Published on October 26th, 2012 |
by Stephen O'Nion
6 Video Game Films That Are Actually Good
The issue of video game to film adaptations has already been covered many, many times and always arrived at the same conclusion: they’re shite. Yet there are any number of good video game films out there.
They’re just not adaptations.
To find them, you just have to look in the right places… such as further down the page. The following six films are more about video games than of them. And they’re so much better for it.
Chasing Ghosts was rather overlooked on release in favour of King of Kong (more on that particular film later). But whereas Kong sought to present a relatable narrative dictated by the overwhelming force of two particular individuals, Chasing Ghosts, about many of the same people as Kong, chronicles how they became (very selective) household names for their video gaming skills back in the 1980s.
Along the rambling, explorative way Chasing Ghosts shows us the pornographic art collection of records collator Robert Mruczek, the groupies that didn’t care about rampant acne and poorly chosen facial hair, and the (also) pornographic origin story comic of Roy Schildt or, as he likes to be known “Mr Awesome”. Beyond The Arcade is a sum of its characters, and they are real characters. They just also happen to be real people. Somehow.
Just before Tron: Legacy was released, the world collectively suffered from pink eye as rose-eyed nostalgia surrounded the original Tron. It seemed just about everyone sought to herald it as a classic that had overlooked and underappreciated in equal measure. Then Tron: Legacy came out and it was alright. And because that was alright, we realised that the original Tron was only alright. But you know what? It’s alright. Alright?
Yes, Tron (the film) saw Jeff Bridge’s hacker, Kevin Flynn, getting sucked into Tron (the fictional arcade game), where he fights for survival and tries to bring down the evil Master Control with the help of Tron (the security program). We could look back at it now and scoff at the suits and some of the effects but it’s from 1982 for god’s sake! It gave us light cycles, Xtreme Pong, and 96 minutes of Jeff Bridges. That’s nothing but a good thing.
I switched onto eXistenZ one insomnia-riddled night with only Freeview for company, and to say I’m glad I did would be an understatement; this was the first David Cronenberg film I ever saw. It’s weird enough watching a Cronenberg movie at the best of times, so the prospect of watching one late at night and with a less-than-fully functional brain should present a number of problems.
It didn’t. eXistenZ, whilst flawed, is pretty fantastic.
In a world not too many years from now, game companies have upgraded video games into virtual reality consoles accessible through game pods which users plug themselves into. Unsurprisingly not everyone on earth appreciates this move into Lawnmower Man territory (wait, I forgot to include Lawnmower Man?!), and when so-called “realists” attack the world’s greatest game designer, Allegra Geller, she has to go inside the game to fix it. Thankfully, Geller doesn’t design virtual reality like Second Life and instead we get a high-tempo chase through a warped existence of heightened emotions.
Oh and there are bio-guns made of food. Thought I’d slip that in.
Oh that Matthew Broderick. When he’s not having a day off, or tracking a giant lizard monster through the streets of New York, or even inspecting things with gadgets, then he’s being a l337 h4xx0r who threatens the world with war. Global Thermonuclear War to be precise.
Broderick plays David Lightman, a hacker who, after digitally improving his school grades, wants to play Defcon. Thing is, Defcon doesn’t exist until 2006 so he hacks into a supercomputer designed to run nuclear warfare simulations as well as charming games of chess and tic tac toe. Uh oh, turns out the supercomputer is connected to US defence and tricks the military into thinking maybe the USSR means business, maybe that pesky Soviet Republic wants a real life Metro 2033 to play.
There may only be one Ferris Bueller, but WarGames might convince you that he’s got a brother who could set Skynet in motion.
Struggle and sacrifice. That pretty much sums up Indie Game: The Movie. Struggle and sacrifice.
At the end of 96 minutes you’ll have a new found respect for every single video game. Yes even Custer’s Revenge, even ET: The Extra Terrestrial, even Superman 64.
The torturous final months before the release of Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy and Polytron’s perennially delayed Fez, are profiled, interspersed with opinion of some of the world’s top video game journalists (though we weren’t asked for our thoughts) as well as Braid mastermind Jonathan Blow. And what’s revealed is such a fight that you’ll will success even though you likely know the result.
Not even Swordfish comes close to the tension that arises from watching Phil Fish of Polytron struggle to make a playable demo of Fez whilst dealing with a court case brought on him by his ex-business partner, all the while tackling two giant mutton chops that are slowly taking over his face. It takes a film pretty special to beat this.
There are times at the beginning of King Of Kong where you wonder how real this film really is. And that’s unsurprising when you realise you’re watching a story based around loveable everyman Steve Wiebe and his attempt to break the world record at Donkey Kong. Of course, it doesn’t help that Wiebe’s chief rival, the existing-record holder Billy Mitchell, looks more than a little like Peter Dinklage mixed with Nick Cave, nor does it help that Walter Day, referee and head of record collator of Twin Galaxies, looks like a beardy Robert Duvall.
But once you get through the initial disbelief you’re not asking “is this really real, for real?”, you’re wondering “can he do it?” Can a pretty unremarkable man achieve a pretty remarkable score on a game popular several decades ago?
While we’re used to heroes and villains in films, Mitchell, who permanently resembles a supermarket manager with his blue shirt, Stars ‘n Stripes tie and shoulder length hair ensemble, presents the natural counterpoint to the affable Wiebe, who finally finds something that offers him validation. No matter how much he tries to hide it, Mitchell needs his record, too, and thus is born a classic struggle to the extent that you expect to hear “we’re not so different, you and I” at least once.
As Wiebe practices in his garage and travels cross-country to get some recognition, and Mitchell’s acolytes attempt to psyche him out and discredit his achievements you’ll be so drawn in that you can ignore the fact that the man behind Horrible Bosses and Four Christmases directed this.
If you’ve ever tried to set a high score, beat an existing time, or get an achievement – you must see this film.
Stephen O'Nion is forced to write in the third person because of this website's format. Thankfully he's an arrogant prick who would do so anyway. He's also editor-in-chief of Invert-On. See, told you he's arrogant, why else would he bring that up?