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The Giant Bomb Video-Game Movie Experiment: Prologue

Ryan sets his sights on a soul-crushing assignment: watching every video-game movie ever made.

I think there's little doubt that, as far as film genres go, few are as unloved and carry as mercenary a heart as the video-game movie. But just because most video-game movies are universally maligned by game and film enthusiasts alike doesn't mean they don't deserve an honest critical appraisal. This, along with a perverse disregard for my mental health, is the driving force behind the Giant Bomb Video-Game Movie Experiment, in which I will challenge myself to watch and assess every video-game movie ever made.

But before I dive into this potentially soul-sucking venture, let's establish a few ground rules. I'm not talking about movies like Tron, WarGames, or The Wizard, which are movies with prominent video-game themes, but rather, movies based on actual video games. The establishment of this rule led to considerable debate with Jeff as to whether the 1984 Dabney Coleman masterpiece Cloak & Dagger would make the cut, since the game and the movie were in production simultaneously. I eventually conceded to include Cloak & Dagger on the list, just to shut Jeff up about it. Though, really, do I need an excuse to watch a Dabney Coleman movie? While we're on the topic, how is it possible that Short Time isn't available on DVD?

Additionally, I'll be excluding most animated video-game movies, if, for no other reason, to relieve me of the obligation to watch lots of terrible anime. I've got a pretty high tolerance for awful movies, but I'm not sitting through five goddamn Pokemon movies, OK? I'll make exceptions for stuff like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, even though they're essentially polygonal anime, since they have a tad more relevance outside of Japan. I was considering barring any direct-to-video releases, but that would deprive me the joy of screening inexplicably Boll-less sequels like House of the Dead 2: All Guts, No Glory and BloodRayne 2: Deliverance, so DTV movies are fair game.

I'll approach each movie with two primary critical concerns. One, when divorced entirely from the source material, how does the movie stand up? Two, how well does the movie evoke the spirit of the game it's based on? These might seem like pretty diametrically opposed criteria, but attempting to pull off both seems to be the yet-to-be-obtained equilibrium of video-game filmmaking, so it seems fitting. Hell, most can't manage to fulfill either. You can expect my personal biases to shine brightly here, since there are a few video-game movies where I have little knowledge about the source material, and I have no intentions of cracking open Final Fantasy VII in 2008.

I originally intended to attack the list in chronological order, but in a bid to make the ordering of the movies every bit as nonsensical as the Giant Bomb Video-Game Movie Experiment itself, I will instead view them in descending order of the Netflix “best guess” rating generated from the ratings I've personally given other movies. This choice stems from the fact that I'm a complete lunatic and already organize my Netflix queue this way, though by going with a personalized best-to-worst ordering, I'm ensured the most waterboarding movie-watching experience possible. Like every other hastily established rule in the Giant Bomb Video-Game Movie Experiment, there will be a few exceptions, such as Double Dragon, which is apparently rare enough that I had to go hunt down a copy on eBay, as well as the upcoming Postal movie, for which I simply cannot wait for the DVD release to see.

With all of the behind-the-scenes work we're doing on Giant Bomb, along with the increasingly hectic pre-E3 schedule, I'm reticent to commit to a hard schedule for this terrible idea, though I'd like to do installments somewhere between weekly and monthly. For now, take comfort in the fact that Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is currently at the top of my Netflix queue.