Whenever a beloved video game property is announced as a new film or TV adaptation, someone always brings up the “stigma” of the games being ported to a different screen. It’s true that some ill-fated efforts have given video game movies a bad name, from House of the Dead to Postal to Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, and critics seem to hold these adaptations to stricter standards. First to market was 1993’s fantastically bold live-action Super Mario Bros. which has since gained a cult following, though it was met with virulence that forever poisoned the discourse surrounding video game adaptations. There have been more than 50 video game adaptations since Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo battled Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa, but headlines keep asking, in our year of 2023, whether The Last of Us will “break the curse of video game adaptation.” or finally. “get rid of a terrible stigma”, even though any curse or stigma has long since been vanquished.
It’s hard to understand what stigma is being referred to, be it financial profitability, critical consensus, or audience appreciation. “All video game movies are bad” is a thread of logic that fell out of fashion at least a decade ago at this point, uttered only by those who deliberately don’t get involved in video game adaptations or are burdened by short-term memory loss. term. .
If we’re talking box office earnings on video game movies, how can there be a stigma when Paul WS Anderson’s Resident Evil franchise spans 6 movies due to ceremonious ticket sales? Heck, let’s also throw in the 2021 reboot reports from Johannes Roberts. Even rounding down, the Resident Evil movies have grossed $1.2 billion worldwide on a production budget of $313 million for Sony, and that’s not including physical media sales. Apocalypse, Extinction, Afterlife, and Retribution opened at number one at the North American box office, with The Final Chapter generating $314 million worldwide on a $40 million budget as the highest-grossing. The infection began to spread in 2002, when Resident Evil, Anderson’s patient zero, raked in $100 million in its $33 million spend, going back to the early 2000s for a studio-approved stigma buster.
Resident Evil isn’t the only theatrically successful video game movie either. Anderson’s 1995 Mortal Kombat adaptation dominated the competition with $122 million in earnings against $20 million in production costs. Simon West’s 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider banked on the star power of Angelina Jolie as the titular scout with a whopping $274 million, still impressive considering the blockbuster’s $115 million budget. Shouldn’t we forget Steven E. de Souza’s 1994 Street Fighter adaptation? Jean-Claude Van Damme raked in bruised baddies to the tune of $99 million on a $35 million budget, and might you mention that all of these titles spawned sequels due to their impressive financial results?
The Last of Us Episode 1: TV Show and Game Comparison Slideshow
So if you’re trying to tell me that curses and stigmata are related to dollar signs, stop right there. Super Mario Bros. might have been a stinking superbomb — one low-end budget estimate reports that the $38 million box office total didn’t even top the $42 million production cost — but that stat is worthless even a year later. , when Street Fighter more than doubles Mario’s. embarrassing high score.
Television doesn’t have box office reports, but it does have ratings that convey viewership in the same way that ticket sales are tracked. Netflix’s Arcane: League of Legends emerged as a surprisingly popular series that became the #1 TV show on Netflix in its first week. Netflix’s beloved Castlevania anime became a sequel series after massive praise for four highly praised original seasons. Streamers have opened the door for video game television adaptations based on a wide range of properties. Not to ignore the cartoons of Sonic, Donkey Kong, Mario and Link as Saturday morning type adventures – the true originals when it comes to episodic video game adaptations.
If you’re discussing critical reaction as a viable metric when gauging the value of video game adaptations, that’s another refutable arena. Rotten Tomatoes released a recent Tomatometer scale that records 49 theatrically released video game adaptations with 20 or more reviews, and only 5 are considered fresh. From fifth to first, you have both Sonic the Hedgehog movies, then Detective Pikachu, followed by The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Werewolves Within as the only Certified Fresh video game adaptation (kudos Josh Ruben). Does not include VOD and/or international releases such as Taiwan’s Detention (2019) with 86%, Japan’s Fatal Frame (2014) which never reached US critics, or Indonesia’s DreadOut (2019) with 64% which is still pending distribution in the US shows like Arcane: League of Legends with 100%, The Cuphead Show! Season 1 with 69% (currently awaiting a season four renewal), and Castlevania with its lowest season score at 83% (throwing two perfect 100%s into the ring).
Animated television is often left out of the conversation when it comes to video game adaptations due to, oddly enough, stigma. “Animation is for children” or “television is secondary to cinema”. We’re used to charting ups and downs as theater paydays, while the once less prevalent but still present TV adaptations weren’t valued in the same way. How can we say The Last of Us could be an unattainable high as Arcane: League of Legends didn’t just stun us all in 2021 with, itself, being called the first major video game TV adaptation? Or by acknowledging the successes of multiple Sonic TV cartoons that predate even Super Mario Bros. by a year (1992)?
Then again, we’re creating a stigma based on personal preferences and critical values if we say these are comprehensive quality ratings, and can you really do that? Audiences have long appreciated screen narratives that critics who may not be video game enthusiasts or horror lovers consider “unwatchable,” leaving them predisposed to skew the negative (horror fans from the 2000s know this fight). Anderson’s Resident Evil might have a 35% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, but it also boasts a 67% audience score. The Rock’s Rampage remix scores negative with 51%, but ranks even higher with an audience score of 72%. Anderson’s recent Monster Hunter crack who was an unfortunate victim of lockdown? Just a 44% critical score against its much stronger audience score of 70%. As a reviewer, I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I also understand how aggregators erase the voices that are there to defend a Rampage or Monster Hunter, of which I am happily part of the positive review team. The Cuphead Show! continue because people are watching, and that matters.
I’d ramble on for at least a thousand more words right now about how Doom (2005) is one of the most successful video game adaptations to date if my publishers didn’t cut them all out. I see the Rotten Tomatoes score, but if you ask me personally? I would say that video game adaptations have rarely surpassed Karl Urban’s FPS speed on a Mars facility filled with demonic mutants. He may roll his eyes, but this is purely a rejection of the nonsense of perpetuating stigmas. You may have never loved a video game adaptation in your life, but that doesn’t negate the countless others who have found their hits where others have mocked and criticized. The followers of Prince of Persia, or the followers of Silent Hill, or the defenders of Assassin’s Creed. Personal preference cannot be reported as a general fact. Getting sketchy feelings is just lazy clickbait.
Then no. The Last of Us will not break the curse of the video game adaptation because there is no stigma to break. Will The Last of Us be a momentous event that further legitimizes video game adaptations as its highlights evolve? Signs are flashing in the right direction. Yet that is the problem with modern critical discourses: if we don’t pit things against each other or indulge in hyperbole, there isn’t much attention. It’s easy to continue a broken narrative that all video game adaptations are bad, while it’s harder to prove otherwise. Fortunately, I enjoy a challenge from time to time. Say it loud, say it often, and say it to anyone who will listen: there’s no such thing as the stigma of video game adaptation.