artifact hunt, and still stands as the most successful film adapted from a videogame. A sequel followed two years later that earned less than the franchise's first installment, though it still ranks as No. 4 on the all-time list of earnings for videogame adaptations. A confirmed reboot of Lara's celluloid presence
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