With the announcement that Settlers of Catan will be getting a movie, because there’s nothing more exciting than negotiating for resources and jokes about how you’ve got wood for sheep, it made me curious. But it raises the question… we all know most video game movies are terrible, but what about board-game movies?
To find out, let’s take a look at Hollywood’s track record with both. We’ll be looking just at live-action movies made by Hollywood studios, that we actually based directly on a game instead of just using the title, that were meaningfully released to theaters, and were not directed by Uwe Boll because, let’s face it, board games win just by virtue of not being anywhere near him. Besides, as we’re about to see, video game movies need all the help they can get.
Video games have gotten a lot of shots at proving themselves as more than just mindless entertainment… and have choked. Every. Single. Time.
The Wikipedia page says it all, especially if you sort it by Metacritic scores, but there are a few standouts on this list of pain. Like, for example, Double Dragon:
Paul Dini worked on the script for that movie. One suspects he was paid well and none of his work was used.
To be fair, there are diamonds, or at least quartz crystals, in the rough. Wing Commander is idiotic, but it’s an agreeable kind of idiocy that pairs well with recreational drinking; Mortal Kombat is as good a kung-fu movie as Hollywood was capable of producing in the early ’90s; and Street Fighter at least had Raul Julia swinging for the fences to make his kids happy. But then there’s movies like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation:
Amazingly, though, board games actually have it worse in some ways.
There are substantially fewer board game movies, as hard as it may be to believe. But there have been a few efforts… well… perhaps “efforts” is the wrong word, here. We are talking about a category that includes Ouija.
Take Battleship, which is enormously entertaining, for all the wrong reasons. Normally I’d argue featuring this is cheating, since it has almost nothing to do with the board game aside from the alien weapons shaped like pegs and a hilarious scene, sadly not on YouTube, where they literally shout battleship coordinates at each other dramatically while Liam Neeson wonders whether the paycheck was worth this.
On the other hand, it has moronically inspired scenes like this:
Everything about that scene is incredibly stupid, and yet, it kinda works anyway. That’s pretty much the movie
But, really, the fact of the matter is, board games win thanks to one movie that’s arguably a comedy classic:
OK, so Clue is a movie with a variable reputation, but it’s arguably quite beloved, and you don’t generally have to slap any qualifiers on there. It’s also one of the few movies based on any game that makes a sincere effort to actually tell a story and incorporate the key bits of the game, which makes it a lot better that most of the movies out there.
So, for now, we have to give this one to board games: They do make better movies. But we may have to revisit this when that Catan movie comes along.