Tag Archives: movies based on video games

Like a Good Neighbor

Werewolves Within

by Hope Madden

I have seen a lot of horror movies. A lot. You have no idea. Do you know what I have never seen before? A horror movie that opens with a quote from Fred Rogers.

Well done, Werewolves Within.

Mr. Rogers is a hero of sorts for Finn (Sam Richardson), new park ranger for a very small, isolated, snowy mountain town. The townsfolk are divided on a deal to run a pipeline through their little hamlet. But they will have to work together despite their differences when it appears that a werewolf has begun to prey on their town.

Because if left and right cannot work together in the face of a common oppressor, the oppressor will win. It doesn’t matter what that is: fascists, greedy capitalists, werewolves. Still, it can be tough to get the two sides to come together, even for their own good, so Finn channels his hero and does what he can to inspire the townspeople to look out for each other. He just wants them to become good neighbors.

It is adorable.

Horror has its share of nice guys, but these are almost invariably tragic victims, either the first to go because they don’t have the inner meanness to overcome villainy, or eventual victims because the movie is so much more emotionally relevant if they sacrifice themselves. The nice guy is almost never a horror film’s hero, and this is where Werewolves Within really does depart from standard fare.

Director Josh Ruben—fresh off Scare Me, a clever horror-comedy he wrote, directed and starred in—delivers a forgiving, even sweet tone. There’s cynicism here, and characters are not drawn with a lot of dimension, but the performances are fun and the comedy is good-natured.

Richardson makes an ideal Rogers-esque central figure, his new hometown populated by a talented comedy ensemble: Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernus, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillen (TV’s What We Do In the Shadows), and fan-favorite, Milana Vayntrub. (You know, Lily from the AT&T ads.)

Werewolves Within is loosely based on the video game of the same name, which may be why the plot feels so very slight. Still, writer Mishna Wolff displays a flair for whodunnit fun that elevates the film high above 90% of the video game movies that have been made.

A lot of that success lies in Wolff and Ruben’s investment in the nice guy.

Fred Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see a scary thing in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’”

Finn would have made him proud.

Cinema Killed the Video Star

Assassin’s Creed

by Hope Madden

What does it take to make a worthwhile movie based on a video game? Because it isn’t just talent – Assassin’s Creed proves that.

Like Warcraft, Creed pits a genuinely gifted director against all that terrible cinematic history – from 1992’s Super Mario Brothers through the Resident Evil series to this year’s Angry Birds Movie – and comes up lacking.

Australian director Justin Kurzel quietly proved his mettle with an astonishing true crime horror film in 2011 called Snowtown. Last year, he teamed up with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard – authentic talents if ever there were – for an imaginative and bloody take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

And now the three re-team, along with time-tested craftsmen Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling, to adapt the popular time traveling video game.

Fassbender is Cal, a death row convict secretly saved by the Abstergo science lab. There, Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) will use him to channel his ancestor Aguilar (also Fassbender) – member of a shadowy team battling the Knights Templar for the freedom of humanity.

So, we bounce back and forth in time between a modern day SciFi story and a dusty Inquisition-era adventure. Cal struggles against his newfound captivity and the after-effects of the experiments; Aguilar parkours his way through ancient Spain, trying to keep the Templar from the apple that started all our troubles back in Eden.

If the problem here is not talent, what, then?

As usual, it begins with the writing. Kurzel works with his Macbeth collaborator Michael Lesslie, as well as ne’er do wells Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Allegiant, Exodus: Gods and Kings). They put together a story that’s as convoluted and bloated as it is superficial.

The cast gets little opportunity to do anything other than deliver dour lines with stone faces, each one developing less of a sense of character than what you would have actually found in the video game itself.

Kurzel’s no help, his mirthless presentation undermining thrills at every turn. When he isn’t bombarding the action with murky visual effects, he’s pulling the audience from the midst of a climactic battle and back into the lab to watch Cotillar and/or Irons look on with clinical interest.

Yawn.

Maybe it’s impossible to capture the visceral thrill of gaming within the comparatively passive experience of cinema. Maybe the rich backstories of modern video games are only rich if you’re used to video game narratives. Hopefully the movies will get it right at some point, or at least they’ll stop wasting such incredible talent on such forgettable nonsense.

Verdict-2-0-Stars