For so long the punchline of jokes about their questionable quality, the videogame movie has now seemingly become the go-to trend for Hollywood studios in search of a hit.
Ever since the first videogame to make the jump struggled to gain box office traction nearly three decades ago – with Double Dragon swiftly being followed by Super Mario Bros to commercial oblivion in 1993 – there’s been a predominantly unsuccessful attempt to carry the audience of one over to the other. Some have occasionally worked, but even the money made by the Resident Evil films for instance (over $1bn in takings) hasn’t been matched by the critical acclaim the games regularly earn.
Yet mark your diaries: 2022 was the year it all finally managed to turn. Over the past couple of months, at a point where cinemas are yet to get within touching distance of pre-pandemic levels of business, it’s a pair of videogame movies that have set the box office ablaze. Particularly so in the UK.
Firstly, there was the Tom Holland-headlined adaptation of Sony’s Uncharted games, with the film version landing back in February. Holland was already riding high at the box office courtesy of December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, yet Uncharted – that had struggled in development hell for years – gave him a success outside of a skin-tight outfit. The film passed £20m at the UK box office just before Easter (no mean feat in current teams), and a sequel is on the way.
Then, over the past couple of weeks, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 has built on the success of the first movie (itself a box office success) and helped itself to a whole load of cash as well. The movie in fact reclaimed the top spot at UK cinemas over the weekend, displacing the struggling Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore in the process (that particular franchise looks toasted in its current form). The latest Sonic has also crossed £20m at the UK box office now, and whilst it’ll be hit now the school holidays are over, enough money has quickly been banked to get Paramount to grease the wheels of a third film.
It’s some turnaround for the videogame film, and inevitably, there’s a queue of them now making their way through the system. The next big one has just been delayed though: Universal, Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment are joining forces to bring Super Mario Bros to cinema screens for the second time. It’s just been shunted to next year. Chances are not being taken though that it’ll be a repeat of the aforementioned, ill-fated 1993 live action film. This time it’s going to be fully animated.
Expect more videogame movie announcements in due course, and it’s telling that the long-in-gestation Minecraft film for one seems to have got moving again. We’ll keep an eye out for the surely inevitable Jet Set Willy movie…