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Top Fives: Video Game Adaptations

It is, as I discovered, no simple task compiling a list of the five best video game adaptations, as the genre has yet to produce anything resembling a great (or even good) movie that stands on its own merits. The field is, instead, littered with half-baked and hopelessly underwhelming releases that contain mere snippets of engaging, entertaining elements, with the viewer generally better off playing the video game from which the film has emerged. The top 5 portion of this list is, as a result, composed mostly of movies that could've been much, much worse, with the flipside of this a bottom 5 ranking consisting of movies that are almost entirely devoid of positive attributes.

Top 5 Best Video Game Adaptations:

5. Doom: This 2005 adaptation of the revolutionary 1993 video game is, let's face it, pretty awful, with filmmaker Andrzej Bartkowiak offering up a second-rate Aliens ripoff that's rife with incoherent action sequences and stock, one-dimensional characters. But the movie's much-ballyhooed first-person sequence manages to pack a visceral punch, with the short interlude effectively replicating the experience of playing the justifiably iconic video game.  
4. Street Fighter: The Movie: Unapologetically campy, Street Fighter: The Movie isn't exactly good by any stretch of the imagination. But the film, inspired by Capcom's 1987 video game, boasts a number of appreciatively entertaining elements that almost justify its existence, with Jean-Claude Van Damme's typically engaging turn as the film's tough-as-nails protagonist standing as an ongoing highlight. (It's impossible, for example, not to get a kick out the rousing speech his character employs to motivate the troops.)  
3. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: Again, this isn't what one could easily classify as a good movie. Filmmaker Jan de Bont attempts to ape the feel of an old-school blockbuster, with the film's storyline certainly inspired heavily by the (far superior) Indiana Jones series. And although Angelina Jolie's smirking non-performance remains a distraction, de Bont has wisely suffused the supporting cast with appearances by top-notch players like Gerard Butler, Djimon Hounsou, and Ciarán Hinds. There are rumors that this series will be rebooted in the near future, which is probably for the best - as Lara Croft is clearly a character with oodles of potential.  
2. Mortal Kombat: Appearing in theaters shortly after bombs like Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat surely felt like a breath of fresh air within an otherwise depressing genre. There's nothing especially innovative or even memorable about the movie, and yet Mortal Kombat remains a cut above most video game adaptation simply because it is, for the most part, fun.  
1. Resident Evil: This precursor to the recent zombie-movie craze offers a briskly-paced narrative that's punctuated with exciting, better-than-average action sequences. Series star Milla Jovovich steps into the shoes of her now-iconic character with impressive ease, while the supporting cast is rounded out with familiar faces like Michelle Rodriguez and James Purefoy. And although the sequels have varied in quality from passable to atrocious, Resident Evil remains the very best adaptation of a video game movie. (It's interesting to note, too, that both this and Mortal Kombat were helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson, a much-maligned filmmaker who deserves more credit than he usually gets.)  

Top 5 Worst Video Game Adaptations:

5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Though directed by Mike Newell, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time feels more like an especially worthless Michael Bay production - as the movie contains exactly the sort of slick, over-the-top feel one associates with Bay's output. Jake Gyllenhaal is good yet bland as the title character, while the movie's thin storyline is essentially just a springboard for a series of dull and thoroughly incoherent action sequences.  
4. Hitman: Hitman's massive failure is especially disappointing given that it marked the English-language debut of Xavier Gens, a French filmmaker responsible for 2007's better-than-average horror flick Frontier(s). But Gens, working from a script by notoriously incompetent Skip Woods (he did contribute heavily to the destruction of the Die Hard series, after all), eschews character development and emphasizes a series of disastrously unexciting action sequences, which ultimately prevents the viewer from working up any interest in anything occurring onscreen.  
3. House of the Dead: Of course Uwe Boll is on this list. House of the Dead is based on the popular zombie shoot-'em-up and contains all the substance of its video game predecessor. Boll compounds the completely subpar atmosphere by splicing in footage of the video game during the movie's action sequences (!), which, of course, proves to be an absolutely disastrous choice.  
2. Need for Speed: Need for Speed is one of the more disappointing adaptations on this list, as filmmaker Scott Waugh apparently went out of his way to infuse the movie's many car chases with a CGI-free, old-school feel. But the overlong running time and lack of compelling characters prevents the viewer from actually caring about any of this, which is especially disappointing given the strong work from star Aaron Paul.  
1. Postal: Uwe Boll again. Though he's cranked out many video game adaptations over the years - Alone in the Dark and the aforementioned House of the Dead to name just two - Postal stands head and shoulders above the rest as the absolute nadir of the genre. A plotless exercise in puerility, Postal contains a seemingly neverending raft of desperately unfunny jokes and larger-than-life performances. A truly wretched piece of work.  

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© David Nusair