There's no dancing around the fact that the vast majority of movies based on videogames stink. Absurd plotlines are attached to games that barely had a story to begin with — and those rare games that do have a strong narrative typically see that jettisoned by filmmakers for a different story line.
Being a bad movie isn't necessarily the kiss of death at the box office — need we remind you of Paulie Shore's cinematic career? Sometimes, however, the audience is just too smart to be fooled and the film tanks.
There are some familiar franchises on this list of the biggest game-to-movie stinkers, proving that even if a studio options a game with an enormous fan base, it can't assume those players will show up at the box office.
By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 12 Oct 2011
When you make a film about the most popular franchise in gaming, “Super Mario Bros.,” the rules seem pretty clear: Don't mess with the formula. Walt Disney-owned Hollywood Pictures forgot that rule with its 1993 adaptation. Mario and Luigi are plumbers, yes, but they live in Manhattan and are chasing Princess Daisy — not Peach — who wears a necklace (made from a meteor fragment) that can free a race of reptilian sewer-dwelling creatures. King Koopa, her kidnapper (played by Dennis Hopper), hides her not in a castle, but rather in the rat- and garbage-infested underworld of Dinohattan. (It's even more confusing when you watch it.)
Star Bob Hoskins has labeled it the worst job he's ever done. That being said, the film still took in $21 million.
Fans of the “Wing Commander” space saga were thrilled when series creator Chris Roberts announced he would be directing the cinematic version. Many were convinced this would ensure the game (which was well-known for its cinematic cut scenes) would stick to the storyline. It didn't — and while the game featured actors such as Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell, the movie featured Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Matthew Lillard. (Oh… and the fearsome Kilrathi looked like Muppet rejects.)
Critics lampooned it and the film only made $11.6 million.
Hollywood circled around this seminal action game for years before developer id Software moved forward with an onscreen adaptation of “Doom.” On paper, it sounded good: The Rock, whose star was quickly rising, was cast as the lead and the game’s monsters were kept the same. Universal didn't invest much in the film, though, and the story line was weak. It ultimately made just $28.2 million — and any hope of a sequel was quickly lost.
Mix some really bad martial arts and PG-rated T & A and you've got DOA. “DOA: Dead or Alive” itself is hardly progressive, filled with overly buxom women beating the tar out of each other. The movie, though, makes the game look downright intellectual. Even the cleavage-filled ads weren't enough to lure people to the theater and the movie ultimately grossed a meager $7.5 million.
Director Uwe Boll, who oversaw “House of the Dead,” could have his own slideshow of bad gaming movies. That said, this stinker, which grossed $13.8 million, is one of his more successful efforts (unlike many others, it turned a slight profit). The film is nonsensical but when you base a movie on a game that attracted players largely because of the plastic gun they used to shoot the screen, you can't really expect “Citizen Kane.”
“Dungeon Siege” was a well-received role-playing game, but not exactly a monster hit. So it was surprising to hear the cinematic version of the film (directed by Uwe Boll) had a budget of $60 million. It was less surprising to hear the movie, which starred Jason Statham and Burt Reynolds, earned less than $3 million its opening weekend. To date, it has grossed roughly $4.8 million.
The “Alone in the Dark” game series, a survival-horror genre standard, is based on the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. The film adaptation, which opted for the action route, is about a supernatural detective, alternate dimensions and slimy dog-like monsters. It grossed an equally horrible $5.2 million.
Any film that wastes the talents of Ben Kingsley is a head-scratcher. But when that film is based on a game that was never a breakout hit, it's even more confusing. Michael Madsen, who also starred in “BloodRayne,” has called it "a horrifying and preposterous movie." Theatergoers agreed and it only made $2.4 million at the box office.
Let us set the stage for you: This film, based loosely on the arcade fighting game “Double Dragon,” was set in a post-earthquake Los Angeles (called "New Angeles") and starred a young Mark Dacascos, the guy who's now the chairman on the Food Network cable show "Iron Chef America." It also featured a cameo by Andy Dick. Are you surprised it only grossed $2.3 million?
Oh, where to start with this one? “Postal,” the game on which this film was based, was at the center of the recent U.S. Supreme Court battle about violence in videogames. Verne Troyer ("Mini Me" of “Austin Powers” fame) is thrown into a pit of chimpanzees to be sexually assaulted. The film's final shot shows actors dressed as George Bush and Osama bin Laden skipping through a field, hand-in-hand. And, in a cameo, the film's director — you guessed it…Uwe Boll — is shot in the groin. The worldwide box-office take of this film, which moviegoers and critics universally agree is the worst of the worst videogame-based films? A whopping $146,741.