Last week the guys debated as to which was the worst videogame to movie adaptation ever and they were unable to come upon an answer. Read as they continue their fruitless debate in this week’s No Right Explanation.

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Chris: From the viewer response, it seems that our debate on the worst video game movie was a smashing success and turned into a favorite episode for many, but throughout the comments I noticed something hilarious. Despite picking quite a few examples and despite my comment at the very end for why we only pick two choices per debate, we received more than a few comments informing us that we somehow forgot to include the likes of Doom, Tomb Raider, and anything by Uwe Boll. Again I say, hilarious.

Seeing as how this isn’t our usual structure and Dan didn’t give us any points, I’d just like to talk about some video games movies that I did actually like. Truth be told, I actually rather enjoy Super Mario Bros as it’s a fascinating take on the source material, and really, doing it exactly like the games portrays it would be a tough sell as a movie. I also liked the original Street Fighter movie because it is so deliciously corny that it makes a great partner for movie nights with Over The Top or Running Man. Plus, Tomb Raider carried the two biggest aspects of the games into the films perfectly well, and we should all thank Angelina Jolie for that.

I also liked Silent Hill more than I believe I’m supposed to, though not because it scared me or anything. Rather, it just felt like a decent movie instead of a silly “hey this is a video game turned into a movie” feel. Oh, and I couldn’t make it through either Silent Hill or Silent Hill 2 without mocking them for being utterly silly games, so maybe that’s why I don’t feel particularly worried about keeping the story sacred.

Were I to select games I’d actually love seeing turned into movies, I’d probably go with something like Paper Mario since the art style and ability to constantly break the fourth wall makes for a really enjoyable animated flick with some incredibly creative characters and situations. I’ll never get tired of the paper-related jokes, truth be told.

Also, if Michael Bay wants so badly to turn classic anthropomorphized franchises into aliens, why not just give him one that already contains aliens and his usual brand of “oorah, military!” Star Fox gets so little love from Nintendo that just about anything anyone does with them would be wonderful. The concept is already silly and campy, so why not just go all out?

To conclude, game movies are a hard sell, I want a Star Fox movie, and no matter how many options you put in a debate, you can’t please everyone. And finally, of course we haven’t seen anything by Uwe Boll, but he’s in a whole league of his own with these things.

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Kyle: We could all start listing the movies that we neglected to mention until we’re all blue in the face … or in my case, slightly purple. But I have a bigger issue that should be addressed, because it seemed to permeate the comments for last week’s episode all the way through.

Lots and lots of folks told us that the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat movies should not be criticized or mentioned in our “bad game-to-movie” discussion. Why? Because they were so horrendously strange and crappy that they’re fun to watch?

Hey, I know that it’s fun to watch a really silly/bad movie and make fun of it. Chris and I actually sat through Legend of Chun-Li and Dragonball: Evolution back to back. And we had fun. But the point was not which of these movies is least fun. If that were the case, we could have avoided the pants-on-head craziness of our episode and just have done a straight-up debate. Our question was, “What is the worst game-to-movie adaptation?”

There’s no right answer. Obviously. And we brought up plenty of them as contenders. So when I see someone say, “But SF and MK are fun to watch, Hitman was just boring and lame,” I really do agree with that statement. But at the same time, Hitman was a competent, if really inconsequential, example of a bad adaptation.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: everyone’s definition of the word “worst” must vary. And the margin of error is based on how many of us will watch a crappy ol’ movie for a sense of nostalgia or … heaven help me for saying it … irony.

Oh, and don’t think Uwe Boll wasn’t present in the air when we filmed this episode. Fact is, I would totally mention that strange fellow, but I haven’t seen more than one of his works. I learned my lesson quickly that if I keep mentioning the pugnacious little sleaze, he’ll never go away. Case in point, what was his last game-to-movie? Postal? That was like four years ago. He was gone! And everyone who mentioned him because of this episode … you are the ones who are the ball-lickers! Now we’re all going to have to uncomfortably look the other way and hum to ourselves when he announces his next one: Catherine: The Movie. You’re welcome, everybody.

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Dan: The Super Mario Bros. movie is a very good kicking off point for discussing this week’s topic, because it was the first time such a widely known videogame franchise was put through the Hollywood grinder. Unfortunately the lessons learned from the resulting movie/meat patty have not really been taken to heart by Hollywood since then, and the same errors continue to be made. What are those unheeded lessons? Let’s dive in, shall we?

Everyone has an inherently unique experience playing videogames, more so today than in the past due to alternate endings and player choice (or lack of … Mass Effect 3, I’m looking at you!) In that regard it’s very difficult to make a movie based on so many different permutations of the same experience. A particularly bad player might think that Mario is supposed to fall into a pit of lava constantly until an older brother comes to help you out, and will feel jilted if that aspect isn’t reflected in the cinematic interpretation. This is just an inherent problem with adapting such a malleable, personalized source material, and Hollywood has yet to find a fix.

Any movie adapted from another medium needs to wink at the pre-existing audience that comes with it, but too many winks can bog down the narrative. For example, Yoshi makes an appearance in the movie … come on, Yoshi? Super Mario World came out in ’90 and the movie came out in ’93! That means there was absolutely no kids who grew up with Yoshi and were old enough to see a movie in theaters, thus no need to add him to the movie at all. Those of you who have seen the film, think how much Yoshi is integrated into the plot. It’s a lot, isn’t it? That screen time could have been better used, but Hollywood just grabbed as many characters and themes as they could and figured the nostalgia factor would guarantee an audience. My advice would be if you are going to adapt a videogame into a movie, stay broad. Two brothers try to save a princess from King Koopa, and sometimes they get power-ups. There is so much freedom in that, the movie could have a chance. Spending all your time mugging for the audience, throwing in the mushrooms, the jumping, Yoshi, the goombas, hell … Koopa’s kids. It added too many limits.

So, Hollywood has an issue with taking a personalized experience and homogenizing it into a mass experience, added with the issue of not knowing what aspects to translate and what to leave on the cutting room floor. Fair enough, but how could they have done Mario right? Picture this …

Mario and his brother awake in a medieval castle, not knowing where they were and how the portal got them there. Mario demands to know where the princess is, but he’s immediately shot by a fireball and burned alive. Luigi, having just seen his brother die, stands terrified and expecting the same fate. Suddenly a large rebel force breaks in, identified by their red helmets with white dots. In the commotion Luigi is knocked out, only to find himself in a forest seemingly populated by gigantic mushrooms instead of trees, sharing the coloring of the rebel helmets. Mario’s body is there too, but several rebels are covering him with slices of the mushrooms. Luigi protests, until he notices his brother regenerating and coming back to life, unscathed. Mario comes to and asks what happened, to which the rebels explain the healing powers of the shrooms only work once. Luigi simply utters “They gave you an extra life.”

See what I did there? I used general aspects from the first game. Things such as having extra lives, dying in one hit unless you had a mushroom, saving the princess, and the toadstool kingdom. These are universal to playing a Mario game, and people who haven’t played the game might enjoy it too. Hollywood, I’m ready to write you the rest of the script, if you’re willing to pay me.

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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