‘Wreck-It Ralph’ offers video game-based films an extra life

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Films based on video games are generally greeted to a negative reaction. In fact, if you looked at critic reviews of such films, you’d struggle to find any over the 50% mark. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

You have to go back 20 years for the release of the first video game film “Super Mario Bros.” (1993). Based on the game of the same name, the film saw two plumbers Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) attempting to save Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from the grasp of King Koopa (Dennis Hopper).

But how did the reviews for the film fair? Not well it seems. Movie Eye described the film as “about as playful and challenging as an unplugged pinball machine” and Time Out said that “it will baffle kids, bore adolescents, and depress adults”.

Fast-forward to 2001 for the next big video game film to release, coming in the form of “Lara Croft – Tomb Raider”. Starring Angelina Jolie in the lead role, the film saw Lara Croft racing against time and villains to recover powerful ancient artifacts.

While it definitely had potential, it certainly didn’t go down well with critics. The BBC said it was “a lacklustre start to what is nonetheless sure to be an extremely lucrative franchise” and Empire described it as “not disastrous, but somewhat disappointing nonetheless”.

Two years later, the sequel “Lara Croft Tomb RaiderThe Cradle of Life” was released, though this too was greeted to a poor reaction. Variety said that the film contained “most of the same shortcomings that cramped the first instalment” and that while it “delivers on action, it dawdles through downtime”.

Both the “Resident Evil” and “Silent Hill” series were greeted to similar reactions, though a glimmer of hope came when “Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time” released in 2010. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton, the film received reviews of both extremes.

Los Angeles Times described it as “two hours of July 4th fireworks, only with flying swords and sandstorms, and raging battles and mystical palaces rising out of the desert”. Nevertheless, Examiner.com said that “it suffers in the story department because it continually tries to fill the film with too much action”.

However, there’s a video game film set for release in 2013, which has had rave reviews from critics. While it isn’t based on one video game in particular, “Wreck-It Ralph”, released in cinemas on February 8th, contains a number of video game references.

The plot consists of a video game villain wanting to be a hero, as he sets out to fulfil his dream, though the result causes havoc in the arcade he lives in. There are even appearances from characters such as Bowser from Super Mario Bros., Doctor Eggman from “Sonic the Hedgehog” and more.

Rolling Stone described the film as “the latest in a rash of recent movies fired up with imaginative risk. Director Moore brings a video junkie’s passion to the movie game, and it’s hilariously infectious” and The Vine said that “anyone who grew up within a controller cable length of a gaming console will need to see this film”.

With films for “Assassin’s Creed”, “BioShock”, “Halo” and “Splinter Cell” in the pipeline, let’s hope this is a sign of things to come for video game-based films. Wreck-It Ralph is released in cinemas on February 8th, 2013.