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Videogame Movies Are Finally Getting Halfway Decent

Movies based on videogames have a notoriously bad track record, but fantasy author Erin Lindsey says that the recent Tomb Raider reboot, while hardly original, was surprisingly well done.

“They do the work of showing why Lara is capable of what she’s capable of, and being believable in what she’s not capable of,” Lindsey says in Episode 415 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was done on a very human scale, and it was credibly acted, and they put in the work with the characters.”

Other recent videogame movies such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu, and Rampage have connected with audiences and even earned respectable, though hardly stellar, reviews. Videogame journalist Blake J. Harris hopes that these successes will change the way people look at videogame movies.

“A lot of people always have this caveat, like when Rampage made almost half a billion dollars, and people were like, ‘Oh, well that one wasn’t really a videogame movie,’” he says. “And then Sonic and Pikachu come out, and those do well, and then it’s like, ‘Well, those are more like kid movies.’ But at some point you have to stop adding these caveats and say that videogame movies can do well.”

Science fiction author Zach Chapman wishes studios would hire more people like Silent Hill director Christophe Gans, who was a big fan of the actual games. “Hopefully these writers will play these games, and these studios will give these franchises to people who really like the source material and are nerds about it,” he says. “I think that would go a long way toward making these good movies.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that videogame movies are improving, and hopes to see adaptations of some of his favorite games, including Monkey Island, Ultima, and Bionic Commando. “If you extrapolate current trends, we can predict that videogame movies in 10 years will be over 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes,” he says.

Listen to the complete interview with Erin Lindsey, Blake J. Harris, and Zach Chapman in Episode 415 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Blake J. Harris on the Super Mario Bros. movie:

“The Mario movie is so many different people trying to accomplish so many different things, and you end up with nothing. Even if that movie had ended up being just this mythological dinosaur story, which is what the beginning is all about, I would have at least respected that, because it would have a throughline and a singular vision. When there’s a finished product, I at least want to know that there’s a person who’s like, ‘Yes, this is the story I wanted.’ And we can all agree or disagree about whether it was good, but I feel like a sign that something is bad is when no one’s taking credit, no one’s like, ‘Yeah, that was what I wanted.’ Because it just gets so distorted from having so many people involved.”

Zach Chapman on the Mortal Kombat movie:

“Johnny Cage is doing all these weird sexist, racist things. Like he hands Liu Kang his luggage. The first time he sees him, he’s like, ‘Hey, can I pay you to be my baggage boy?’ And Liu Kang’s like, ‘Sure,’ and just tosses his luggage in the water. And I’m like, ‘This guy is awesome.’ And then later in the movie [Johnny Cage] is admiring Sonya Blade, and Liu Kang’s like, ‘You’re not admiring her mind. She’s got a beautiful mind.’ So I think at the time it was kind of progressive, and as a little kid—I mean, I can’t recommend it now—but for back then, this guy was just this badass wearing a leather jacket, and the American is kind of the butt of the jokes.”

David Barr Kirtley on the Resident Evil movie:

“I had just gone to a science fiction convention, and I hadn’t slept in three days. We left the convention on Sunday and went and saw Resident Evil. It was in an incredibly dark movie theater, and for some reason people were walking in and out of the theater the whole movie, and since it was so dark people were just constantly stumbling and falling and crawling, trying to get into their seats. It was really disconcerting, especially in my sleep-deprived state of mind, to be watching a zombie movie when everyone in the theater is just stumbling around and muttering. So I watched the movie and I thought it was totally awesome, but I wasn’t sure if that was just because I was so sleep-deprived.”

Erin Lindsey on Indiana Jones vs. Lara Croft:

“I think that Indiana Jones, in that first movie, other than some very impressive flourishes with the whip—and I think Indy doesn’t fully get credit for his facility with that whip, which is pretty mind-blowing—but other than that, I honestly don’t think that we feel the need to justify the awesomeness of an alpha male protagonist. He just is. We can ‘something-something special forces something-something PhD in archaeology,’ done and dusted. Where if you have this tiny, 20-year-old female protagonist, you do have to, I think—for most audiences, and I’m not defending it—but I think they do feel obliged, rightly or wrongly, to justify why she’s awesome.”


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