More than ever before, we are living in a time when franchises are everything. Remakes, prequels, sequels and shared universes are the name of the game in Hollywood, and the number of films based on other recognizable properties appears to be on the rise. Toys and games — which boast devoted fanbases eager to consume the latest incarnation of their favorite characters — are particularly ready-made for big-screen adaptations, as films like The Angry Birds Movie and Trolls are due for release this year. However, every once in a while, a film based on a toy, board game or video game manages to capture the essence of the source material and create a worthy cinematic experience. Here are five examples.
1. Clue (1985)
Battleship may have bombed at the domestic box office a few years ago, but this comedic riff on the classic Hasbro (then Parker Brothers) murder mystery board game has become a cult classic in the years since it hit theaters. Featuring an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Tim Curry, Madeline Khan, and Christopher Lloyd, the film manages such a wry sense of humor while incorporating all the key components of the game, including the characters, rooms, weapons and even the secret passageways. A laugh riot that has no reason to be as good as it is.
2. Mortal Kombat (1995)
Features based on video games are notoriously hard to pull off, but this Paul W. S. Anderson action film — which chronicles three warriors in their quest to defend Earth in a martial arts tournament — was one of the first to succeed at the box office. Bearing all the earmarks of cheesy 1990s action cinema, the film is over-the-top in all the best ways, and though it doesn’t retain the games’ extreme violence, its devil-may-care charm works nonetheless, thanks to its hit soundtrack and strong performances from Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who reprised the role of Shang Tsung in the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy nearly 20 years later.
3. Resident Evil (2002)
Writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson returned to the world of video game cinema for this action-horror film based on the Capcom series. The film — which stars Anderson’s wife, actress/model Milla Jovovich — may not break any new ground, but it is an effective, worthy addition to the horror genre and one that stands above most other video game adaptations. Moreover, the film’s box office success began a long-running series written and produced by Anderson. The sixth and final installment is set for release in 2017.
4. Transformers (2007)
True, Michael Bay’s big-screen take on the “robots in disguise” may deservedly have its share of critics, but for longtime fans of the franchise, that original film still holds up as a fun adaptation of beloved characters like Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen, who played the character in the animated series as well as 1986 release Transformers: The Movie). Its sequels might have further soured audiences’ divisive response to the franchise. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that many fans make an exception for the first Transformers.
5. The Lego Movie (2014)
No one expected a film based on the ubiquitous Lego construction blocks to be any good. So audiences and critics were floored when directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) took the opportunity to make a subversive satire about commercialism and the importance of individualism and imagination. The film could have easily been a shameless cash-in, but instead, The Lego Movie lampoons that very notion, becoming a universally praised box office smash that has kicked off a film franchise like no other.
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