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Hollywood has a long history of taking everything from comic books to classic sci-fi, and totally mucking it up when adapting it to a movie. Video games are no exception; from the ridiculous Resident Evil films that have nothing in common with the game franchise, to Raul Julia duking it out with Van Damne in Street Fighter, there's been no shortage of video game films that make us hang our heads low and sigh in collective embarrassment.
There are also a few cases where someone steps up to the plate and gets it right. There are fan made films, sure, and you can find all manner of quality game inspired shorts on youtube, ranging from a sweet Team Fortress 2 parody to Freddie Wong's collection. But there are also times when a larger budget production comes together, and isn't a complete bastardization of the source material. They may not be perfect, but they seem to at least be faithful to the source material, and it gives us something to enjoy while Hollywood gives the Prince of Persia treatment to whatever franchise is up this year.
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind
This apparently shipped with collectors editions of Street Fighter IV, but I haven't seen it pop up on Netflix, video on demand... anywhere besides youtube, anyway. Most gamers are at least aware of the stellar 1994 Street Fighter anime, but the follow-ups have been mediocre at best. Street Fighter II V was a hammy cartoon that was poorly drawn, animated, and voiced, and is only out-awfulled by the Saturday morning Cartoon Express Street Fighter series from the late 90's. The two anime films, Alpha and Alpha: Generations, had fairly uninteresting stories and a washed-out watercolor look, and just sort of disappointing. The Ties That Bind at least seems to have a better production quality behind it, and while I haven't watched the whole thing yet, it's available for free until someone yanks it from youtube, and it's almost guaranteed to be better than the Kristen Kreuk film... right?
Mortal Kombat: Legacy
This was another series that started off as a web series. Kevin Tancharoen made huge waves a few years ago when a short film staring Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade and Michael Jai White as Jax showed up on youtube, re-imagining the MK franchise as more grounded in reality, while retaining the gritty violence it was known for. Shot on a budget of $7,500, the positive reaction from fans helped convince Warner Brothers to fund the web series (although apparently a full film project is also finally underway.) Season 1 has been released on DVD and Blu Ray, and a second season is under production. The series has a look and feel similar to he first Mortal Kombat film, and that's not a bad thing.
Assassin's Creed: Lineage
Ubisoft got burned on the film adaptation of Prince of Persia; a massive budget combined with lukewarm reception made one of Ubi's big franchises a hard sell for future movies. They put a few things into motion, among them acquiring a small CG studio to keep as their in-house effects guys. On a rather limited budget, director Yves Simoneau put together three short episodes that served as a prequel to Assassin's Creed II, following some of Giovanni Auditore's adventures. While they were released for free on youtube, they were compiled and included as a short film in some special editions of AC Brotherhood, and the Blu Ray disc was available at retailers for under $10 a while back. While not a full length film, it was one of the steps Ubi took to drafting an unprecedented contract for a full Assassin's Creed film. By providing most of the funding, Ubi would maintain creative control over almost every aspect of the film, ensuring one of their biggest IPs wouldn't go off the rails the way Prince of Persia did. If Lineage is any indication of what Ubi can do in-house on a small budget, a full AC film production is going to be nothing short of marvelous.
Tekken: Blood Vengeance
There was a live-action Tekken film, and it was terrible. Any fun they could have had with the franchise was reduced to a dystopian, Blade Runner looking city where everyone uses arm-bars and all martial arts look the same. I've been trying to track down a copy the CG film that came out almost the same time, since it looks much better. It may not end up being great, but the characters at least look like they do in the games, and being CG, they can cut loose with some of the more insane material from the games, like Devil Jin's transformation and fight with Kazuya.
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Paul WS Anderson is hard at work, preparing to unleash yet another debacle on us as the fifth Resident Evil film is already underway. Taking one of the legendary Capcom franchises with Leon Kennedy, Chris and Claire Redfield, and Jill Valentine, Anderson instead put his wife in black leather and filmed what I'm assuming was a series of wet dream fetish videos. While Anderson is hard at work making sure his wife overshadows all the characters from the games once again, the rest of us can watch Degeneration, a direct to dvd CG film following Leon and Claire as they scramble to prevent yet another bio-weapon disaster in the wake of Umbrella's collapse. The dialogue and voice acting is a bit hammy sometimes, but I'm pretty sure this is the result of it being re-dubbed in English (since the lips don't seem to match up,) and if that's the case, it's actually pretty good for a dub. The plot is a bit silly, but that's also par for the course for most RE games; the story moves along at a good pace, and the action sequences for the most part capture that weird Resident Evil vibe, especially during the "boss fight." A second CG film, Damnation, should be out later this year.
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost
This has already been featured here on GameInformer, and it seems like a lot of people are either upset at the choice of James Vega as the main character, the anime style, or both. The upside is, at least we're getting something while a full Mass Effect film is taking its sweet time getting made. From the trailer, it looks like they may be going for a hectic action style, and I don't know how I feel about that, since Mass Effect has rarely placed the emphasis on shoot-em-up action, but it IS Mass Effect, and I'll probably pick up a copy at some point.
A collection of eight short animations from various studios, Legends was a unique way for gamers to further enjoy the Halo universe. Some of the shorts range from slow-paced or simply ridiculous, to above average and treating the material with proper seriousness. However, two of the shorts - "Babysitter" and "The Prototype" - always stood out to me. I'd count them among the absolute best pieces of anime-style animation I've seen, and would happily pay full retail price if the studios behind them ever put out a full-length animation.
Halo: Forward Unto Dawn
Another live-action web series, Halo: Forward Unto Dawn is going to be a five-part series leading up to the release of Halo 4. Showing the Halo universe from the perspective of the UNSC marines as opposed to Spartans looks a little weird, like a technological step backwards. It reminds me of the way Starship Troopers featured mostly light infantry, as opposed to the heavy mech armor described in the Novel. Judging from the trailer, it looks like it'll feature at least some ODST troops, and Master Chief will be making an appearance at some point (so, not sure how that fits in, canonically.) But the production value looks to be rather good, and it's Halo, so as long as they don't go totally off the rails, this should be a blast to watch.