One would think Hollywood would jump on the video-game-to-silver-screen adaptation more often. Video games make way more money than films, and movies today are nothing but adaptations or remakes, so these two should be natural allies. With video games getting more sophisticated, it does beg the question as to why there are not more movies based on video games, which can be considered of any good?
A huge problem is that the video games that are turned into movies are the ones with terrible or non-existing plots. Recently Need For Speed came out in the theatres. Need For Speed is not the kind of game that should be brought to the silver screen; it is a racing game, and nothing more. The “plot” is not compelling and full of interesting characters. That is because those who play Need For Speed do not care about the story, all they want is to drive fast, fancy cars.
The games that should be adapted are the games that already have a cinematic scope to them. Assassin’s Creed or Bioshock, both historical-fiction pieces, Mass Effect, a space-opera, Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic journey, or Metal Gear Solid, a spy-thriller, are perfect candidates. Each of these games have fully realised universes. They allow the screenwriters enough to go on, and still have some artistic license.
Another problem is that Hollywood is not taking the idea of video game movies seriously. Any time a video game is being turned into a movie it is given to some third rate director with a poor port-folio. That is why video-game-based movies range from okay, such as Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider, to a complete disaster, such as Mario Brothers. The reason why those movies were no good is because the studio’s concerns are based on exploiting a video game franchise rather than telling a story.
Would it not be great if Hollywood took this idea seriously? Appoint acclaimed directors and screenwriters to create these movies. How awesome would Deus Ex, a cyber-punk conspiracy/political thriller, be if the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix) got a hold of this project? Or if David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) directed the psychological-serial killer mystery Heavy Rain? James Cameron for Dead Space, which is very much like Aliens. Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon?
The drawback to assigning big-shot directors or screenwriters is that they might find the job demeaning. The video game industry is the biggest entertainment industry in the world, but it would not be surprising if these directors would find it beneath them to direct a video game movie. That is why, above all, those in charge of directing have to be fans of the material; people who are both geeky and talented.
The Jerry Bruckheimer film Prince of Persia, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, was not the financial success Disney was hoping for. The movie itself was mediocre it terms of action, characters and plot. Disney was watching this movie closely to see if it did well. If it exceeded all expectations, then Disney would be more than inclined to adapt other video games. Because the movie made a bit of money, this did not start a trend. And that is all it takes; for one video game movie to smash the box-office to open the floodgates for other adaptations.
There was a time when superhero movies were considered a risk. Studios were scared that nobody would go see them because adults would find them “childish”. With the explosive success of the Marvel movies recently, every studio is desperate to develop any comic book they have the rights to. The same can happen with video games. Some video game adaptations will be okay, some will tank, but there will be one that blows audiences out of the water, and it will be worth it just for that one.
The best way to make a video game movie is to be different from the game, while still staying true to the source material. This is easier said than done as it is a fine line. If the movie is too much like the game, then there was no point in adapting. If the movie is too different from the game, then fans will feel betrayed or alienated. A good balance of the two will ensure that fans of the source material and casual movie-goers will get a new experience, and fans still get to see the characters and stories they fell in love with.
That is why there are no good movies that are based on popular video games. Because of all the complications it arises. There have been plenty of games that have been in development that never got off the ground. Peter Jackson wanted to make a Halo movie but could not get a big enough budget for it. Perhaps the best course of action is to start small and work up. Start with a video game that is well recognised and cheap to make, and then move on to the epics.
Opinion By Ignacio Gatti