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Five Video Game Movie Sequels That Surpass Their Originals

Video game movies don’t always follow mainstream trends. Where quality Hollywood flicks typically lead to inferior sequels, video game movies tend to be so underwhelming that by comparison even direct-to-DVD sequels can seem better. It’s oddly satisfying, in fact, to see franchises get redeemed by directors you’ve never heard of using vastly smaller budgets than their theatrical counterparts. Examples, you say? I’m getting to that.

1. Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life (2003)
Tomb-Raider-Cradle-125.jpgAt the time of its release, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was one of the most financially successful video game movies of all time. Box office tickets didn’t end up translating to popular appeal, however, and effectively no one turned out to watch the exorbitantly expensive sequel (the second of a planned trilogy). Which is a shame, because it’s at least moderately better than the condescending, borderline sexist first flick. Where the original was a plodding, tonally awkward mishmash of existing action cliches (and for some reason, a fight with a giant robot), the sequel is a well-paced and enjoyable adventure flick in the vein of Indiana Jones.

2. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Resident-Evil-Apocalypse-125.jpgDespite being one of the least painful zombie-related video game movies, the first Resident Evil flick took itself far too seriously. The games were about zombies and death and pretty much nothing else; the movie put in a weird amnesia plot, corporate conspiracy and double-crosses that nobody cared about. Resident Evil: Apocalypse drops all pretense of seriousness and gets right down to ridiculousness. Any movie whose main antagonist is a walking, intelligent zombie who blows things up with a rocket launcher and mournfully grunts “STARRSZZ!” you know isn’t taking itself seriously.

3. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
Final-Fantasy-Japan-125.jpgThough not a narrative sequel, it’s difficult to think of Advent Children as anything but a follow-up to Square’s other, considerably less successful Final Fantasy flick. Where The Spirits Within includes dull characters and expository scenes punctuated by uninvolving action, Advent Children at least has the courage to cut out the exposition and put all the mindless fanboy-fodder on the screen as soon as possible. Sure, the movie’s a dramatic flop whose tone veers somewhere between “silly” and “brooding,” but it’s not agonizingly dull. Even if you’re just laughing at the characters who pop in and out of frame for no reason, at least you’re having an emotional reaction.

4. House of the Dead 2 (2006)
House-of-Dead-2-125.jpgEven ignoring the welcome lack of Uwe Boll, this made-for-TV sequel is superior to the first movie if only because it’s much more faithful to the source material. Where the first House of the Dead movie had nothing in common with the game beyond zombies and a cringe-inducing decision to include clips of actual gameplay as scene transitions, House of the Dead 2 actually shares plot-points with the game. Of course, I use the word “plot” extremely loosely, but still — it’s nice to see a medical facility get overrun by zombies, only to be (sort-of) contained by AMS agents as opposed to a bunch of random partygoers.

5. Alone in the Dark II (2008)
The fact that Uwe Boll directed the first and not the second should be proof enough of the second’s superiority. Gone is the ridiculous casting of Tara Reid as a brilliant scientist; gone is the endless, text-based prologue that brought the first movie to a screeching halt. The monster is still silly and not terribly intimidating, but at least it isn’t a Big Ugly CGI Lizard. One could argue that the first Alone in the Dark is so awful it’s entertaining. I counter that Boll’s movie is so awful it’s downright aneurysm-inducing. The sequel, thankfully, is nowhere near as offensive. And honestly, isn’t that the best you can hope for?

But what do you think — are some of these sequels actually worse than their predecessors, or are there other superior video game movie sequels I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Anthony Burch is the features editor for and the co-writer and director of the video series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? He recently completed Runner, his first art game.

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