Nightwatcher's Patrol #15 - Game on!

Five Video Game Movies That Have Done It Right
April 22, 2013
I recently posted an article about my favorite props from the TV shows and movies of my childhood. In case anyone is wondering why I wrote that instead of my PlayStation article it's because my Sega Genesis article didn't do to well, it only got a score of eight. However, there was another article that I have been wanting to write, since I had dedicated the video game articles to Wreck-It Ralph I figured I should write one about the only video game movies that have been good so far. Let's hit the bricks!

Level 1: Disney

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

"Hey yo! I'm gonna wreck it! Ha, just kidding!"I know, this movie only just came out last year, but despite it only being four months old I fugure it technically counts as retro now, esspecially due to it's nostalgic feel. Ralph (John C. Riley) is a bad guy from the 1982 game Fix-It Felix Jr. but he wants to prove to the game's good guy Felix(Jack McBrayer) and it's little residents the Nicelanders, that there is more to him than a nasty temper problem and smashing buildings, and so he sets out to win his own medal (what a hero character wins when they finish their game). Along his journey Ralph jumps into the arcade's newest game, the dark and gritty Hero's Duty, which is headed up by the gruff and militant Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), to win said medal. What Ralph doesn't realise, however, is that he's getting in over his head and, while he does manage to get the medal, he also accidently releases one of the game's enemy creatures, a baby Cybug, and brings it into the 1997 kiddie candy racer Sugar Rush which it begins to devour like a virus. And on top of that, Ralph loses his medal to a cute little glitch named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). Could this get any worse?! Oh yeah, alot worse. I won't say any more as I've probably ruined half the movie for alot of you already, but I like it alot. It's really good and very well written, the characters are very charming and it's interesting to see the world of video games from the inside for a change. It also features some nostalgic characters from past games including Sonic, Pac Man, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Paper Boy, Dig Dug and many more, to many to list here. I understand that they are now juggling around some ideas for a sequel, possibly expanding this story line into the realm of home console gaming and online gaming, which would be HUGE. Let's hope it goes well. Sadly this some how lost all three awards for best animated feature of the year for 2012 to Brave. This movie was amazing so I'm not sure how that happened. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Tron (1982)

I was only a baby when this came out but if memory serves correctly my cousins liked this one. Once I got old enough to understand the movie, which I think was somewhere in my teens, I decided to rent it to see for my self and...whoah! I was blown away! The movie stars a man named Kevin Flinn (Jeff Bridges) who once worked for a tech company called ENCOM, but was betrayed by his former partner Ed Dillinger (David Warner) who stole his video game ideas to get promoted. Flinn's ex girlfriend Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) and her new boyfriend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) help him regain access to ENCOM to attempt Dillinger's overthrow by revealing to the world what he did to Flinn. While attempting to hack the company's computer system, Flinn is digitized by the Master Control Program (MCP) and becomes trapped on the Grid, which is supposed to be the little digital world inside your computer. Flinn must now battle the MCP's evil forces and hack his way through the system from the inside, without getting derezzed in the process. The computer graphics that were used to animate this movie were considered to be ahead of their time (which I suppose is true) and they made Flinn's adventure on the Grid seem more believeable. And I've seriously gotta get me one of those light cycles. Also, after twenty eight long years this movie has finally gotten a sequel entitled Tron: Legacy (2010) which now stars Kevin's son Sam Flinn (Garrett Hedlund) in a similar misadventure. These aren't exactly the best movies in the world but they are definately not the worst either, and the original is concidered a cult classic.

And so it looks like Disney has officially put it's own footstep in video game movies, but it's not the only film company to make such a daring attempt. The next three are from Universal and are considered to be the best movies in this categorey.

Level 2: Universal

Cloak & Dagger (1984)

The first time I saw this movie was in high school. I don't remember which grade exactly but it was either ninth or tenth, and I do remember quite vividly that the whole class really enjoyed it. Henry Thomas (Elliot from E.T.) stars as Davy Osbourne, an eleven year old boy living in San Antonio with his all to busy and inattentive father who thinks that Davy spends way to much time with his video games, namely the Atari title Cloak & Dagger, and his dad may be right. But one day Davy's world goes awry when he witnesses a murder and the victim, a scientist, manages to hand him a copy of the Cloak & Dagger cartrige in his dying breaths. The cartrige turns out to contain blue prints for a top secret stealth jet that is under construction by the US military and it seems that a terrorist group is after those blue prints so that they can sell them to enemy forces. With the fate of our entire country lying in his young hands Davey, with the help of his imaginary friend Jack Flack, the hero from Cloak & Dagger who bares an uncanny resemblance to Davey's father (mostly due to the fact that they are both played by Dabney Coleman), must overcome the terrorists and assure the safe delivery of the plans to our military. Quite a mission for someone so young. The story line is good, Thomas once again delivers a stellar perfomance as child actors go and the unusually dark tone for a children's movie makes it suitable for adults as well. Note: many a viewer will recognise this as a remake of the 1949 movie The Window. Very cool!

The Wizard (1989)

The first time I saw this tear jerker was at the same friend's house where I got my first tastes of Fantasia and Sega Genesis (covered in Nightwatcher's Patrol #'s 6 and 13) and it still wows me every time. This movie stars Luke Edwards as Jimmy Woods, a young boy with a mental disability which, though never actually named, is presumably Autism. Jimmy always carries a yellow lunch box and keeps trying to escape to "Cowifawnia" (California). His disability seems to have reached a peak since the sudden and tradgic death of his twin sister Jennifer during a family fishing trip two years earlier, when she fell in a river and drowned. Following Jimmy's latest attempt at the journey of his life, his mom, who he is currently living with, reluctantly places him in an institution but his half-brother Corey (Fred Savage) busts him out and aids him on his trip. Along the way the boys meet with a girl named Haley (Jenny Lewis) who, upon descovering Jimmy's inept skills at gaming, suggests entering him in a tournament called "Video Armageddon", which is being held at, (surprise, surprise!), Universal Studios in L.A. and who's grand prize is $50,000.00 cash. The kids also have a problem however, Jimmy's step-father has hired a sleasey and ruthless bounty hunter called Putnem to find them and bring Jimmy home. Not to mention Jimmy's big competition, a bulley named Lucas Barton (Jackey Vinson, and the bulley I reffered to in my Nintendo article with the Power Glove). With Putnem hot on their heels along with Corey's father and brother Nick (Christian Slater), and Lucas trying to get Jimmy kicked out of the tournament, things start to look a little tight, but with help from Haley's trucker friend Spankey (Frank McRae), Autism or not, Jimmy shines in the end. Alot of people were negative about this, accusing it of being nothing more than an advertisement for Nintendo and Universal Studios. But it's so much more. It's an exciting adventure, yet another cult classic, and proof that mental disorders, like Autism, can be overcome. It's also now available in a DVD Double Feature two pack with Cloak & Dagger as seen below. Note: At the time of this movie's release Super Mario Bros. 3, which played a major role, had not yet been released in the U.S. It would reach our shores the following year.

The Last Starfighter (1984)

"Greetings Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Kodan Armada."

This is the story of a young man named Alex (Lance Guest) who's life couldn't be more boring. He lives in a trailer park with his mom and kid brother Louis where he is always fixing things and helping to keep the place together, his only high light being his girlfriend Maggie (Cathrine Mary Stewart). But one day Alex's life changes forever when he notices a new game at the park's diner called Starfighter and decides to give it a go. After several plays Alex eventually breaks the game's record, but there's something that he doesn't know. The game is in reality a training device used to test new recruits for a very real war that is raging out in space...and Alex has just become one. At first Alex is not willing to be a Starfighter but he soon realises his importance and, along with his pilot Grig (Dan O'Herlihy), goes into battle to save the universe from the evil Emperor Xur. This is not the best of Universal's video game bunch but it's not really terrible either. There are lots of alien creatures, a few funny moments and CGI animation that was cutting edge for it's time. In fact, the CG imagery in this movie is very similar to that of Tron. All in all this is not the best movie in the world but it's worth a look.

Final Score

As we can see here there have been some movies revolving around video games that are on the positive side of the motion picture spectrum. It seems to work alot better if the story takes place in the real world (or the real outer space), and the game in question acts as more of a support rather than the main focus. The the movies listed in this article are an excellent example of this and are all well worth the time to view. Super Mario Bros. was okay and even has a loyal cult following while Double Dragon is a good example of how to waste perfectly good celluloid. There have also been others including Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annialation and even two Tomb Raider movies, but the movies on this list are by far the best in this category. I hope everyone likes this article because, in a way, it is the video game version of my very first article, Monster Mash, which is about family friendly monster movies. Until next time players, this is Nightwatcher signing off. I'll see you in the bonus level.

End Game

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