Video game films were in a liminal state when “Need for Speed” came out. Nobody had really cracked the code of how to make them consistently successful at the box office, so you could pretty much do whatever you wanted with them (and, boy, did some filmmakers ever). That was doubly the case with the “Need for Speed” video games. What little narrative they have entails competing in illegal street races without getting caught by, to quote Dr. Teeth, the “man with the badge, the police, the cops, the fuzz, the P-I-…” With the “Fast & Furious” series having evolved its heroes from law-breaking gearheads to unconventional government operatives by that point, there was a vacancy for “Need to Speed” to fill in the street-racing crime thriller department.
Following its release, films like “Need for Speed” became the odd ones out among video game movies. This new era of adaptations was all about fidelity, with films like “Warcraft” and the Alicia Vikander-led “Tomb Raider” lifting images wholesale from the video games they were based on while also serving as relatively faithful origin stories. Similarly, not long after Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich wrapped up their run on the “Resident Evil” franchise, the films were rebooted with “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” a horror-survival adventure that has more in common with the original games. That trend has only picked up speed in 2023, with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” becoming a billion-dollar hit. In this day and age, there’s no longer a place for an idiosyncratic video game film like “Need for Speed.”