Video game adaptations have been a fairly common topic of conversation here on Geek these last couple months. Between the Uncharted movie finding its director, The Last of Us losing theirs, and the Michael Fassbender-starring Assassin’s Creed adaptation coming later this year, it seems like video game movies are, once again, on the rise. Warcraft did decent overseas business despite critics bludgeoning it with a cannonade of merciless reviews, and the much-anticipated Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is set to hit theaters in January.
On the other hand, it’s no secret that the studios adapting these popular IP’s are less interested in good reviews and more so in larger profit margins, which means rebranding video game adaptations as legitimate blockbuster events and not the latest musing of The Auteur Uwe Boll, Cinema Christ Almighty. For a while there, it seemed like video game adaptations were a lost cause, but the recent news of a new Mortal Kombat movie finally making its way to theaters again after almost twenty years conjures memories of the video game adaptation that started it all.
Depending on who you ask, Paul W.S. Anderson – not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood – is either an unacknowledged genius or a forgettable hack. After releasing the original Mortal Kombat film in 1995 to admittedly mixed reviews, Anderson was still acknowledged as an exciting new visual director who might be able to breathe some life into a thus far unimpressive sub-genre of action films. Prior to that, films like Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros. were, to a generous viewer, underwhelming. In actuality, though, the words “unbearably terrible” are a more apt descriptor.
And while Anderson’s career has been less than stellar on paper, and not without its fair share of divisiveness, one could make the case that he’s still the only director who knows how to adapt a video game. There’s a reason people still turn to his Mortal Kombat film as an example of what video game adaptations should look like, and there’s also a reason why the Resident Evil is the only live-action video game franchise still alive today. Regardless of whether or not you personally respect Anderson’s talent or vision, there’s a certain dependability to his movies that doesn’t really exist in many other corners of the blockbuster pantheon.
Now, with the news that Simon McQuoid – a celebrated commercial director responsible for ad campaigns from PlayStation and Beats by Dre, among others – is set to helm the newest Mortal Kombat adaptation, and Anderson’s supposedly “final” Resident Evil movie coming early next year, it may be time to reflect on why his movies resonate where others don’t. Why – despite an initial critical reception that isn’t far off from other, worse adaptations – have the Resident Evil films garnered enough of an audience to warrant sequel after sequel? Why has his work been recently reevaluated in the critical circuit, with writers like Richard Brody and Peter Labuza dubbing Anderson as a leader of the “vulgar auteurism” movement?
It may be a genuine passion for the material, misunderstood intentions, or something in between, but a lot of recent blockbusters, especially video game adaptations, are produced with a pristine soullessness that couldn’t shine the shoes of Anderson’s worst films. It’s important to remember that when we are all inevitably forced to watch and be disappointed by yet another wave of shameless cash-ins that refuse to give a single shit about the fans, the game, or the quality of the product that’s being projected on the screen. Let’s hope that McQuoid, and the studio that’s backing him, decide to make a movie like Anderson’s original – one that people will remember fondly twenty years from now.
Images: New Line Cinema, Screen Gems