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Game on!

Writer: Elaine Ewe

First things first: anyone reading this who has played "Battleship" before? Then you should know that there are no aliens in the game, which is all the more reason that you should check out Peter Berg's latest, also titled "Battleship", starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna and multiple Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson. Yes, raise a skeptic eyebrow as high as you want to the idea, but the action science-fiction naval war flick is definitely not the first in regards to games-turned-feature films, and will not be the last to grace the silver screens. The question then becomes: are such Hollywood adaptations a good or bad thing? To help you decide, we have decided to evaluate seven games (obviously the number must be odd in order to produce a winner), and accredit points to either the good or bad team based on our review of the film in question, much like a game, in light of this theme. Read on to find out which films we have selected, and feel free to agree or disagree!

"Child's Play" (1988)

Also may be known as the movie that scared everyone shitless, both children and adults, "Chucky" has, without a doubt, set the bar for slasher films. Based on the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the film tells the story of a "Good Guy" doll who becomes possessed by the spirit of a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray due to a voodoo ritual, and proceeds to resume his killing spree after being placed in the care of a 6-year-old boy named Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent). It is a film that exudes equal parts horror and thrills, as the nature of the killer is not revealed to the audience for the first 40–45 minutes, although it is obvious to moviegoers that Chucky is the actual murderer, unless they have been living in a cave, which might have been the better option considering the wariness to dolls and nightmares that "Child's Play" will not fail to induce for a long, long time.

Verdict: Good – 1, Bad – 0

"Jumanji" (1995)

If you are reading this and you have never watched "Jumanji", I just you drop everything and go buy or rent the film pronto. Despite the less than favourable critic response, the fantasy comedy did well in the box office, and is now hailed as a classic. It spawned a whole legion of films based on games even though it was not based on any game in particular but on Chris Van Allsburg's popular 1981 picture book of the same name. Further, Joe Johnston, the man behind Marvel's "Captain America: The First Avenger" last year directs, which stars Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt and a very young Kristen Dunst. Williams is Alan, a man who is sucked into Jumanji's unseen jungle world when he was a boy due to a bad roll of the dice, leaving his childhood friend, Sarah, traumatized. When two children, Judy and Peter Shepherd stumble upon the game and play it, they release Alan, and now the four of them must see the game to its end to return all the supernatural beings into the game world.

Verdict: Good – 2, Bad – 0

"Doom" (2005)

You know your film is in great trouble when one cannot pronounce its title without a suppressing the urge to laugh or snort, and "Doom" is one of them. It is not exactly what you call a good film, or even a decent one, what with its schlocky pacing and point of view. Watching "Doom" is equivalent to watching a bad player playing a first-person shooter game on YouTube, where you cannot do anything but scream and pull your hair out at his or her stupidity. It is hard to believe that with a cast of Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dwayne Johnson in a team of eight Marines known as the RRTS Hellfighters who are sent to investigate the fictional research facility in Olduvai and a director who has previously worked on the cinematography for Academy Award-nominated films, Andrzej Bartkowiak, that the film can be so cringe-worthy, and it should be decreed that anyone who makes a film worse than this should be fined for torturing their audiences.

Verdict: Good – 2, Bad – 1

"Silent Hill" (2006)

It can be said that for those who did not play any game instalment of the "Silent Hill" franchise that Christophe Gans' "Silent Hill" will be relatively enjoyable. However, for those who did, the only thing that comes to mind is "STOP, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG". In this adaptation void of the video games' signature psychological horror and metaphors, Radha Mitchell stars in the lead as Rose, a mother who takes her troubled adopted daughter, Sharon, to Silent Hill. After falling unconscious thanks to a car crash outside the town, Rose awakens to find Sharon missing and the town engulfed in an alternate reality of fog and falling ash. While searching for Sharon, she faces reality shifts and monsters while uncovering her daughter's connection to the town's past. What it lacks in execution the film makes up for in style, staying true to its monster designs like the Grey Children and Pyramid Head.

Verdict: Good – 2, Bad – 2

"Transformers" (2007)

Who would have thought that Hasbro's "Transformers" toy line would have worked so well in live-action form? Of course the Autobots and Decepticons are computer animated (I shudder to think of people stomping around in cardboard boxes), this feature film is directed by explosions-extraordinaire, Michael Bay, and stars Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, a teenager who becomes involved in a war between the two factions of alien robots who can disguise themselves by transforming into everyday machinery. The Decepticons, led by Megatron, desire control of the AllSpark, the object that created their robotic race, with the intention of using it to build an army by giving life to the machines of Earth while the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, seek to stop them. There was much criticism regarding the focus on the humans at the expense of the robots, but nevertheless, this blockbuster led the pack by a country mile, with two sequels and a fourth in the making.

Verdict: Good – 3, Bad – 2

"Real Steel" (2011)

Not many would know that "Real Steel" is based on the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots of yesteryear. The game is a plastic robot boxing game introduced by Marx in the 1960s, where two players are pitted against each other on opposite ends to remote control different coloured robots in an attempt to punch the other's head out. It is probably as violent as it gets, considering the target audience are adolescent boys, but so is Shawn Levy's "Real Steel", a family-friendly action science-fiction film featuring the hunky Hugh Jackman in the lead. In 2020, human boxers have been replaced by robot boxers, and former boxer Charlie Kenton knows it best. As the owner of a robot named Ambush, Charlie competes in unsanctioned matches and in exhibitions with it, until one day he loses in a match and is landed in a debt of $20,000, which he does not have the means to pay. Charlie takes off in an attempt to avoid his debtors, and is soon saddled with a preteen son named Max by a deceased ex. The story itself is a guilty pleasure, being laden with so much cheese, but we own up to possessing a soft spot for Max's robot named Atom, and maybe just a little more for the Australian star.

Verdict: Good – 4, Bad – 2

"Battleship" (2012)

What would the competition be if we exclude its totem film? Peter Berg, best known for creating the television series "Friday Night Lights" and directing the critically-acclaimed "Friday Night Lights" film itself, as well as the superhero film "Hancock", which incidentally explains the casting of Taylor Kitsch in the lead for "Battleship" (for those of you who do not know, Kitsch himself starred in Berg's sports television drama). However, unlike the critical reception for "Friday Night Lights", "Battleship" is more of disposable popcorn fare, albeit highly enjoyable popcorn fare. With the occasional humour, "Battleship" manages to avoid devolving into a soap opera or pretentious philosophical drama, and it even manages to convey what made the games so enjoyable without copying them wholesale.

Verdict: Good – 5, Bad – 2

The verdict is in, and we say: Hollywood, game on!

Cinema Online, 13 April 2012