Striking a balance between loyalty to the source material, mass appeal, and good filmmaking is the biggest hurdle video game movies have to jump, and very few manage to keep one aspect from overwhelming the others. Silent Hill isn’t perfect in that regard (it’s no stranger to cheap horror gimmicks and clichés, for instance), but it’s gotten closer than any other game movie to date. It takes what made Silent Hill so terrifying in the first place and captures it on film, feeding off that same fear that made the game successful so many years before.
Reimagining the story of Silent Hill with a female lead named Rose, the Silent Hill movie pulls from the game’s otherworldly horror for its visuals and iconography, incorporating series touchstones like the cultish Order, psychic child Alyssa Gillespie, and nightmarish monsters at every turn (including Pyramid Head in one of the movie’s best scenes). Most importantly, it doesn’t shy away from the grotesque imagery that makes Silent Hill so affecting, so you never get the sense that it’s been sanitized for Hollywood. It even takes things a bit too far at the end, so get ready to cover your eyes.
Final Fantasy 7 Advent Children
Advent Children is the ultimate in fan service, and it’s not sorry. The impatiently awaited sequel to Final Fantasy 7, Advent Children comes bearing a plot that you need a reference guide, some diagrams, and a ton of red string to properly understand. Yet its stellar cinematography makes much of its narrative incoherence forgivable, and once you actually sort out what’s happening, it’s the perfect story for those in need of an FF7 fix.
Here are the broad strokes: Two years after the end of FF7, three Sephiroth clones show up and start all sorts of trouble, so the gang has to get back together to stop them (and help Cloud get over his re-emerging survivor’s guilt over Aerith’s death). That’s about all the explanation the movie offers up, which leads to a lot of head-scratching moments when the characters’ motivations don’t stretch farther than the next fight scene. But man are those fight scenes amazing: varied and gorgeous enough to stay interesting despite their frequency, with bits of character development in between that’ll leave any FF7’s fan’s heart a-pattering. Dress it up with full CG that still looks fantastic 10 years later, and you’ve got a solid gift for the fans that doesn’t need to make sense to be enjoyable.
Before taking the helm on the Resident Evil movies, Paul WS Anderson directed Mortal Kombat, one of the first video game movies that managed to appeal to a mainstream audience while faithfully adhering to its source material. The film follows the saga started by the evil Shang Tsung and his plot to destroy Earthrealm (ie Earth); the exaggerated fight moves of Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Liu Kang are the only thing that can stop him. It’s incredibly cheesy in proper early ‘90s fashion (with all the bad hair and leather to boot), but commits to the premise so sincerely that it’s hard not to love.
The quirky nature of the film fits right in with the characters themselves, who are constantly cracking jokes and switching between increasingly ridiculous outfits. Its fight scenes are genuinely exciting, made even better by regular overacting, and both capture the spirit of Mortal Kombat even without the gut-churning Fatalities. While Hollywood tried to bottle lightning again in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, it lacked the goofy soul it needed to succeed. In a battle between the two, the original Mortal Kombat scores a flawless victory.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was right to put Lara’s name first, because that’s what the movie’s really about: the spelunking heroine of video game legend, and everything else is secondary. Angelina Jolie is the perfect actress to fill Lara’s combat boots, and her action hero chops have made her virtually inseparable from old-school Lara in the minds of many moviegoers. Tomb Raider is an action-packed popcorn flick through and through, with excellent choreography and magnificently ridiculous fight sequences; Jolie’s performance is the hot, buttery magic on top.
That doesn’t translate to Tomb Raider being a good movie – the story is bare-bones at best, and when the movie does attempt to foster an emotional core through Lara’s feelings about her dead father, it’s painful in all the wrong ways. But don’t worry about that – Lara just sliced a robot open with its own blade arms and popped her party mix into its disc drive, and you don’t want to miss another second.
Bayonetta: Bloody Fate
Capturing the scale of Bayonetta’s battles is hard to do on film, and Bayonetta: Bloody Fate never really gets there. Even though it’s replete with explosive battles and outrageously campy action, the anime interpretation feels toned down in comparison to the game, with a lot of stylized close-ups and music that has nowhere near the peppiness of Fly Me to the Moon. But as different as Bloody Fate might feel from its source material, it’s still a stellar standalone, and that’s not half bad for a video game film.
Through gorgeous animation that uses its bold color scheme as a storytelling tool, Bloody Fate recounts a simplified version of Bayonetta’s tale, which is easier to make sense of when it’s actually explained. Unlike other game adaptations that demand a thorough understanding of the original game from the start, Bloody Fate is a workable stand-in for the original game. You won’t have to know anything about the seductive witch ahead of time to get the gist of what’s happening, letting you enjoy the gleeful carnage on its own, beautifully rendered merits. Now if only they’d give Bayonetta 2 the same treatment (no Wii U necessary).
Batman: Assault on Arkham
It’s Suicide Squad with an Arkham twist, dressed up like Batman: The Animated Series – and all of those things turn out just as good as they sound. Taking place two years before Arkham Asylum, Assault on Arkham focuses on the dysfunctional adventures of the Rogue Gallery’s pinch hitters as they’re forced to break into Arkham on the orders of Amanda Walker. Like I said, it’s Suicide Squad with a few different faces.
Even if you haven’t played the games (or scored every Riddler trophy), Assault on Arkham can stand on its own, with the sort of impressive animation and framing that’s characterized most of DC’s animated features in recent years. That said, it’s heavy on fan service and light on explanation, so if you walk into this one with no Batman knowledge you’re going to come out very confused. But for a film aimed squarely at building another piece of the Batman mythos into the Arkham series, Assault on Arkham it gets the job done by any means necessary (which includes exploding heads)