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Issue 226 May 2009 £5.99 Outside UK & ROI £6.49


GODFATHER 2 THOU SHALT NOT KILL 20/3/09 5:30:40 pm

s PC movies at the

Richard Cobbett heads to the cinema to see if Hollywood is getting any better at turning our favourite games into true movie magic.


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hat gets us about the films that are made from our favourite videogames isn’t that they’re almost inevitably bad, but how bad they inevitably are. There’s no good reason they should be. Every other movie Hollywood produces is based on a book. The equally maligned comic book conversions have at least seen some notable highs with the likes of Superman, Spider-man and, of course, The Dark Knight. Plays, TV shows, and other movies have been huge box office success. Yet games are trapped in the basement, with the mere mention of their titles putting the audience in mind of Pacman, Doom, and greasy nerds fondling themselves to naked Lara Croft fanart. It’s not fair. It’s not right. The trouble is, with the kind of movies we usually have fighting our corner, it’s really not surprising.

Part of the problem is that the people who greenlight movies haven’t historically been gamers themselves. This is slowly changing as the gaming industry expands, a new generation moves through the ranks, and movie executives realise just how much money a big AAA release like Grand Theft Auto 4 actually pulls in. But not quickly enough. Prior to the 90s, any form of gaming that made the jump to the movies was all but guaranteed a sinister portrayal, whether it was blowing up the world in Wargames (1983), confusing the hell out of people with something like Tron (1982) or suggesting that roleplaying games would kill you, as in Mazes and Monsters (also 1982). In fairness, at the time, very few games of this era lended themselves to gripping entertainment. Their plots were generally simple, graphics even more so, and the games that people could be relied on to actually know were almost all of the Space Invaders/Missile Command variety. Not to be disheartened, Ruby-Spears tried

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PCs at the movies

bringing a few of these to life for the short-lived Saturday Supercade (1983). If you want a picture of desperation, imagine sitting in a room with orders to build a weekly show around cartoon shorts starring Donkey Kong, Frogger (now an investigative reporter, if you can believe it), Q-Bert and Donkey Kong Jr. The same company later produced Pac-Man, Rubik The Amazing Cube, Mega Man and Dragon’s Lair, carving out a real niche for itself that we in the UK were mostly fortunate enough to miss. Think we’re lying? Check out the clips on YouTube. By the start of the 1990s, both Hollywood and Japan started getting more ambitious. 1993 saw the infamous Super Mario Bros movie, described by star Bob Hoskins as “The worst thing I ever did”, in which the day-glo world of the Mushroom Kingdom became a terrifying, fungus-ridden Blade Runner rip-off. Turning Frogger into a journalist suddenly seems like such a small leap, doesn’t it? This was followed by the truly ghastly Street Fighter II movie, which featured roughly five million characters, two braincells, and exactly one good line (“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me…

it was Tuesday”) and the two Mortal Kombat movies – the first of which was decent, given the limitations of the source, and especially compared to the two hours of agonising genital pain that would be preferable to its sequel. We’re skipping a few here, including the first two Pokemon movies, Fatal Fury, and the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros, “The Great Quest To Rescue Princess Peach”, simply because this is PC Format. However, rest assured, you’re not missing much if you haven’t seen them. The only game conversions of this era to hold any fans at all are the original Street Fighter anime, the largely

“The birth of interactive movies gave game companies the chance to be film producers” horrific Super Mario Bros/Legend of Zelda cartoons, glorified Nintendo advert Captain N: The Game Master, and the genuinely brilliant Earthworm Jim, which still holds up surprisingly well compared to other contemporary shows in the same vein, such as The Tick and Sam and Max. As far as the PC was concerned, the transition from games to movies typically went the other way during the 1990s. The birth of interactive movies gave companies the chance to be film producers without going to Hollywood, and

REVIEW: POSTAL Postal isn’t a movie. It’s Exhibit A at Uwe Boll’s trial. He directed it, he co-wrote it, he stars in it, and he even invited his critics to face him in the boxing ring for a scene that never made it into the movie. The result is one of the most incoherent, least funny, least successful comedies in history. The high point of the whole movie is a comedy skit about the terrorists who crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Boll himself appears as the owner of a Bavarian theme park, proudly announcing that his movies are funded with Nazi gold, and paying Verne Troyer an appearance fee in gold teeth. Bizarrely, none of this is particularly offensive on screen. It should be, but the way it’s presented is so ham-fisted, even the most jaw-droppingly inappropriate gags and shock tactics are rendered about 106

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Games are stylised, making the silly easier to ignore

Above “You’re saying it’s funny because in life, we’d not do this, right Ozzie?”

as meaningful as the shouted obscenities of a drunken tramp. Postal doesn’t end. It simply goes away. If there’s one good thing about enduring films like this, it’s you really develop an appreciation for how good the likes of South Park really are. Parody is relatively easy, as is making up random jokes. Satire is hard. Good satire is harder still, and making it look effortless is clearly beyond Uwe Boll.

while many titles were rumoured to be considering making the jump to movie stardom – including Doom (long before the film we finally got), Monkey Island, and Deus Ex – for the most part it just didn’t happen. The two oddest projects that actually did go ahead were the very cheap kids’ gameshows based on Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? (the first of which features the most horrifically memorable acapella track in the history of catchy songs), and a Canadian sitcom based on the classic Lucasarts adventure Maniac Mansion.


Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) typically gets the credit for being the first blockbuster based on a PC game, and rightly so. It wasn’t actually the first – Wing Commander came out in 1999 – but it was easily the first big success, and one of the only conversions up to this point that bothered treating its source material with some respect. Yes, it’s far from perfect, and as soon as Angelina Jolie first dons her padded bra to fight a killer robot, it’s clear that it’s trying far, far too hard to be ‘extreme’… but it’s not a bad movie. It’s fun, competently made, with a decent budget, and generally good additions, such as adding an extra emotional level involving Lara’s relationship with her dead father. It’s also notable that when Toby Gard and

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PCs at the movies


Crystal Dynamics rebooted the franchise with Legend, they made many similar decisions – losing the new Mission Control character Bryce, but adding Zip and Alistair as tech/historical replacements, and putting much more narrative emphasis on Lara’s parents, and why she feels so compelled to run

attempt to make the most of its source material It’s not a great movie, but at least it feels right.


In fairness to the rest of the industry, Tomb Raider had a relatively easy conversion process. The original game

“If you can’t sell Angelina Jolie bouncing round with twin-pistols blazing, there’s not much hope” around arctic tundra in that infamous green T-shirt and short-shorts. Despite the Croft movie setting the pace for the rest of the industry, and being very successful in the process (it pulled in over $270 million), its lessons were almost instantly forgotten. In the 16 years since it came out, only Silent Hill (2006) stands out as a genuine

Above ”Tried… talking to monsters. Bad idea. Get the chainsaw”

was little more than an interactive Indiana Jones with a female lead, and if you can’t sell Angelina Jolie bouncing round with twin-pistols blazing, there’s not much hope. True, the much weaker sequel underperformed, but largely because by that point everyone was sick to death of Lara, and even the hardcore fans were still licking their wounds after The Angel of Darkness. None of this changes that the films that followed typically felt as embarrassed by what they were doing as their audiences felt after paying to

THE FORD’S TOP 5 1 Resident Evil – watched in pants 2 Silent Hill – watched in pants and mask 3 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – no pants 4 Mortal Kombat – pants, mask and nunchukas 5 Postal – butt-naked Jeremy Ford New Media Editor

DEXTER I’m something of a film fascist, and every film based on a PC games has failed to impress. This doesn’t stop me from being hopeful of the Warcraft film – as long as Blizzard ensures its IP is looked after properly. The plot, apparently, focuses on events a year before the setting for World of Warcraft. The only piece of concept art so far is of Teldrassil, the great tree.

Who needs guns, when you’ve got a stare like that?

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Alan Dexter Editor

After years of false starts, Doom really reinforced how much the game series has changed over time. A movie based on the original games would likely have been a balls-out action movie, but in the wake of Doom 3, a quieter, more lurking horror vibe ended up taking over. The result was lots of flickering shadows, but not a whole lot happening. Seeming to realise this, the movie suddenly jumps into overdrive practically at the end, with a first-person sequence that throws most of the monsters in at once, only to end with a mano-a-mano fist-fight between Karl Urban and The Rock. As mentioned elsewhere, the plot takes some major diversions from the games – there’s no Hell, and the monsters are mutated people rather than demons. While this is unquestionably an odd decision, it’s not the worst that’s happened to the series. Just check out the four part novel series from the mid-90s, in which the demons are (we swear this is true) a race of aliens called Fred. Very little of the movie stands out in any way. It’s firmly late night sci-fi schlock, albeit with a better budget than most, set in one of those futures where we’ve invented the BFG but forgotten what lightswitches do. The details are forgettable, the characters likewise. The result certainly isn’t as embarrassing as a Boll movie, but only the FPS sequence stands out as even remotely interesting. For once, it’s a gimmick that would have worked better to define the whole movie, not just a one-off. May 2009


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PCs at the movies

REVIEW: MAX PAYNE So, to recap. The Max Payne games were an attempt to squeeze concentrated John Woo/ NY noir into a game-shaped package, focused on a riproaring rampage of revenge and wrongful arrest, where every last character bled some foul mix of testosterone and cordite. Even with the stupid, stupid name, converting this back into a movie couldn’t have been that hard, right? Wrong. Max Payne is one of the most boring cop movies you’ll ever encounter. There’s precious little action, absolutely no suspense – especially if you’ve played the original game – and if the characters were any flatter, they’d be able to sneak into the baddies’ warehouse by sliding under the door instead of kicking it down. It’s competently enough filmed, and even sometimes atmospheric, but still a complete waste of celluloid. The best bit is watching actors having to say the name ‘Max Payne’ without breaking out into the giggles. Maybe those deleted scenes will be on the DVD. The most bizarre part is that, once again, the creators felt that doing a videogame movie meant making regular trips to Crazytown. Where the games had a few surreal dream sequences, the movie throws in Valkyr-inspired visions of angels and demons that seem to have been created in the name of one-day making a funky looking trailer. These too are boring. In fact, the only genuine surprise in the whole movie is just how committed it is to doing every tedious, uninspired cliché. The lack of twists is almost a twist in itself. If everything you’d want to see in a Max Payne movie, consists entirely of Mark Wahlberg looking moody, coupled with a few bland slow-mo fight sequences. This, then, is the film that you richly deserve – after your flogging. Mark Wahlberg looking for a clue in the excruciating Max Payne film

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DJ’S TOP 5 1 Street Fighter – Kylie FTW 2 Postal – Uwe Boll witnessing the sickness 3 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – Jolie good show 4 Doom – can you smell what the Rock is cooking? 5 Hitman – Baby-faced assassin Dave James Reviews Editor

MATT’S TOP 5 1 Mortal Combat – Flawless victory 2 FFII Advent Children – What storyline? 3 OneChanbara – bikini zombie slayer 4 Dead or Alive – jiggling breasts in Lycra 5 Wing Commander – Arse Matt Orton Art Editor

RACH’S TOP 5 1 Resident Evil – it’s not dreadful 2 Mortal Kombat – just good fun 3 Doom – comedy value alone 4 Silent Hill – almost like the game 5 Super Mario Bros – pure dog shit! Rachel Long Designer

Will there be a Crysis movie after Uwe Boll’s Far Cry? Please God no…

see them. The average movie took the game’s title, the character’s names and as little else as possible. Doom no longer featured the legions of Hell, but some pseudo-science nonsense about chromosomes turning people into mutated killers. Alone in the Dark featured its protagonist mostly in well-lit environments, backed up by marines. Probably the most bizarre, not filmed by a certain German we’ll get to in just a moment, is Hitman. In the original games, Agent 47 is a genetically engineered killer with a barcode on the back of his bald head, working freelance for a group called The Agency. When the

incompetent con artists so that the all-American Guile could be the hero of the story, but at least it thought up a way to get them into their iconic outfits, and make Kylie Minogue do Cammy’s bum-waving victory pose!


The more seriously a movie appears to take the source, the more problematic the shoehorned game elements become. Characters don’t need to scream things like “Game Over!” to remind us what we’re watching, any more than Voldemort should stop in the middle of a speech in one of the Harry Potter

“Films and games play on different expectations, when it comes to breaks from reality” trailers came out for his cinema debut, they proudly announced that instead, he was a weapon bred by the Church to rid the world of evil. Both plots are hurriedly dropped before the end of the opening credits, which supposedly show 47’s training, but are mostly just footage from the TV show Dark Angel with Ave Maria played over the top. The join is particularly obvious in one scene in which a classroom of ‘Hitmen’ in training are shown with their barcode tattoos on their necks, not the backs of their heads. The only thing more noticeable than what gets left out of the movies is what gets left in. For some reason, the creators will happily throw out everything that made a franchise popular, but then panic about the audience’s reaction over something insanely trivial. Costume, for instance. Street Fighter may have turned Ryu and Ken from world-class martial artists into

movies to wink at the camera and whisper “Page 231” or “Oooh, papercut!” Hitman is one of the most problematic examples, simply because the game elements are so screamingly incompatible with everything the film wants us to believe. Don’t get us wrong, the story is dumb enough on its own.

Alone but not in the dark…

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PCs at the movies able to keep making movies. People let him put his sticky paws on their licenses, presumably for a quick buck they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten, and without exception, they’re awful. The full line-up so far consists House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, Bloodrayne 2, In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and Postal. The next, and currently last on the slate, is Far Cry, due out in a couple of months. For financial reasons, this is likely the last of them for now, with Boll currently raising money for one of his original movies. Two films he expressed an interest in that we were thankfully spared were World of Warcraft (Blizzard famously responded with “We will not sell the movie rights, not to you, especially not to you”) and Metal Gear Solid, where Kojima himself went on the

Above House of the Dead 2: “When you see Uwe Boll squeeze that trigger - we might get out of here with our careers intact”

Incredibly dumb. It’s a movie where Interpol agents actually think they have jurisdiction over local police forces, whose plot revolves around 47 going on the run from a baddie who wants to silence the ‘only’ witness to the most public assassination since Dallas. However, despite all this, it wants to be taken seriously. It wants some emotional resonance. It wants to be, if not believable, to offer the all-important suspension of disbelief. But there’s a catch. Films and games play on different expectations, especially when it comes to breaks from reality, and the broader strokes that developers use to build and reinforce things like character identity and our immersion into the world. Even the best games still feel like fully artificial constructs, which makes it easier for the magic Rule of Cool to paper over the cracks. In a film, everything from costume to weapon choice can quickly look dumb when we see it from a different perspective, and the more realistic the setting, the more jarring it is. Hitman’s already hysterical line: “He works for a group known only as The Organisation, so secret no-one knows it exists…” utterly implodes when you notice that all 47’s kit is branded with said Organisation’s logo. Likewise, while we’re used to characters having limited wardrobes in games, there’s no excuse for the film 47 fleeing after his cover is blown by his own agency, only to pop into a shop and buy himself a brand new suit and bright red tie, just like the ones he wears every day of his working life.

THE WINCH Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life Yes, it’s dumb, and a sub-Bond/Indiana Jones romp. But it was perfectly enjoyable. The thing that really surprised me was the final twist: Lara murders her love r. She didn’t have to, and it feels like a subtle comment on her role as a game-controlled protagonist; is the character a mere avatar being moved by an unseenforce? Plus, Angelina Jolie’s arse looks fantastic.

Henry Winchester Staff Writer

It’s also worth pointing out that the man does deserve some modicum of sympathy, with most of the people lining up to castigate him for his movies never actually having seen any of them. Phrases like “Worst Director Ever” are thrown around like cynical wedding confetti, and at that, we have to disagree. We’ve seen all of his videogame movies, and while they’re bad, they’re not that bad. Yes, Boll is the man who thought that the song ‘7 Seconds’ made the ideal background music for Alone in the Dark’s sex scene, while, apparently, oblivious to the schoolboy sniggering over the hero’s performance, and the fact that it’s a song about racism. Even so, compare his work to most of the late night sci-fi movies, B-movie directors like Coleman Francis, or the truly agonising Whatever

“We’ll repeat that. Uwe Boll got Gandhi to play the vampire king in his schlocky horror film” record to say: “It’s impossible that we’d ever do a movie with him.” Terrible as his game films are, they’ve done well for their investors. The early ones were boosted by a German tax break that let him field a decent budget, and there’s no doubting his knack of getting surprisingly major names involved. Just consider this: Bloodrayne has Ben Kingsley as the villain. We’ll repeat that. Uwe Boll got Gandhi to play the vampire king in his schlocky horror film. That deserves some respect, ideally served up in the form of a one-way ticket to, say, Mars.

Movie films shoved down our throats by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, and it’s painfully clear: Boll isn’t even close to the bottom of the barrel. It just happens to be a very deep barrel, that’s all. What really jumps out about Boll’s game movies has nothing to do with any specific part of production, such as, say, bland scripts or bizarre cinematography – although both are definitely troubled.

I’m gonna cut you like my agent’s contract


We’ve put this off long enough. Most movies based on PC games come from one man, and you know who we mean. The most notable thing about German director Uwe Boll is that somehow, he’s

Oh, it’s hardly the first time she’s been caught like this

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PCs at the movies Left Prince of Persia and Bioshock are both hitting the silver screen

it. Boll decided to make a moody, sloth-paced period piece instead. The direct-to-DVD sequel? A western. Seriously. In which Billy the Kid is a vampire, Rayne is useless, and time loses all meaning until the credits. Bet you can’t wait.


Dungeon Siege goes out of the window in the first minute, when without any sense of irony, the villain and the female lead he’s manipulating are shown lying on top of a bed sharing the following unfortunate dialogue: “I knew you’d come.” “I told you I would.” Instead, the real challenge is trying to

work out how he got from the game, to the movie he ended up making. Take the Bloodrayne movie. You’d never get a ‘good’ movie out of a large breasted vampire chick in leathers slurping her way through a whole battalion of Nazi necks, but you could get a fun, shamelessly trashy flick out of

“You’d never get a ‘good’ movie out of a large breasted vampire chick in leathers…” HOLLYWOOD OUTSIDERS As bad as videogame movies tend to be, other attempts to bridge the screen gap are more successful. South Park’s in-engine Warcraft episode deserves every scrap of its popularity, as does The Guild, Felicia Day’s independent comedy about a group of MMORG players (www. We’ve also seen several excellent documentaries that take a rather more informed take on gaming culture than the mainstream media has ever managed, including the text-adventure focused Get Lamp ( and the coin-op machine obsessed The King of Kong, which is itself currently being converted into a scripted movie from New Line Cinema.


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S CHRIS’S PICK I’ve made a point of avoiding most of the game-to-flick schlock. So I’ll plump for, The Last Starfigher – probably the best excuse for playing arcade games I’ve ever heard: “But mum, I’ve got to practice or Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada will take over the universe.” Chris Thornett Operations Editor

If there’s one good thing about videogame movies’ legendary awfulness, it’s that the bigger companies are finally starting to be slightly cannier about the games they convert. The Prince of Persia movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is a proper Hollywood production, while Bioshock is being headed by Gore Verbinski – hopefully the one who directed the fantastic Pirates of the Caribbean movie, rather than its two horrific sequels. Blizzard’s plans for a liveaction World of Warcraft have gone quiet, but we’re confident that if it ever happens, it’ll be something to see. Overall, things finally seem to be improving. If just one of these highprofile movies can blow away the box office, just maybe videogame movies will start getting the care and respect they so badly deserve. If not, just let us know when the Tetris movie comes out. We have high hopes for that one. ¤

Back in the world of movies, not every conversion is as simple as the likes of Doom and Tomb Raider. The Dutch movie Ben X is a story about an autistic boy who uses the MMORPG Archlord as a way to escape from his miserable life, while the truly obscure Game Over is a film made up of redubbed cutscenes from five completely unrelated interactive movies, linked by new footage. Firmly at the bottom of the heap, in every sense, is the sounofficial-it-hurts porn movies that started off as World of Whorecraft (complete with inevitable titles like Rogues Do It From Behind), which now go under the name ‘Whorelore’ to avoid a damn good spanking from Blizzard’s legal ninjas. Ironically, one of the best movie conversions we’ve seen is a completely independent Half-Life 2 project, released with Valve’s blessing. It’s called Escape From City 17, and while the script and acting aren’t up to much, it looks phenomenal. See it in hi-def at, and keep an eye on YouTube for other films inspired by its success.

May 2009

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PCs at the movies  
PCs at the movies  

What gets us about the films that are made from our favourite videogames isn’t that they’re almost inevitably bad, but how bad they inevitab...