Are Video Game Movies The Next Big Thing? Hollywood May Think So
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Are Video Game Movies The Next Big Thing? Hollywood May Think So

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BY February 23, 2020

We’ve seen so many things adapted into films over the years. Some thrive, while plenty more fail. Bringing books to the big screen will never go out of style, but it seems like a new form of adaptations is on the rise. With recent successes in films like Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu, we have to wonder if video game movies are the next big thing. So, let’s take a look at the failures that paved the way for so many recent films, and what the future of video game movies looks like.

Recent Wins In Video Game Movies

Detective Pikachu released last year to mixed reviews. While it wasn’t a total critical success, fans and film critics alike praised the movie’s charming appeal and Ryan Reynolds perfect embodiment of the titular character. The film ended up grossing $433 million on its $150 million budget. It remains the second highest-grossing video-game adaptation, right behind 2016’s Warcraft. The majority of Warcraft‘s $439 million gross comes from overseas markets, especially China. So, we’re not too surprised if you didn’t watch it.

Sonic the Hedgehog has been the most recent success for the video game movie genre. After some controversy surrounding the original effects, the studio gave the film a makeover and a new trailer. The redesign definitely worked. The film only just released and has already made more than $130 million. So, why is it winning? On top of the more fun appearance of Sonic, the performances by the cast have been praised. Jim Carrey’s villainous role as been especially praised, reminding fans just how good he is at campy roles.

sonic video game movie Image via Paramount Pictures.

Previous Failures In The Genre

Mario and Luigi are two of the most well-known video game characters out there. They’re plumbers who are set on rescuing the princess from Bowser. None of that really sounds adaptable, but they sure did try. Super Mario Bros., released in 1993, is considered the first video game movie. Nintendo gave the studio free creative license, and so they tried to re-capture a similar vibe to 1984’s Ghostbusters. Whatever they were trying for failed, as the film was a box office bomb. It made only $20.9 million on a $48 million budget.

A variety of other video games were turned in to films, with some being big enough to spawn sequels. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider didn’t do too poorly. The film was criticized for a pretty basic plot, but Angelina Jolie portrayed the heroine well enough to deserve a sequel in 2003. Alicia Vikander took over the lead role in the 2018 reboot, Tomb Raider. The critical responses to the film were pretty negative, calling the story “uninspired“. This film made $275 million, and a sequel is expected.

So, What Makes A Video Game Movie Successful?

Few have tried, and many have failed. Films like Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog are proof that fans want to see their favorite games on the big screen. So what’s the trick? What these films share in common is their ability to bring what we love about the games to life. It’s not just putting the characters in the real world. Having the right setting and enough heart is the key. Stories may often be restricted by the scope of the games, but there are still good ways to translate them on screen.

The future of video game movies should be an exciting one. We can expect a Borderlands film from director Eli Roth in the near future. We expect studios to be more eager to try out the genre now that it has proven that there is both money and critical success to be found.

Readers, what video game do you think should be turned in to a movie? Let us know!

Featured image via Warner Bros. Pictures.


Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.

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