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Or, Why Video Game Movies Just Never Work
Imagine, if you will, that it is 2002 and you are in the movie theater waiting to see
A Resident Evil fan, such as myself, would look to the person next to them and offer one of two reactions. Either he'd be on the edge of his seat, grinning with anticipation, excited that his favorite video game series would come to life on the big screen very soon–or, he's look to the person next to him and say the phrase most often associated with video game movies: "They've got to be kidding."
Unfortunately 99 percent of the time, the producers who backed that preview aren't kidding–and while usually, it's the latter reaction that is justified, the people in Hollywood are under the impression that we want to continually watch this crap.
Don't look so sad Mark Wahlberg,
it isn't (entirely) your fault.
You see, when it comes to video games and movies, two genres of entertainment that you think would be a match made in heaven, more often than not it is more like trying to mix oil with water. A lot of this has to do with what video games were in the late 80s and early 90s, like Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter, compared with what they are today, like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry .
Back then, audiences accepted, to some degree, absurdities like Dennis Hopper in Klingon make-up as Bowser, King of the Koopas, or that the guy who played The Highlander could be also pull-off Raiden in Mortal Kombat.
The reason we rarely cringed at a lot of this stuff is because back then, the plot of a game was rarely its showing point. Instead it was the entertainment value that mattered. Yes, Mario had to save Princess Peach, and yes, the guys from Double Dragon would inevitably have to beat up enemies that looked ambiguously like women, but as for why…well it just didn't matter all that much.
Nowadays we have games like the newer Final Fantasy titles, Resident Evil, Halo, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and BioShock, where the games are undeniably fun and the characters engaging. In the end however, if the plot can't keep us hooked, than the game is rarely triple-A. This isn't a bad thing within the video game realm, but it hurts the prospects of a game-to-motion picture transition. When a game itself is like an interactive movie, with us playing the characters as they move through the storyline, what can a movie truly offer that we haven't already seen?
When this is the only way to prove your movies
are worth watching, it might be time to take up
a new hobby.
From what I've seen in the past 20 years, when it comes to video game movies, you get two different categories that most, if not all, of them fall into. We'll call one group "The Fan-Service Group" and the other "The Uwe Boll Group." While equally cringe-worthy by themselves, let me explain why I've chosen them.
In Fan-Service movies, you get the general idea of what the game is about, some of the key characters, and a sprinkling of respect for the source material. In these cases, you are generally watching a movie that reflects the important parts of a game, like having the Umbrella Corporation and zombies as the enemies in the Resident Evil films, but the story and characters are not actual plot lines from the games themselves. While this is a refreshing tactic, it often results in certain liberties being taken that are so far from the actual game reality that you want to scream at the movie.
Some examples of movies in this category are Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Wing Commander, Doom
Apparently, Paul Anderson overlooked some of the Nemesis monster's
key character traits–mindless bloodlust for one.
In Boll's movies on the other hand, you find attempts (I'm being generous here Uwe) to stay true to the game itself, but it ends up absurd or laughable. The potential for ridiculousness gets so bad that in at least one case, Boll has used actual in-game footage spliced into a movie to try and create that feel. Movies like this go beyond fan-service, trying to win gamers over with a "we know what you want…and we got it" approach, completely forgetting that pleasing a gamer is about as difficult as trying to get Peter Molyneux to tell the truth about what to expect from the next Fable game.
|You may be beginning to notice a trend in my opinion of this man. It is entirely intentional.|
Some examples of movies in this category: Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, Max Payne, BloodRayne, FarCry
|I'm all for accuracy–but to try and meld this style of footage into a live-action movie is just silly.|
Neither of these styles really embrace a happy medium that allow the best parts of a video game to shine through on the big screen.
While it would be nice to see an actor don Master Chief's armor and wipe the floor clean with the face of a Brute Chieftain, or watch an actor navigate Rapture in a BioShock film, you have to remember that what you'll end up seeing won't necessarily be new. About 90 percent of the people who will go see a BioShock movie are people who've already beaten the game; why pay $10 per ticket to watch a story you've already paid $59.99 (at release, maybe $19.99 now) to see?
But, you'll probably say, what about the Fan-Service films? The ones that create their own plot, but still use the key elements from the game? That way they keep us guessing and we get to see the best parts of our favorite games.
Yes, in these cases you haven't already played what you're about to go and see, but I don't know if there are two gamers alive that can agree on what all the key parts of any game are, and this makes things difficult.
|If we can barely determine who has the better invincible marines, how can we ever agree on anything else?|
What originally got me thinking about all this was the premiere of the new made-for-tv SyFy movie, Red Faction: Origins. Here we have the key character(s) from Red Faction: Guerrilla and Armageddon: Alec Mason, his wife Samanya, his son Jake, the Marauders, the EDF and Adam Hale. We also have the key locations from the game, namely the territories of Eos and the Marauders territory. Some may say that this is enough to capture the feel and make it a legitimate adaptation of Red Faction from game to movie.
Others like me are left wondering where things like the Nano-forge and destruction and explosions in general (a key element of Red Faction's GeoMod technology) are. Some might not feel this is necessary to include, but what about those of us who do? What about those of us who are left wondering how SyFy could leave out the parts of the game that we feel set Red Faction apart from other space marine games?
While the story was marginally interesting, and the fact that it was a TV movie notwithstanding, other than using the name Red Faction in the movie, nothing separated it from any other generic science fiction film from the past 10 years.
|Alec Mason (right) and his son, Jake, looking about as bored as the audience will be|
So as you can see, sometimes creativity can be an even bigger downfall to video game movies than just staying true to the story already written.
Ultimately we all know the movie industry is suffering for new material, and right now comic books and video games are the easiest go-to territory to find it. So unfortunately, it looks like we might be in for the long-haul when it comes to having to watch even more poorly made video game movies–with an Uncharted film, BioShock film, and rumored Kane and Lynch film currently in the works. However, this doesn't mean we are powerless.
Seeing as we, the gamers and consumers, are the ones with the wallets and purses, we are the ones who get to tell the movie producers what we do or don't want to see. It isn't going to put a huge dent into anyone's bank account if we don't all run out and see the next Hitman or Tekken film, but it will certainly show them the popularity of turning video games into movies just isn't working for us anymore.
Who knows? Maybe a bit of discretion on our parts will allow movies like the one below to be real–and not just cruel April Fools jokes from IGN.
A boy can dream, can't he?