5 bad live action film adaptations of games and animations

Studios have only recently started finding their stride when adapting games and animations into live action media, with One Piece, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Avatar: The Last Airbender winning fans over. David Ho has a moment of silence for the shows that paved the bumpy road to get here

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

It took 30 years before the world was ready for another cinematic go at our favourite Italian plumbers. The 1993 movie tried to to subvert and satirise fairytale clichés but left viewers confused instead. It says a lot when the animatronic puppet of Yoshi is seen as having more charm than the rest of the cast. In 2007, Bob Hoskins who played Mario recalled the whole experience of making the film as “a fuckin’ nightmare.” Fortunately, The Super Mario Bros. Movie of 2023 has more than redeemed the game franchise.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

Our favourite thunder thighed female fighter gets an unfortunate portrayal in Kristin Kreuk. While one wouldn’t necessarily expect a complex and layered plot from a fighting game, the paper thin plot and poor casting makes this 2009 attempt lack in the campy charm that at least made the tepid 1994 Street Fighter a cult classic. If you need to watch your favourite game brawlers in action, stick to the animated Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie of 1994 instead, which still holds up well today.

Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Something was in the water at film studies at the end of the 00’s/early 2010’s because quite a number of stinkers came out around that time. Dragonball Evolution, the first official live-action adaptation of the Dragon Ball series, became one of the most panned films ever. All those involved have since distanced from the project. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama derided it as uninteresting, while actor James Marsters (who played King Piccolo) called out the creators for falsely baiting him into the project and forcing him into stunt work that led to injuries. Most tellingly, writer Ben Ramsey apologised for his work, admitting that he “went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment” and that ended in “sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat-out garbage.”  

The Last Airbender (2010)

Netflix’s 2024 adaption of the beloved Avatar animated series has been receiving love from its fans this time around. But in 2010, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender made fans as heated up as the fire nation when it dropped. It’s been described as bland at best and agonising at worst. Shyamalan’s film was originally intended to be the first film in a trilogy, but that was quickly (and thankfully) scrapped. We are sure with the success of the Netflix series, more will be revisiting this take for a comparison.

Mulan (2020)

The 1998 Disney animation featured a charming and plucky girl-next-door who used her wits to beat the odds and save not just her beloved father, but also an entire nation in the process. The 2020 live action remake starring Crystal Liu trips up by making the titular heroine a vague ‘chosen one’ of sorts gifted with a magical qi energy that allows her to do bicycle kicks. While the decision to do away with the beloved animal companions and songs could be justified as a creative decision to keep it grounded in realism, the addition of a random phoenix and a shapeshifting witch (a wasteful use of the magnificent Gong Li) contradicts that. This remake truly stripped away the essence of all we know and love about Disney’s animated classic.

Pictures: IMDB

Also see: A recap of the 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

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