News

Video game adaptations burn up the box office

Barbara Vancheri
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (MCT)

It is entirely possible to be an Oscar nominee (or even winner) and the star of a movie based on a video game.

Just ask Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, who twice played Lara Croft, or Mark Wahlberg, who was the only actor nominated for best picture “The Departed” and later produced “The Fighter” — with a stint as “Max Payne” in between.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” starred a buff and British-accented Jake Gyllenhaal as a rogue prince who reluctantly joins forces with a feisty princess (Gemma Arterton). Together, they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger that will allow its owner to rule the world.

Last week, Screen Gems confirmed it would distribute a live-action adaptation of “The Last of Us,” a PlayStation 3 game that arrived in stores in June.

It’s set 20 years in the future when the human race has been overrun by a parasitic infection that turns people into zombie-like husks that hunt other humans. There is no cure, and the goal for the few remaining humans is to survive.

This week brings another video game adaptation with “Need for Speed” from director Scott Waugh, who says he wants audiences to feel what it’s like to drive 230 miles an hour. Without bobbling their popcorn.

“Need for Speed” stars Aaron Paul (two-time Emmy winner for “Breaking Bad”) as a man who runs his family’s auto shop and races the underground street circuit on weekends. When he lands in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he has two years to plot vengeance in the action movie also starring Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and onetime Batmobile driver Michael Keaton.

As “Need for Speed” lands the pole position alongside other openers “Veronica Mars” and “Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club,” here’s a look at the top-grossing video game adaptations in North America, courtesy of Rentrak Corp., global media measurement company.

1. “Wreck-It Ralph” (Nov. 2, 2012) — It made nearly twice what “Flight” did when both movies opened on the same day and went on to bring in more than $189.4 million at the box office.

The 3-D animated family film, about a video game villain who tries to break free of his role, has references or homages to “Donkey Kong,” “Rampage,” “Call of Duty,” “Metal Gear Solid” and “Root Beer Tapper” and lots of famous voices.

2. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (June 15, 2001) — Jolie brought a combination of sneer, swagger and sexuality to the archaeologist trying to stop a villain from gaining the ability to control time. Its opening weekend take of $48 million was a record for a movie based on a video game. It eventually made $131 million in North America and launched a sequel two years later.

3. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (May 28, 2010) — Sixth-century Persia provides the backdrop for Gyllenhaal’s adopted prince wrongfully accused of killing his father, the king. Directed by Mike Newell and filmed largely in Morocco, it cost a reported $200 million but supplemented its $90.8 million in North America with $245 million overseas.

4. “Mortal Kombat” (Aug. 18, 1995) — The visuals are stunning, from the morphing sorcerer to the bad guy with scorpions growing out of his palms. But the acting is nowhere near as impressive and it plays like a cheap imitation of an old Ray Harryhausen epic. Nevertheless, it made $70 million.

5. “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” (July 25, 2003) — Jolie, back as the fearless, frightfully fit Englishwoman, uncovers an ancient orb that is a map to finding Pandora’s Box, which will unleash a deadly plague. In costumes such as a black bikini and form-fitting silver wet suit, she must keep the world safe with help from a former lover played by Gerard Butler. The sequel made roughly half of the original with nearly $65.7 million.

6. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Sept. 10, 2010) — This 3-D horror film, which grossed $60.1 million, was the fourth installment in the series starring Milla Jovovich as invincible zombie killer Alice. Wentworth Miller, star of “Prison Break,” was added as the game character Chris Redfield.

7. “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (Sept. 10, 2004) — This was a sequel to 2002’s “Resident Evil,” which didn’t burn up the box office but did well on home video. Jovovich was back as a security chief trying to help survivors escape a zombified metropolis before a nuclear strike. One critic called her “babe-tastic,” while another wrote: With its miniskirted heroines and gooey guts-a-plenty, “Apocalypse” appealed mainly to guys under the age of 25, who fattened the box office by $50.7 million.

8. “Resident Evil: Extinction” (Sept. 21, 2007) — In the third chapter of the franchise, set in the Nevada desert, Alice now has superhuman strengths, senses and dexterity. She and her crew, played by Oded Fehr, Mike Epps, Ali Larter and Ashanti, try to make a final stand against evil and turn the undead dead again. They scored $50.6 million.

9. “Silent Hill” (April 21, 2006) — Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean star in this adaptation about a town possessed by the damned and a mother who must survive it (and grotesquely deformed creatures) to save her daughter. She had taken the girl there to cure her of an ailment but the child disappears after a violent car crash. It made just shy of $50 million at the box office.

10. “Resident Evil: Retribution” (Sept. 14, 2012) — Fifth installment of the franchise in which Jovovich’s Alice is the only hope for the human race, which is headed for extinction. She fights her way through cities and across continents, all inside Umbrella Corporation’s prime research facility where old friends become new enemies. Another $42.3 million added to the coffers.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image