Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Do Video Game-based Movies have to be Terrible?

With so much bad press coming gaming's way due to congressional attention, Jack Thompson and parent's groups, I began thinking about other problems facing the public perception of video games, and one factor that came to mind was how bad video game-based movies are and why they are as a subgenre lacking, and I came to a few conclusions. See, I think that these kinds of movies encounter a few basic problems:

1) The people who make decisions on what properties to develop make choices based on popularity and not screen potential.. Just because a game is popular doesn't mean it is going to make for a compelling film, as the makers of Super Mario Brothers and Double Dragon can attest to. Of course, many early game-based films can be forgiven for some of their faults because the source material was rather lacking.

2) The producers don't spend the money or the time on the story. In the cases where the story of the game really had potential to dazzle and entertain an audience like Wing Commander, the people responsible for the project tend to really put the story elements on the back burner, and that again leads to a bad movie.

3) The Final Fantasy effect. If the game movie being developed is from source material that is really intricate or complex, well, naturally the filmmakers won't be able to include 1/10th of the storyline and what you end up with is something that is a little superficial and shallow or in short, a pale imitation of the original.

4) Making the assumption that your core audience is gamers. From what I've read, the people who love the games behind these movies are generally hostile to the end product of the Hollywood system. There are movies that did become somewhat successful based on the general movie-going public like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil actually reaching profitability. Success should be planned on by making a movie that people who have never played the game would want to see. Simple as that.

Now of course, if I ran Hollywood, I would probably give producers and other people developing these movies these simple rules.

1) Choose games that are plot-driven, but not extremely long.
2) Ban Uwe Boll from getting near another game-based movie.
3) Cast your movies well.
4) Spend the money on getting a good script before going further.
5) Make sure people outside of the gaming demographic would want to see it too.

I mean, those do sound like some simple rules to follow, do they not.

Of course, I have a few ideas for what would probably be good movies in the right hands.

Red Dead Revolver: You knew I had to have something from Rockstar on my list, but this probably wasn't the title you were thinking I would pick, but it does have a lot of things going for it. The basis of the game is a story of revenge in the Old West, and because each level was almost like a set piece, with a little clean-up, you'd have the a solid narrative arc. And since there are so many interesting side characters in the game, like Annie Stokes and Jack Swift, it also has some interesting character dynamics. And if the filmmakers also secured the rights to the excellent Ennio Morricone soundtrack, I think this could turn a few heads.

God of War
: This is the game-based movie Vin Diesel should be doing rather than Hitman, because there are very few other actors I could see taking on the role of Kratos. You have a story based around an anti-hero who wants to forget and be forgiven for all the lives he has taken, so he takes on one last quest at the behest of the Gods. It is a bloody, brutal quest, but one which has some meat to it.

And digging way way back into the archives:

I remember playing this game back in the early 1990's called The President in Missing where you are an analyst for the CIA investigating the disappearance of the President of the United States along other European heads of state by digging through source materials and recordings to try to solve the mystery... and as you dug deeper there were some really fascinating twists and turns that would be pure cinema gold.

Now you will notice that while I have professed a deep love for the Grand Theft Auto series, I have not chosen it as an ideal candidate for adaptation, despite its star power and great narrative. And that is because of problem three I mentioned above. As with adapting a Final Fantasy or other long role-playing game, Grand Theft Auto would lose a lot of its loveable character if shoehorned into a two hour movie. However, if say HBO or Showtime decided to make a gritty animated series out of the games, that would probably work out quite well.

So in conclusion, I think the day will come when a video game-based movie will be critically acclaimed and reflect well on the source material. In the meantime however, I am sort of afraid to see what movies like Pacman, Crazy Taxi and Postal are going to do to viewing audiences all over the world when they escape... err, are released.

15 comments:

Jess said...

I have to admit that Resident Evil was a guilty pleasure for me. I have high hopes for the Warcraft movie in development, too, but that's mostly wishful thinking.

MC said...

Well, I am just wondering what the story would be like for that.

I heard that a Driver movie is also in development(there are a lot of game movies in development actually).

Cash said...

Movies like Bloodrayne continue to get made if governments give more of a tax benefit for failed movies than successful ones.

P.S. I rented your blog but the knuckleheads at BE still haven't given me a thumbnail ( since May, I think ) so if you are a savvy guy you can make your own link to me and use a graphic from my site or I can make you one that bypasses BE until they get a clue.

MC said...

Ah, the Uwe Boll tax strategy, AKA the real life version of the Producers.

And I don't think you have to worry about recognition of the rental Cash. Seriously.

Cash said...

Merci! Oops ... you're not French-Canadian.

MC said...

I am a total anglophone yes.

Semaj said...

You have some good points here. And, I couldn’t agree more with the Boll banning. The man should be stopped from making any movies.

You are also correct that there would many problems in making a GTA movie. I think there are already too many movie references to other crime movies and TV shows in the GTA series create an original script. Then again, stranger things have been green-lit.

I thought the first Mortal Kombat movie was pretty good, but I can’t think of anything else that’s been decent.

Plus, I’m looking forward to that Halo movie.

Jeremy Barker said...

I think games and movies should stay as far away from each other as possible. Games have their own unique style and method of storytelling that, as you indicate, rarely translates well on the big screen.

Hollywood needs to come up with their own ideas and gamemakers shouldn't measure success based on getting a film deal. Much like books are much better than the movies based on them, games are best left in their original format.

MC said...

semaj: Finding titles that would work cinematically is a difficult task indeed.

Jeremy: Wing Commander is a prime example of this, as the game's creator was the director and writer of the appalling movie version, and if someoene who knew that universe inside and out couldn't get something good onscreen, it begs the question, can it be done?

snackiepoo said...

I meant to comment on this days ago as we were just discussing this Friday night. Shawn is one of the people responsible for making sure that the WoW movie is not utter suckology and he was explaining how that would happen.

Of course, you know me...in my head, I was just calculating how much revenue would come in if every player saw it just once...I am so awful.

MC said...

Well, there is only one problem with getting WoW players to go see the movie... they'd probably rather stay home and continue playing the game ;)

And to think, I haven't even helped buy a shoelace for you let alone a shoe. My best friend, a Magic: TG/D&D player has probably contributed more to your wardrobe than I have.

snackiepoo said...

LOL, seeing that Shawn wtill has stock in Hasbro/Wizards, I would say so.

It's okay...now Coca Cola can also pay for my laces and shoes ;)

MC said...

If he owned stock in Games Workshop, my friend would have probably put you in a Kia by now.

theothermichelle said...

Some of the old Sierra PC adventure games might make interesting movies: Gabriel Knight, Leisure Suit Larry, & Phantasmagoria.

MC said...

I can just see the Hollywood studios lining up to do Leisure Suit Larry... that would be interesting all around.