You know, I almost share a smidgen of sympathy for Hollywood directors these days. After all, having to adapt a videogame is pretty much the movie industry equivalent of adopting a redheaded stepchild. Critical-wise, they pack about as much clout as a one-legged bloke in an arse-kicking competition, and while some mange to pull in the punters; they aren’t generally favorable at the box office. Frankly, as if you aren’t already acutely aware of the fact already, the majority of game-movie adaptations are bloody awful. And yet, inexorably, Hollywood continues to facilitate our iconic, digitalized heroes and heroines’ transition to the silver screen, resulting in unanimous gamer groans across the globe. In particular, German-born director Uwe Boll has garnered a reputation for churning out some of the worst offenders to date, with notable eyesores such as Paper Boy, House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark tainting cinema screens over the past half a decade or so. And unfortunately, Boll’s still not done dipping his toes in to the highly lucrative pool of near-endless game- film opportunities.
The next couple of years look set to offer up a number of flicks based on some of the industry’s most prolific franchises, with a film adaptation of Uncharted in the works, plus a Tomb Raider reboot and a Silent Hill sequel. As a fan of all three series, I’m pondering as to whether this latest trio is doomed to join the vast array of game-based cinematic clunkers and box office bombs that precedes them. Here’s my thoughts on the trio below.
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In all my years as a fellow gaming aficionado and journalist, I’ve never seen as much red-faced gum-flapping over a game-movie conversion than the forthcoming Uncharted flick. After assimilating all available info over the past few months though, it’s hardly a surprise why so many fans are so cheesed off. After all, Naughty Dog’s acclaimed adventure series has carved out a fiercely loyal fan base over the last few years, and has become synonymous with some of the best slices of entertainment available on Sony’s PlayStation 3 to date. And when director David O. Russell decided to deviate off the beaten track and have hero Nathan Drake form part of a family of Soprano-style treasure hunters, it didn’t exactly go down a storm with fans. Furthermore, O’ Russell seems compelled to lift the curtains on the cheeky chappie’s extended family, too—rumors suggest that we’ll be seeing Robert Di Nero and Joe Pesci in the roles of Nate’s father and uncle, respectively. Why the attraction to Uncharted though? Well, for O’ Russell, it’s simple—because “it's centered around a family.”
Above: David O. Russell's pedigree speaks for itself; however, it seems his vision for Uncharted's silver-screen debut will deviate considerably from the source material.
And therein, I think, lies the nucleus of many fan’s concerns over O’ Russell’s handling of Drake’s silver screen debut: his knowledge of the source material appears questionable at best. After all, anyone who has played Uncharted will be acutely aware that neither Drake’s Fortune nor Among Thieves even remotely broach the subject of Nate’s family, let alone featured them as an integral plot ingredient. Perhaps O’ Russell is getting his wires crossed with the relationship between our cocky treasure hunter and Sully, who, while possessing a somewhat father-son bond, aren’t blood related. And as for Elena and Chloe, well, they’re just Drake’s obligatory bit of skirt. Bottom line is, it all sounds like O’ Russell has been playing an entirely different game. Either that or he was wearing ear muffs at the time. The irony is that O’ Russell is an incredibly competent director, as evidenced not only in his work on The Fighter, but numerous other big-screen highlights over the years. As a standalone film, I see no reason why Uncharted won’t deliver a quintessential, Indiana Jones-esque adventure romp. However, those of us who want to see Drake’s silver screen antics adhere closely to the source material are likely to be in for a bitter disappointment.
Silent Hill: Revelation
The inaugural Silent Hill flick wasn’t actually half bad, believe it or not. Directed by Christophe Gans, the claret-filled horror flick made a decent attempt to adhere to the original Konami classic, and in terms of aesthetics, did a bang-up job of capturing that quintessential Silent Hill feel with a barrage of grotesque monsters and dilapidated structures. The aural presentation was also a top notch affair, offering up several of series composer Akira Yamaoka’s iconic, haunting scores—even the ending theme was ripped straight out of Silent Hill 3 in the form of the jaunty “You’re Not Here.” Okay, so it took quite a few liberties with the plot, notably hero Harry Mason being unceremoniously ditched in favor of a female lead, not to mention the inclusion of the crazy church cultists. More alarming is Pyramid Head’s appearance, which despite looking bloody fantastic, lacks the same impact as in Silent Hill 2. In the games, he’s an intrinsic component in the narrative, being a manifestation of protagonist James Sunderland’s guilt-racked mind.
In the movie however, he serves no other purpose other than to swing his exorbitantly large sword around, skin some poor lass alive and then bugger off for the rest of the flick. Moaning aside, it’s still a worthwhile investment. This bodes well for the follow-up, which the producers have wisely opted to base on Silent Hill 3—a game that is directly linked to the original 1999 psychological horror classic. This allows for a more cohesive effort between both the film and game universes, and eliminates the risk of churning out some original guff that’s totally disparate from the game world. Indeed, while Silent Hill 3 might not have garnered the same universally loved reputation as its predecessor (and to be honest, I always hoped to see James Sunderland’s tale make it to the silver screen), it’s still a step above the marmite-like Silent Hill 4: The Room and underwhelming prequel, Origins.
Above: From what we've seen so far, Silent Hil: Revelation 3D all the makings of a worthy follow-up to the surprisingly decent original film.
Plus, Heather Mason’s horrific journey to the fog-bound streets is packed full of ample scares and some of the most gruesome creature designs the franchise has to offer—who could forget the lumbering, bloated Insane Cancers or the iconic scare fest that is the Borley Haunted Mansion? Furthermore, the cast is looking pretty meaty, with both Rhada Mitchell and Sean Bean reprising their roles as Sharon and Christopher, respectively, not to mention the addition of Carrie-Anne ‘The Matrix’ Moss and Malcolm McDowell as SH3’s dastardly duo, Claudia and Leonard Wolf. The material is ripe for the picking, so let’s hope they don’t muck it up.
Tomb Raider’s remained a firm staple on the public consciousness since 1996; heroine Lara Croft is to videogames what David ‘Golden Balls’ Beckham is to footie. Unfortunately, while the games have endured much praise over the years, Croft’s butt-kicking, silver-screen somersaulting antics haven’t resonated so well with fans. The series made a running-jump to cinemas with big-lipped babe Angelina Jolie in the lead role in the eponymous 2001 adventure, with a sequel, Cradle of Life, following in 2003. The results were a mixed bag to say the least. While Jolie is certainly easy on the eyes, the fact she isn’t British rustled more than a few fan feathers, while the daft plot lines—both original works devoid much of any resemblance to Croft’s digital exploits—did little to stimulate audiences gagging for that quintessential Tomb Raider experience.
Sure, Jolie’s Lara blew the cobwebs off a few tombs, flipped about the place and filled plenty of generic bad guys full of lead, but its execution went down about as well as a cold cup of sick. A pity, because both the original film and Cradle of Life offered some eye-popping architecture and exotic locales that didn’t at all seem incongruous with what you’d come to expect from our dexterous archaeologist’s adventures. That’s the beauty of a reboot, however, which is exactly what GK Films—having recently snapped up the rights to the lucrative series—has in mind for Croft’s next silver screen outing in 2013. And personally, this is exactly what the series needs, and an ideal decision when you consider the latest Tomb Raider game will be just that; a reboot, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.
Above: Will Angelina Jolie be given the elbow for the Tomb Raider film series reboot? It's highly likely. Who will slip into heroine Lara Croft's boots remains to be seen, however.
As far as I’m concerned it makes sense that the producers stick to whatever Crystal Dynamics have up their sleeves for the new TR game, since it’d be refreshing to have a film that follows closely in the footsteps of Croft’s gaming outings. Details remain largely non-existent, though somewhat worryingly we’ve heard murmurs of delving into our curvy heroine’s private life, with mention of a love interest doing the rounds. This I could do without; I mean, label me a misery guts, but I personally feel Tomb Raider would function just fine without any needless humpty dumpty thrown into the mix. My hopes for this are high, though a large part of its success will fall to the leading lady, who at the time of cobbling these words together, has yet to be cast. Time will tell, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Are you looking forward to Uncharted, Tomb Raider, and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D? Or do you think they're doomed to bomb? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below.