Video game movies are tricky: You don’t just have to produce something that regular audiences can enjoy; you’ve gotta satisfy the hordes of ravenous gamers who adore the source material, and understand it even better than you. Most of the time, you fail. And that’s where fan movies come in. Created on low budgets, they offer a glimpse into the intense dedication and love gamers have for their favorite franchises. More than that, they show the mainstream what gamers want to see. Here’s a list of the five best gamer fan flicks that outshine their mainstream equivalents — proof alone that Uwe Boll has no right to call himself a professional.
1. Fan Flick: Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy (2009)
Hollywood Analogue: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Like the Angelina Jolie flick, Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy plays fast and loose with its source material, ditching everything from the MGS mythology except for the hero, Solid Snake, and the fact that he fights giant, bipedal robot tanks. There’s something to be said for a half-hearted dedication to one’s source: Though both flicks are mixed bags of occasionally thrilling action sequences bookended by irrelevant narrative, they are not tired retreads of the same old stories. But at the end of the day (and even though it’s a close call), it’s more fun to watch a bunch of Italian dudes blowing up robots than it is to watch Angelina Jolie aimlessly pal around with Jon Voight and Daniel Craig.
2. Fan Flick: BloodRayne (2008)
Hollywood Analogue: Uwe Boll’s BloodRayne (2006)
There’s no denying it: this BloodRayne probably isn’t going to blow your mind. It’s amateurishly shot, weirdly paced, and not particularly exciting. And yet, it feels immeasurably superior to Uwe Boll’s big-budget adaptation of the exact same game. Why? Because in the video game, BloodRayne does two things well: she makes awkward-but-kinda-funny sexual innuendos, and she kills Nazis. That’s all anyone could reasonably ask for, and whereas Boll arbitrarily set his movie in medieval times — thus removing those factors — that’s exactly what this fan flick delivers. Granted, the essence in question may be juvenile and impossible to take seriously, but at least the BloodRayne fan movie was intentionally juvenile and impossible to take seriously.
3. Fan Flick: Turbo (2009)
Hollywood Analogue: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
The vast majority of video game flicks based on tournament fighting games are really no different than the chopsocky flicks of the ’70s. I’ve said as much before. What also needs to be said, however, is that neo-Kung-Fu flicks like The Legend of Chun-Li very seldom recreate the feel of their source games. The childish glee of triumphing over physically exaggerated opponents is replaced with a cliched revenge plot; magical attack moves are replaced with more realistic armaments. Not so for Turbo. Though not specifically based on an individual fighting game, the costumes and martial arts styles on display are undeniably reminiscent of Street Fighter II. The movie also gets at the heart of what it felt like to be a gamer during the arcade era; to stand in a room full of blinking lights, ready and eager to take on all opponents.
4. Fan Flick: Escape from City 17 (2009)
Hollywood Analogue: Doom (2005)
This Half-Life 2 fan effort is probably closest in spirit to Dwayne Johnson’s Doom, purely due to its subject matter (gruff-looking dudes shooting at things that are sort of aliens, but not), but it actually shares more in common with a considerably more beloved bit of mainstream filmmaking: Children of Men. Filmed in a hand-held guerrilla style and bathed in unusually gorgeous CGI, Escape from City 17 achieves in four minutes what Doom fails to do in two hours (the charmingly excessive first-person sequence notwithstanding): It creates a tangible, oppressive, atmosphere that simultaneously feels faithful to its source material, yet exciting even to those wholly unfamiliar with the Half-Life universe.
5. Fan Flick: Dead Fantasy (2007)
Hollywood Analogue: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
Square Enix’s Advent Children is what we gamers refer to as nerd heroin. The big-screen sequel to one of the most popular Final Fantasy games has no narrative reason to exist other than to allow gamers to watch Cloud Strife and Sephiroth beat the living daylights out of each other. Advent is an undeniably bad movie, but it is, perhaps, bad for the right reasons. Monty Oum’s Dead Fantasy series, on the other hand, is fantastic for those same reasons. Bringing together the characters from the disparate Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy franchises for a protracted battle royale, Oum taps into that most immature part of the nerd subconscious; the part that just wants to see Han Solo fight Indiana Jones fight for 30 minutes in beautifully choreographed CG fights. For the ultimate in video game viewing, this is the movie to see.
But what do you think? Are fan flicks going where no video game movie has gone before? Which ones are your favorite? Let me know in the comments.Read More