Video games have been a source of adaptation for films since the infamous Super Mario Brothers of 1993. Now, fast-forward to the news that a new Mario film is debuting in 2022, complete with a cast list that seemed like a shitpost until we found out that it was being posted in official channels. Find out the best video game movie casting decisions right here at AIR Entertainment!
Some are decrying the casting of Chris Pratt over Charles Martinet as Mario. Martinet will get to do a guest voice role in the film but the man who has been the voice of Mario since Super Mario 64 won’t be on the poster. Pratt himself has even remarked that the studio had to do a lot of work to fit him into the role, indicating that his main contribution to the movie, unsurprisingly, was his name.
This article is inspired by the opposite force: truly stellar casting decisions when it comes to cinematic adaptations of video games. And, just to make things easy, we’ll focus on films that are released out of Hollywood.
We’ll also let you know where you can watch these films streaming now on services like Paramount+.
Street Fighter (1994)
Casting: Raul Julia as M. Bison
This is a blockbuster action film that, despite the title, is actually (loosely) based on the plot of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior rather than the first game in the franchise of fighting games. M. Bison is a megalomaniac holding the world at ransom and William F. Guile, made a colonel with the Allied Nations group, plans to lead the counteroffensive to “kick Bison’s ass.”
Despite all of the memes that this film is responsible for, Raul Julia’s M. Bison is the main reason to watch through the whole mess. Julia only took the role because his kids were really into Street Fighter II.
Despite receiving treatments for stomach cancer that left him emaciated, Julia put every bit of his heart and training into making M. Bison is a super-charismatic villain with a flair for the dramatic. If there is one line that truly sells the man’s performance, it would be this quote in exchange with Ming Na Wen’s Chun-Li where he expresses just how much he believes his own hype:
“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”
Not every actor’s final film can be so widely beloved for their hand in it but Raul Julia is among that group. That man took a totally garbage script whose production was infamous for all sorts of chaos and elevated it to a truly cherished film of the 90s.
You may watch bits and pieces of this film out of an ironic appreciation for the cheese but no one should ever skip any of Raul Julia’s scenes as M. Bison. Sadly, Julia died in October of 1994, two months before Street Fighter premiered.
Street Fighter is available for streaming on Tubi.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Casting: Trevor Goddard as Kano
This is a supernaturally-charged martial arts film. Basically, three heroes — Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Liu Kang — are chosen to stop Shang Tsung, a soul-stealing wizard, by ending his life in the final round of his interdimensional fighting tournament.
Sadly, the actor that will be discussed as a stellar casting choice is not found among any of those roles. Instead, we want to draw attention to the Australian actor Trevor Goddard, who played the minor antagonist Kano.
The Kano of the film has several major distinctions from the Kano in the Mortal Kombat game — like his outfit and specific brand of villainy. That said, one of the more obvious facets would be the fact that game-Kano was of American-Japanese ancestry while the film version has Goddard, an English actor, speaking with a heavy Aussie accent.
Goddard proved so memorable as a character and antagonist of Sonya Blade, despite his short-run time, that Ed Boon and John Tobias, the game’s creators, decided to retcon Kano’s existence to be an Australian.
Mortal Kombat (1995) can be streamed on Peacock.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Casting: Jim Carey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik
This is a family picture. Sonic is a very special blue, talking hedgehog who winds up in our world and must head across the country to find the only thing that can take him back to his homeworld. Only the deranged Dr. Robotnik stands in his way.
The spectacular casting choice of this film has got to belong to Jim Carey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik. Carey is an actor who gets how cartoonish this film is and leans into it to the point of nearly falling over the metaphorical railing. Carey chews up every bit of screen time he gets as Robotnik without the film becoming the Robotnik show and has just as much of a presence and personality as Ben Schwartz does as Sonic.
Although he does not look much like the Eggman/Robotnik of other Sonic media, we do eventually get a payoff for the discrepancy at the end of the film. After being sent through an interdimensional breach, Robotnik appears much closer to the mustachioed mad scientist Sonic fans know and despise, indicating that quite some time has gone by with his exile to a realm of nothing but mushrooms.
In short, Carey’s Robotnik is a role that many balked at until they saw it in action for themselves; you can tell that Carey is having just as much fun delivering his lines as the writers who came up with them. One can only hope that the confirmed sequel will be carrying just as much of that passion when it drops in April of 2022.
Sonic the Hedgehog can be streamed on Paramount+, Hulu and Epix.
There are a lot of video game film adaptations out there and most of them have been of tepid to terrible quality. This article shines a light on three exemplary adaptations that had at least one remarkable casting decision to carry the film beyond its lifespan at the box office.
Whether you have never seen them or it has been a while, you know you have at least one character worth watching in each.
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