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Warcraft: Reality Isn't Everything

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The vivid fantasy world of Warcraft breathes new life into video game movies

...video game movies have consistently frustrated, disappointed, and irritated filmgoers...

When Warcraft hit theatres, it became the highest-grossing movie adaptation of a video game of all time. While it proved to be a massive crowd-pleaser all over the world, it was somewhat overlooked in North America. Although fans of the film concluded that the curse on game-based movies was finally over, others were reluctant to give Warcraft a chance — for one very simple reason: video game movies have consistently frustrated, disappointed, and irritated filmgoers.

Given the origins of these movies, there’s no escaping the fact that they portray worlds far removed from reality. This makes them the ideal home for bizarre, over-the-top heroes played by larger-than-life movie stars. But even with these variables in place, filmmakers have been unusually careless in their lax efforts to make video game movies credible or even remotely convincing.

By delivering epic battles and real character development, Warcraft manages to sidestep most of the genre’s shortcomings. However, fans have been conditioned for so long to expect so little that many were unwilling to take a chance on this film’s more fully realized fantasy world. With that in mind, here are eight video game movies that helped establish the widespread weariness with the genre, complete with underdeveloped heroes and egregious lapses in credibility.

Street Fighter

When one of his dear friends is kidnapped and transformed into a super-soldier, Col. William F. Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) ignores plans to pay the ludicrously excessive ransom ($20 billion) and sets his sights on the headquarters of supervillain Gen. M. Bison (Raúl Juliá). While Bison has the technology necessary to fly and even rise from the dead, JCVD miraculously saves the day with his signature karate move: a well-placed roundhouse kick.

Mortal Kombat

While 1995’s Mortal Kombat lacks the central hero on whom most video game movies rely, it does feature Highlander icon Christopher Lambert as Raiden, who has the vision to recruit a monk (Liu Kang), a military vet (Sonya Blade), and a movie star (Johnny Cage) to protect “Earthrealm” from “Outworld” threats. Winning the bloody duels in the title tournament is challenging enough, but these competitors also have to contend with morphing, soul stealing, and other dirty tricks perpetrated by their nemesis, Shang Tsung.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Angelina Jolie brought a welcome dose of female energy to video game movies with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but that didn’t stop the film from indulging in its fair share of video game absurdity. Fixated on finding the “Triangle of Light” — an elusive object that controls space and time — and a clock (made out of meteor metal) that could help with that search, the acrobatic Lara still finds time to dive into waterfalls and work on her bungee ballet routine.

Resident Evil

Building on what Jolie started, Milla Jovovich launched the most enduring game movie franchise with the help of director (and future husband) Paul W.S. Anderson. Popular enough to inspire five sequels, Resident Evil has more than its share of elaborate plot contrivances: a lethal virus, murderous artificial intelligence, amnesia, and, yes, killer zombies. It might lack credibility, but with all those other distractions, you probably won’t notice.

Doom

Notorious for bearing little resemblance to its celebrated source material, this 2005 movie revolves around a breed of alien humans … with a 24th chromosome … on Mars. While Dwayne Johnson’s “Sarge” is tasked with leading a rescue mission, he ultimately drops the ball big time, killing not only the man he was assigned to save but also one of his fellow Marines.

Max Payne

Dealing with the death of his wife and child, mysterious winged creatures, and Valkyr — a hallucinatory drug that inspires feelings of invincibility — Mark Wahlberg’s Det. Max Payne is understandably confused. Did we mention that he is also a suspect in several murders? By the time this movie comes to a close, Max learns that his wife was using Valkyr to create super-soldiers (those again), a risky experiment he eventually performs on himself.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Jake Gyllenhaal is no one’s idea of a macho leading man, but anything is possible in the world of video game movies. In the case of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, “anything” includes a special time-travel dagger that inspires one man’s plan to go back in time and not save the future king from a lion attack.

Super Mario Bros.

Arguably the video game adaptation that started it all, Super Mario Bros. features a pair of atypical heroes in Bob Hoskins’ Mario and John Leguizamo’s Luigi, but nothing is more unlikely than the film’s bizarre plot. It all revolves around the efforts of King Koopa — a germophobic human/dinosaur hybrid — and his evil scheme to merge the world as we know it with his more dino-heavy dimension. Like most inter-dimensional battles of good and evil, this builds to a climax equally heavy on romance and primordial slime.

Jonathan Doyle writes about movies for Comedy, CTV, and Space.