A Step Down
Video game movies not needed, detract from source
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Hold on to your pitchforks there, folks, ‘cause it’s time for me to weigh in on a certain never-ending subject of debate for both the gaming and film communities. It’s been argued nonstop since the early 90s and continues to this very day. That’s right. If you said, “What are…video game movies?” then congratulations, you’ve just won Jeopardy.
For a quick, historical rundown of the mediocre-at-best, generally flaming dumpster fires called video game movies, we’ll start at the top. The genre didn’t get off to the best start in 1993, with the release of the infamous “Super Mario Bros.” movie. Not a single thing can be said about that monstrosity that hasn’t been said about five billion and a half times.
From there it doesn’t get much better, from “Street Fighter” to both “Mortal Kombat” movies all the way to “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” just about any of the “Resident Evil” films and especially “Doom.” I won’t go into ridiculous detail on that last one, but I will just say that movie had possibly the best source material to adapt (a freakin’ one man killing machine ripping and tearing his way through waves of actual demons from Hell), but they decided to say, “Nah,” and made a movie about some generic space marines fighting some sort of genetically mutated humans or something.
That example is one of many that can lead us into our main discussion. There are reasons not a single movie adapted from a video game has cracked even 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, hold your pitchforks for a second there. I know Rotten Tomatoes is not the end-all, be-all; it doesn’t mean everything. Of course. But, it’s not a trend that can be dismissed out of hand, and, on top of that, none of these films have averaged positive reviews on any review site.
I can say with a significant degree of confidence that the primary source of failure for these movies lies in them straying from the source material. The majority of video game movies are guilty of this, including most of those I’ve mentioned already. Whether it’s the entirety of “Super Mario Bros.,” the “Resident Evil” franchise to a certain extent, or “Doom” in every single aspect, not following (and often outright disrespecting) the games these films are based on is basically an instant death sentence.
As for the more recent entries to the genre such as “Warcraft” and “Assassin’s Creed,” they’ve been somewhat better than the rest, but calling either of them the best video game movies ever made is really the lowest possible bar to clear.
“Warcraft” was a CGI-filled spectacle which, while mildly fun to watch, still lacked in the more important areas, like story and characters; “Assassin’s Creed” was slightly better, but still largely failed in the “making sense” department, as well as being devoid of generally key ingredients such as humor or any sense of joy or happiness whatsoever.
I’d like to somewhat change lanes here, and introduce a little thought I had. First of all, I’m not saying, and will never say, that it’s impossible to make a truly good movie adapted from a video game. I’m a firm believer that it can potentially be done; there’s just been about a 23 year-long streak of failure up to this point, but (and this is where all of you get out your pitchforks), my question is, why would you want to?
Now that I’ve thrown that question out there, and many of you are looking to string me up for heresy, allow me to explain. In my opinion, video games are already a much higher, better, and fuller experience than a film could really ever be. A movie can never immerse you in its world and story in the way a game can. There’s just one key component that movies lack: interactivity.
Video games are fully interactive experiences while films are purely observational. Video games allow you to take part in the events of a narrative while movies only allow you to watch as events unfold.
In the case of Telltale’s choose-your- own-adventure style games, players are given options for what to say or what to do, with each choice affecting character relationships as well as the overall story. Movies do not allow for that, as they have one definite ending that does not change no matter how many times you watch it.
With Telltale’s games, or any of the many other games of the kind (such as “Life is Strange” or “Until Dawn”), you can play them many times and the story can differ each time. Players can direct the story where they want it to go.
Furthermore, many films come up short in character development and getting audiences to actually care about the characters in their film, including the main character. Video games, however, can excel in this area for one main reason (again): interactivity.
In a game, players directly control the main character and play as them usually throughout the game. Through this, players can grow attached to the main character far more than they can in a film.
Whether they’re solving puzzles, scouring every inch of the map for various things, doing parkour in ridiculous environments or just straight up killing a whole bunch of dudes, the ability to step into the shoes of the main character goes a long way towards making people give a damn about said character. Let alone the fact that gamers spend far more time with the characters of a video game than they do those in a movie. Most video game play times average between four and ten hours while movies average around two.
The most common game I hear brought up for a movie adaptation is “The Last of Us.” I can understand why. The game is an undisputed masterpiece, and its story is one of the best ever crafted, but, I ask again, what is the point of a movie?
The game already exists, it’s there, and it’s near perfect. A movie will only detract from that, even if it’s good. Turning this game, or any game for that matter, into a movie is a step down. That’s all it is. There’s really nothing to be added to the story by putting it on the big screen. If anything, the story would fall far short because when condensing a 10+ hour game into a two/ two-and-a-half hour movie, much of the game’s narrative would be lost.
In an attempt to tie this all up with a nice little bow, I’d like to suggest that just because you can make a movie out of stuff like “Tetris” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Both of which are, by the way, actually things that are happening.) doesn’t mean that you should. And, if I’m being completely honest, you really shouldn’t. Maybe, just maybe, the movie may actually turn out well (which would, of course, be a first), but it will always pale in comparison to that which it is based on.