Videogame movies go back a long time. It kind of started out with the movie Cloak & Dagger, which was released simultaneously with the Atari arcade game back in 1984, and have come a long way since then in terms of budgets, qualities and advertising, but somehow they always seem to flunk out. Why is this, really?
Back in the í90s when SEGAís Dreamcast was released, I purchased House of the Dead 2 together with a sweet chick magnet light gun. That was a fairly nice gaming experience, so it was with some excitement I put in the movie House of the Dead in my DVD player many years later. Iím not even going to try and explain what a piece of crap that movie was, but it certainly was bad. Itís quite a clichť example of a bad videogame movie, but it still features the first reason why many videogame movies suck: probably one of the most notorious film directors ever.
Uwe Boll. Postal, BloodRayne, House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark and Far Cry are some of the available and upcoming films from this German film director. Boll has become synonymous with silly movies, and for many, his name is what pops up when you think of those based on videogames. Thereís even an online petition where over 290,000 people think that Boll should be stopped. He doesnít make every videogame movie out there, but the genre definitely suffers from a bad odor because of him. Itís hard to see that a ďseriousĒ director would want to get involved in these kinds of movies when Boll already has disappointed so many potential targets.
However, Uwe Boll couldnít possibly be the only explanation. What other reasons are there for the lacking success?
Gamers like games. Those first in line to buy the cinema tickets will be the gamers themselves, and the very first of them will be the hardcore fans of the game in question. If any people are known for their high expectations, itís them. Letís face it, if a game is amazing, itís almost impossible to make it equally good on the big screen. When the movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children was bound for release, every FF fan was holding their breath. How cool was it going to be with a movie based on the FF VII story? When it finally came it was cool, but it wasnít a frickiní sensation like the game was.
As far as I know, the Lord of the Rings movies have received most of their criticism from the real Tolkien-fanatics, but theyíre still considered to be among the best movies of all time. This is because Lord of the Rings is a broader and more widely known concept than probably any videogame will ever be.
So, what else stands in the way? First, you have to define what separates videogames from movies.
Games are interactive. Many games are good because you as the player have the ability to affect the progress and outcome of the game. Silent Hill wouldnít have been as good without the puzzle-solving and the thought that you have to react to monsters hiding in the shadows lurking in the back of your head. Final Fantasy wouldnít be as good if you didnít have to plan what attacks you will perform and didnít get that ďAha!Ē-feeling when you discover something unexpected in the story, or if you finally get through that passage that youíve been struggling with for the last couple of weeks. The bad story in House of the Dead survives because of the frenetic action you get when frantically blasting heads off zombies.
Movies are all about well written stories, and when you take that away you end up with zero. Combine this with something only a limited group of people know about, and we jump in to our next reason.
Not everyone knows about Street Fighter. Even though you probably think Ryu and Ken have the same celebrity status as Paris Hilton and George W. Bush, that unfortunately is not the case. When I watched Street Fighter back in the days, it was kind of fun, but thatís only because I was a huge fan of the game and because Kylie Minogue was in it. Imagine the horror for someone who isnít as familiar with it ó huge sumo wrestlers, American colonels, a bunch of Asian ninjas and a Hulk look-a-like just doesnít cut it for some people.
Iím aware of the fact that the movie probably was intended for gamers, but itís still a bad one when you look at it objectively. Donít you agree when I say that the Street Fighter series could be made into a decent movie, both for gamers and for other viewers? This applies to all videogame movies, just because itís a success in its original genre doesnít guarantee its potency for movie making.
If a videogame movie is going to turn out successful, both for gamers and other viewers, it needs to be rewritten for that sort of broadcasting media, and not just be a clone of the game.
What has to be done? Not all movies based on videogames are bad. Iíve actually watched the first Resident Evil movie together with some friends that donít play videogames, and they thought it was good. These kinds of movies will always have a hard time living up to our expectations though, thus making it much easier to fail than to succeed. But not all hope is gone!
To make a truly awesome videogame movie, there have to be some changes. The right kind of game has to be chosen, because an 80+ hour game is quite hard to transform into 90 minutes. The story has to be remade for the movie, so that it actually fits into the correct dramaturgical framework. Character development and a more personal approach is also something thatís essential for movies. Itís all about realizing that a top notch videogame gets its status because of not only the story and its characters, but also from the actual playing experience.
It would be kind of boring if movies like Street Fighter or Doom wouldnít be made at all, just because they probably would be considered a B movie right from the start. Personally, I often enjoy some brainless action, but thereís always room for improvement.
A good example of what completely goes against ďthe right kind of game has to be chosenĒ is an upcoming 20th Century Fox film calledÖ Sims: The Movie! I mean, how could that possibly turn into something watchable?
On the other side of the coin, here are some of the more hopeful upcoming movies based on videogames:
So letís hope for a bright, creative and fearless future for videogame movies. Less Uwe Boll, more balls!
- Prince of Persia (Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the Prince in this Walt Disney produced film, set for a 2009 release)
- BioShock (From Universal Pictures. To be directed and produced by the director of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Gore Verbinski.)
- Max Payne (This is something that actually could be made into something beautiful. Rights purchased by 20th Century Fox)
- Street Fighter (Hyde Park Entertainment and Capcom are planning to release this movie this year to celebrate the game series 20th anniversary. Interesting indeed.)
- World of Warcraft (Blizzard says the budget for this film will be over $100 million. Iíve often fantasized about a StarCraft movie, but this would still be very welcome)
Looks like the newer wave of movies based on games will have a bigger budget and bigger names associated with it.
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Why do videogame movies nearly always fail?
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I know what you mean though lol...... every one gets excited about a game turning into a movie and then it never happens but maybe some of these will come out. We can only hopeFuNtAgE!
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I thought this was gonna be about games based on movies (not movies based on games)? Do u think games based on movies fail for the same reason?
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The main reason, I think, is that either way it's trying to cash in on something very different. In most cases, I suspect, there's no real sense of artistic vision.
07-06-2008 #5Max Payne (This is something that actually could be made into something beautiful. Rights purchased by 20th Century Fox)
Total waste without it
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I think the reasons they fail for me personally is that they tend to have nothing to do with the games they are based on or the story is completely changed. Look at resident evil the movie for the best example. That whole movie was based maybe 30% on the games and 70% Hollywood bs.
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I wouldn't really call Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within a movie from a video game. I always thought of it more of a movie with the Final Fantasy name tacked on.
Resident Evil and Tomb Raider are awesome movies in my opinion and have made the transition very well.
But I have to call out Universal for making the worst video game movie ever... Silent Hill!
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