Denzel Washington: Saviour of Video Game Movies or Devil in Blue Drab?

The failure rate of movie adaptations of video game is almost absolute. This fact, harsh and sobering though it may be, is difficult to dispute in the face of all available evidence. Video Game Movies are typified by being painfully average affairs with little to no enjoyment value that only succeed in alienating both the fans of the game and the movie going public in general. These are movies that please just about no one.

There are, quite naturally, pockets of resistance to this: the Resident Evil films, against the better judgement of taste, have a small but loyal following. More fleetingly, there are those who champion the Silent Hill movie as both a faithful and a successful adaptation of the source material. While there is no doubt some sincerity in this, I can’t help but feel the appreciators of these under whelming movies are mainly overprotective fans making excuses for their most cherished franchises.

In the interest of full disclosure let me be clear: I myself am not immune to this. I stubbornly maintain the flimsy position that had Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within been originally dubbed in Japanese and released internationally with English subtitles, the film would have been embraced by the anime crowd as a Princess Mononoke / Starship Troopers mash-up and thereby gained a cult following leading to booming DVD sales, rather than being ignored by everyone except me.

To my mind, there has only ever been one video game movie to perfectly translate its source material to the screen – the original Mortal Kombat movie. It doesn’t sound like a tall order, stupidly dressed people with ridiculous powers enter a purposeless fighting tournament for violence’s sake, but we must remember that this is the hurdle that the Dead or Alive and now TWO Street Fighter films have done an ankle over. Director Paul W.S Anderson – before he single-handedly set about ruining both the Alien and Predator franchises with one two hour film – knew better than to shoehorn any fancy character or plot into Midway’s blissfully transparent fighter, so instead duly made a film about clown-attired people punching each other and for good measure threw in a slammin’ early-90’s techno anthem as stirring as it was terrible.

Unfortunately, MK was just one success on a growing pile of catastrophes. There is no point even discussing the Uwe Boll oeuvre, suffice it to say I have only watched 1 minute of House of the Dead and can confidently conceive that every bad thing ever said about the man and his films is entirely accurate. At this point in history one could be forgiven for declaring that the Video Game Movie has run its misshapen and disappointing course. Thankfully, it appears that someone has been thinking outside the Level 85 Lockpick box:

If this clip means nothing to you, allow me to explain: Denzel Washington got drunk and somehow accidentally wandered into Fallout 3. Almost every frame of the Book of Eli trailer looks, feels and moves like Bethesda’s 2008 role player, even down to the VATS inspired RPG-through-the-window moment. The broken overpasses, the desiccated landscapes, the burnt out buildings; all are instantly recognisable as the DC Wasteland that the Fallout 3 player calls home.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that someone smart has done it the other way around. Instead of using the game as a jumping off point for a completely unrelated, and most likely painfully crud, movie (Super Mario Bros or the first Resident Evil comes to mind) the Hughes Bros have taken an unrelated script and dressed it up to look like Fallout. While I am a little unsure about these Hughes Bros – their last film was 2001’s meh-chtonic From Hell – there is a subtle genius evident in avoiding direct comparisons by keeping a perceived distance from a popular property while at the same time ripping it off wholesale.

If The Book of Eli turns out to be great, we can all claim it as the Fallout movie we never knew we wanted. If it sucks, we can fully disown it and go about our day.

I see no losers in this equation.

– Viperfish

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