It’s a cliché to even mention it, but some clichés are clichés for a reason: Most video game movies aren’t very good, and the ones that are very good are usually good “for a video game movie.” This is to say that regardless of their budgets, they’re b-movie genre exercises with modest goals, achieved with modest success.
For example, live-action movies based on fighting games are largely underwhelming. We’ve had two live-action “Street Fighter” movies and literally, neither of those films has been about street fighting. The films based on “Tekken” and “King of Fighters” failed to make any impact whatsoever. The less said about “Double Dragon” (which was based on a beat ’em up, but is still a movie about fighters), the better.
Conventional wisdom states that Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Mortal Kombat” is one of the best video game movies just because it doesn’t stray from the basic formula. It gets a bunch of characters who are good at fighting in the same place and makes them fight each other. But that’s the bare minimum we should be able to expect from these movies, not an ideal.
And frankly, even the original “Mortal Kombat” pales in comparison with the many fighting movies that directly inspired both the movie and the video game, like “Enter the Dragon” and “Master of the Flying Guillotine.” It’s a fun movie but the fights are largely unremarkable, the plot is weirdly self-serious considering how nonsensical it is, and the acting is all over the place. It’s an inconsistent piece of entertainment.
It’d be a stretch to say that Corey Yuen’s “DOA: Dead or Alive” is a cinematic classic, or that it transcends its subgenre, or even that it’s a top-tier fight movie in a vacuum. But it kicks more butt than all the other video game fighting movies put together.