Revered film critic Roger Ebert was a man with an open mind, believe it or not. Despite his highly-publicized opinions on video games’ legitimacy as an art form, he was never one to write off a movie simply because it was adapted from something more interactive. He was better than us that way, and he ended up reviewing quite a few of them as a result.
After prodding around on his search-unfriendly reviews site for about an hour, I was able to find about a dozen reviews for game movies. Some were in line with popular gamer opinions — Doom really is that bad — while others were surprisingly positive. The man truly was a master of his craft, and there’s a certain poetry to his critiques that every other utterly lacks.
These are the game movies that exist on his database — eleven in all — in chronological order, with a choice quote and link to the full review (just click the film title). He made even slogs like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within interesting to read about, and for that I thank him. Rest in peace, Roger.
Wing Commander (1999) ✭
“Other marine notes: ‘Hard to port!’ is a command at one point. Reasonable at sea, but in space, where a ship is not sailing on a horizontal surface, not so useful. ‘Quiet! There’s a destroyer!’ someone shouts, and then everyone on board holds their breath, as there are subtle sonar pings on the soundtrack, and we hear the rumble of a giant vessel overhead. Or underhead. Wherever. ‘In space,’ as ‘Alien’ reminded us, ‘no one can hear you scream.’ There is an excellent reason for that: Vacuums do not conduct sound waves, not even those caused by giant destroyers.”
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) ✭ ✭ ✭
“A letter from her father is discovered sewn into the binding of an old edition of William Blake; ‘I knew you would figure out my clues,’ it says. And a good thing, too, since fate hangs in the balance while she plays his parlor games.”
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩
“In reviewing a movie like this, I am torn between its craft elements and its story. The story is nuts-and-bolts space opera, without the intelligence and daring of, say, Steven Spielberg’s ‘A.I.’ But the look of the film is revolutionary. ‘Final Fantasy’ is a technical milestone, like the first talkies or 3-D movies. You want to see it whether you care about aliens or space cannons. It exists in a category of its own, the first citizen of the new world of cyberfilm.”
Resident Evil (2002) ✭
“The characters have no small talk. Their dialogue consists of commands, explanations, exclamations and ejaculations. Yes, an ejaculation can be dialogue. If you live long enough you may find that happening frequently.”
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) ✭ ✭ ✭
“In the somewhat murky chronology she describes early in the film, the original box arrived from outer space, and was discovered by an Egyptian pharaoh in 2300 B.C. ‘in a place he called the Cradle of Life,’ she explains to her colleagues, mentioning Pandora’s Box. ‘You mean the Greek myth?’ she is asked. ‘That’s the Sunday school version,’ she says. Only Lara Croft would go to a Sunday school that teaches Greek myth.”