This is definitely the best video game film I’ve seen, although that’s like describing something as “the best smelling piece of faeces”. Video game movies don’t have the best reputation, and for a good reason, most of them are REALLY bad. Like “worst films ever” level of bad. I’m not entirely sure why but I have theories. One is that the movie industry doesn’t take video games seriously so when they make video game movies they don’t do any research into what made the game work, or why people like it. They usually just look at a still image of it and take it from there (for Super Mario I’m not even sure they did that. I would actually love to hear a podcast series where people interview scriptwriters, directors and studio executives to see how certain films came out as bad as they did). So they go in just paying lip service to the source material and it comes out terrible. The other theory is that they deliberately don’t put much effort in as they know “the name will sell it”, then the film gets bad reviews and nobody sees it. This causes it to fail, which then makes studios less likely to put effort into similar future releases as “they always fail” causing a circular journey of failure (which is the title of my biography). The annoying thing is they can be good, some of the best storytelling of modern times has been in video games (especially in terms of original concepts), so if they were made by people who knew what they were doing they could end up being cult classics.
You can tell a lot of effort went into making this, and yes, I am aware of how super condescending that sounds “they tried really hard”. But when watching this you can tell that this won’t be anybody’s old shame. This is one of the few video game movies that works as a movie, to the point where you almost forget it’s based on a game. Admittedly that might be because I missed a lot of references to the games as I’ve never played them (I was always more of a Nintendo person). The trouble with a lot of video game films is they focus more on the “video game” parts, so if you’re not a fan of the games you’ll detest the films, or they’ll be so full of unsubtle references that you sit there going “I assume that would be very entertaining if I got the reference”. This is a movie, first and foremost, it’s not just a video game movie, it’s an action movie that happens to be based on a video game. Which is how it should be, people don’t describe Rambo, Princess Diaries, or Jaws as “book movies”, they’re just “movies”. I’m hoping this film changes things, and that we will soon get more movies like this. Eternal Darkness, for example, would make a great horror movie, and the fact there’s not even rumours of a Saints Row film is confusing to me, after Deadpool proved that that kind of humour in films can make a lot of money, that should have been optioned by somebody and made.
I suppose I should actually talk about the film itself. The story is simple but effective, you’re not going to be wowed by the script really, it’s incredibly workmanlike. It has a job to do and it gets it done. Performances vary, but Alicia “looks like Brie Larson in some films, and Natalie Portman in others” Vikander (yes, that is actually her middle name, honest) does exactly what she needs to. You won’t remember her performance at the end of the year but that’s not a bad thing, on the plus side it means it wasn’t bad enough to become notable (and let’s face it, it’s going to be incredibly hard to stand out as a good performance in a year which both The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards were released). That’s a summary for this film, you won’t love it, but you certainly can’t hate it, and if somebody said it was their favourite film you wouldn’t judge them as much as you would if they said it was Resident Evil, in which case you’d be well within your rights to shoot them.