This past May, Captain America: Civil War stormed into theatres, staking a worthy claim to the greatest comic book movie of all-time crown. The film features a cast of beloved Marvel characters, a fantastic mix of action, humour and drama, and a classic superhero battle ripped right from a comic book splash page.
In addition to destroying its box office competitors, Civil War has received nearly universal praise from critics, and yet, the film has plenty of competition for the “best superhero movie ever” title. The Avengers, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2 are each doing battle in the bragging rights equivalent of Game of Thrones — instead of Westerosi battlefields, loyal armies wage war on Twitter and Reddit.
Arguing over cinematic power rankings is a symptom of too many great films. Comic book movies aren’t the only ones dominating our pop culture conversations; The Jungle Book, Inside Out and Star Wars: The Force Awakens each spent considerable time in the spotlight. So why is it that amidst our current popcorn-flick renaissance, video game movies aren’t included in any “best of” conversations?
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Video games have long been a staple of geek culture. Much like their pop culture cousins, comic books, their source material is ripe for the type of Hollywood adaptations that earn “Scrooge McDuck money.” Even though several huge game franchises are receiving or have already seen the big-screen treatment in 2016 (The Angry Birds Movie, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed), their releases haven’t created the same buzz as a new Marvel Netflix series. That’s because video game movies have been disappointing audiences for over 2 decades now. After 25 years and nearly 40 lacklustre pictures, it’s taken as a given that Hollywood can’t translate video games into entertaining movies.
Excellent live-action video game movies are like G-rated Tarantino films: they simply don’t exist. Some video game movies have had huge box office runs (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), and some have found success in mediocrity (the Resident Evil series). Throughout all of them though, one thing remains the same: Video game movies keep failing to capture viewer’s hearts and imaginations. The video game movie bar is set so low that not being terrible is a noteworthy achievement nowadays (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within).
A broken clock is right twice a day, and even bad films occasionally have solid box office runs, but this has yet to be the case for video game movies. The top 37 highest grossing video game movies accumulated a $1,268,591,081 domestic box office gross. To put that number into perspective: Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron brought in a total $1,082,363,778 together (that’s only $200 million shy of every video game movie combined).