Tag Archives: video game movies

Blue Streak

Sonic the Hedgehog

by George Wolf

Even before the masses were recoiling in horror at the people/feline hybrids of Cats, the early look of Sonic the Hedgehog caused such a fan uproar that the little blue speedster got a full CGI makeover.

Well, he’s here now for his (otherwise) live action debut, he looks fine, and while his film doesn’t follow in Cats memorably bad paw prints, it never finds a way to be memorable at all.

Anyone who’s followed the Sega video games of the 1990s will feel right at home, as the world-hopping Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) does battle with mad scientist Dr. Robotnik aka “Eggman” (Jim Carrey).

Sonic’s been quite lonely during his uneventful time on Earth, but a helping hand from an aw-shucks small town sheriff (James Marsden) sends them both on a convoluted road trip. Sheriff Tom wants to prove himself a hero, while Sonic just wants a friend.

Cue the strings – no wait! Dr. Eggman and his robot drones are closing in! Muuuahahahaha!

Carrey sets his mugging level on stun, but really, with director Jeff Fowler keeping each actor exaggerated and a script-by-committee committed to over-explanation, it doesn’t seem as comical as it should.

Still, Sonic is harmless enough to land somewhere near the top of the dung heap that is video game film adaptations. It’s got a pop culture gag or two that lands, a mid-credits stinger that shows promise for the next chapter, and a pace that never becomes overly laborious.

So after its rough start with the fanboys, you might say Sonic avoids becoming a real…..CATS-tastrophy.

I won’t, but you might.

The Badness of King George

Rampage

by Matt Weiner

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I miss the cohesive vision of Battleship, a movie that is no longer the dullest adaptation of a game. That’s because Rampage exists, the latest video game adaptation to suggest that Hollywood is intentionally tanking these things to convince audiences that movies are a superior medium.

To be fair, there are far worse adaptations out there. Rampage reunites director Brad Peyton with disasters, Dwayne Johnson and green screen destruction, last seen together in San Andreas (2015). Peyton knows how to keep the action moving along, and Johnson is extremely adept by now at oozing charm no matter how nonsensical the material.

Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, whose beloved gorilla George is one of three beasts who fall victim to rogue genetic engineering and cut a destructive path through the country as they all converge on the company responsible for their mutation.

Because some tension is needed to pad out the sparse story, Okoye is joined by genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who all have reservations teaming up at first but come to learn that they have more in common than not. For example, they are the only three people involved in the relief effort who think maybe it’s not a good idea to level a major American city.

Sure, the plot is inane and the dialogue breaks new ground in expository heights—especially from the film’s human antagonists, corporate baddies Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Åckerman and Jake Lacy, who do about as much as possible for being tasked with Explaining Things We Just Saw a Minute Ago).

Rampage’s script-by-committee strives to meet some golden ratio of one-liners and world-ending peril. And the cast is game, plainly knowing what they’ve signed onto. But something still feels off, and it’s a fatal problem for a movie like this when the biggest tension isn’t onscreen but rather a nagging conflict between millions of dollars and who knows how many studio honchos never quite committing to whether this should be a serious property or a popcorn flick.

While the Rampage video game series managed to pay tribute to its monster movie conventions as much as it tore them down, all of that gets ignored for something so by-the-numbers that the number of people credited for the screenplay is the only thing less believable than the movie’s treatment of genetics. (Also physics.)

And as if Rampage needed any more off-screen problems, Warner Bros. isn’t doing themselves any favors by reminding people of King Kong and Godzilla at a time when the studio’s “MonsterVerse” is giving those properties insightful, visually distinct and even daring reboots.

If you’re under the age of 13 and might enjoy seeing The Rock swap crude jokes with a CGI gorilla—or if you’re over the age of 30 and have an inexplicably intense connection to a niche video game series—then there’s a chance Rampage is for you.

Otherwise, it’s a muddled genre substitute for the real thing. Save your quarters.

 

 





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





Anger Mismanagement

The Angry Birds Movie

by Rachel Willis

There have been a number of movies based on video games. From 1993’s Super Mario Brothers to the upcoming Tomb Raider movie, Hollywood has not shied away from mining video games as source material for film.

One of the latest in the video game to movie genre is The Angry Birds Movie, a film that seeks to explain why those birds who love to launch themselves at green pigs with enormous slingshots are so angry.

The focal character of the movie is Red, voiced by Jason Sudekis, an already angry bird living in a community of happy birds. Red’s anger gets him in trouble and he finds himself placed in anger management where he meets Bomb, Chuck, and Terence.

The arrival of a large number of green pigs to the birds’ island sets off warning bells for Red, but the other birds are happy to welcome the newcomers and chastise Red for his quickness to antagonism.

The major problem with Angry Birds is the lack of story. At 97 minutes, the movie has a lot of time to fill, and in the first half, the audience has to sit through quite a few montage sequences that are boring even for the youngest viewer. It isn’t until the second half of the movie, when the pigs reveal their true motives for landing on the birds’ island, that the movie starts to pick up. Where the first 45 minutes of the movie drag, the second 45 minutes make up for it with the action we know and love from the video game. The plot comes together, and children and their parents can both find something to enjoy.

The voice actors are myriad and lend their talents well to the film. Danny McBride as Bomb, and Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, both stand out in their roles, providing much needed humor throughout. Jason Sudekis manages to carry a lot on his shoulders as the leading angry bird, but far too often the jokes he’s given to work with fall flat.

It’s unfortunate that the film isn’t 20 minutes shorter, as it might have been more appealing to both young and old had the screenwriters recognized the limitations of their source material.

Verdict-2-5-Stars