More games that filmmakers are taking to the next level

By Brian M. Raftery
Updated June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

As any joystick jockey knows, movies based on videogames have about the same odds for survival as Frogger during rush hour. With the exception of 1995’s Mortal Kombat, nearly every effort — Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon (left), Street Fighter, Wing Commander — has received a low score at the box office. But anticipating big numbers for Tomb Raider and next month’s Final Fantasy, producers are once again gobbling up properties with Pac-Man-like gusto.

DUKE NUKEM: THE MOVIE The wisecracking, cannon-packing antihero (whose brutal sci-fi shoot-’em-up has been menacing parents for a decade) fends off an alien invasion in what Mortal Kombat producer Lawrence Kasanoff promises will be a Men in Black-style mix of comedy and action. ”Duke’s all id,” he says. ”He does and says whatever he wants.” Sounds like a perfect role for charismatic wrestler-turned-action star The Rock (who reportedly has been offered the part). Also likely to raise their eyebrows at Duke Nukem: The Movie are politicians who have criticized the game’s violence — though Kasanoff says the big-screen version (to be released by Dimension Films) won’t push as many buttons. ”This isn’t Reservoir Dogs,” he says. ”There’s goo, but there’s no blood.”

THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD After surviving development hell at DreamWorks, this horror project was acquired last year by indie production company Mindfire Entertainment. The $20-25 million game adaptation follows a group of unsuspecting humans who stumble upon the living dead. Mindfire COO Mark A. Altman hopes the film will lure some unsuspecting humans of its own: ”We’re going to get the art-house crowd thinking it’s a Dostoyevsky adaptation.”

MAX PAYNE Though the highly anticipated computer game won’t even be released until later this summer, indie producer Scott Faye is taking great pains to get Payne — about a rogue cop out to avenge his family’s death — into theaters by next year (Dimension has first-look rights). And while Faye (also attached to the upcoming game adaptation American McGee’s Alice) concedes the story ”is not incredibly fresh,” he says the game’s photo-realist graphics and Matrix-like gunplay should make for a smooth transition. ”I imagine it as if John Woo were to direct Dirty Harry,” he says. That should make any gamer’s day.

RESIDENT EVIL Expect plenty of babes and blood in a reported $40 million adaptation of the popular PlayStation game, which pits The Fifth Element’s Milla Jovovich and The Fast and the Furious’ Michelle Rodriguez against a horde of scientists-turned-zombies. Paul Anderson — who helmed the first Mortal Kombat