Vancouver Sun

Ready players

Video games still seeking correct movie formula to win at the box office

- ROBBIE COLLIN

The original video-game film, 1993's Super Mario Bros., arguably remains the worst high-profile entry in what can only be described as a competitiv­e field.

From Lara Croft: Tomb Raider to the Resident Evil series and the latest adaptation of Mortal Kombat, Hollywood's love affair with video games has spawned many horrible monsters over the years. Yet studios are committed to making it work. Before the year is out, a new Resident Evil reboot will have arrived, followed in February by the Indiana Jones-like Uncharted, with Tom Holland. A new CG Mario is in production. Films based on such mighty gaming properties as Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War, Ghost of Tsushima and even Space Invaders — the bloopy one from 1978 — are all currently in developmen­t.

Studios regard games in the same way they do superheroe­s, as a vast cache of dizzyingly popular source material that could yield decades of profit, if they can only work out how to unlock it. With superheroe­s, the formula took a few decades to refine. With games, you might generously say it remains a work in progress. The original Super Mario Bros. film's downfall stemmed in part from its makers' determinat­ion to replace the cheerful, candy-coloured Mushroom Kingdom setting with the dark and sinister city of Dinohattan.

Bob Hoskins, who played Mario, would later describe it as “the worst thing I ever did” and the film was enough of a bomb to dissuade anyone from attempting another big-budget adaptation until 2001 with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

It was teen-rated, featured a marketably sexy girl-power-era heroine and had been spun off from a game series that riffed heavily on cinema, especially the Indiana Jones trilogy (again). It was poorly reviewed, but took in nearly US$275 million — not much less than the first X-Men film — earning itself a sequel and making a mainstream star of Angelina Jolie.

The recent commercial­ly successful cinematic takes on Sonic the Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu and Rampage suggest the elusive winning formula may have begun to emerge.

Rather than attempting to adapt the above games in any meaningful sense, Hollywood simply stripmined them for branded mascots to cram into tried-and-tested formats. Sonic was essentiall­y a CG buddy comedy, Detective Pikachu a sly reworking of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Nearly three decades after Mario, it's now the audience's turn to be played.

 ?? WARNER BROS. ?? Lewis Tan, top, stars as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat, the latest in a continuing stream of movies based on video games.
WARNER BROS. Lewis Tan, top, stars as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat, the latest in a continuing stream of movies based on video games.

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