It’s a widely accepted fact that video game movies are terrible. To date, there hasn’t been a decent adaption of any game, in the long history that pixels and graphics have existed. They’re always butchered and torn into shreds that hardly reflect the original content, and are instead pasted onto the screen with no regard for the source material. It’s heart breaking. I feel like video games deserve better, and if directors and studios just respected them a bit more, we could have block busters that could potentially pay tribute to the original game! Here’s a list of why I think video game movies fail.
#1- TOO MUCH VISION
The directors, or the studio behind them, that usually oversee the project have too much vision. In that I mean they have an idea of their own, and wish to adapt the story and content from the game into something that’s uniquely theirs. I realize that every director does this, and that no adaption, be it a book or otherwise, ever end up like the original concept. But for some reason, video game movies suffer more from this. Oh, that, and movie remakes based off of 80s cartoons. You know what I’m talking about.
Yes, I believe that directors should be able to add their mark to their movies. But there’s a certain line when crafting the overall story, especially for video games, that shouldn’t be crossed. When the characters no longer resemble their video game counterparts, when the world isn’t the same, and even the overall plot strays away from what it originally was, I think the line has been crossed.
#2- ADAPTING FOR REAL LIFE
Aside from the director/studio and their influence, the other thing killing video game movies is the need to adapt them for the real world. Regardless of what it is, there seems to be an insatiable need to make it real. It must be like real life. Add more grit, and tone down the characters to make them more true to life. Make them bad ass, too. Maybe give them a gun, and make them shoot everything. Oh, and blood. More blood. And since the world and it’s video game rules don’t make sense, let’s change it so that it must makes sense… even though what ends up on film is even cheesier than the game, and really doesn’t make sense.
#3- DON’T STAY TRUE
Which brings me to: why not just stay true to what made the games memorable? There’s a reason why millions of people end up falling in love and becoming fans of a game. However flawed, they enjoy the story, have a favorite character, and it leaves a lasting impression on them. It means something. When they hear about an adaption, they want to see a movie version of the ideas that they have come to love. Yet, the creators of these atrocious video game movies feel the need to change the story, change the characters, and add their own unique twist to the formula.
The ideas and concepts that exist in the game, no matter how outlandish, make sense within the context of their world. There are rules set in place to make everything work. By breaking these fundamental ideas, the movie creators aren’t staying true to what made the game memorable in the first place. And that’s a shame.
#4- OUTSIDE INFLUENCE
Directors, producers, and the rest of the team making the movies, feel the need to incorporate everything anyone says into the production. Fans don’t like this? Cool, change it. We don’t like this character, or how the story was here? Cool, change that too. The studio wants it to be more gritty? More blood, more explosions? Sure, add that change. That other movie did well, so let’s make this one just like that! The movie must appeal to as many people, and as many demographics, and make as much money as possible! So, change it. All of it. It’s as if they feel like the concept and ideas aren’t strong enough for the big screen.
I do realize it’s a gamble. Studios spend millions of dollars and hundreds of man hours, and if the film doesn’t do well, they can take a substantial loss. Some movie studios have tanked due to a single movie that they felt would do great at the box office, but ended up performing horrendously. It’s a risk, so maximizing profit and ensuring a reliable return is understandable. But that said, sacrificing what made the game great is also a risk.
#5- ADJUSTING THE HOURS
The mediums are completely different. You can’t pour every moment from 40 to 50, or even an 8 hour game, into 1 to 2 hours of running time. Just like books that are adapted into film need to cut some scenes, video game movies need to sacrifice some points, and adjust others in order to fit the running time.
I also get that sometimes changes need to be made to the story, or a certain character, in order for them to translate better into film or make the overall story stronger. Okay. And I know that there are moments that just wouldn’t translate well, and would subsequently need to be cut from the finished film.
However, comic book movies don’t shoe horn the entire 50 years of history into one movie. That would be absurd! They take ideas, plots, and characters from a certain portion of the universe, then base their film on that. Take note from comic book movies, directors that plan to adapt video games for the silver screen. You can learn something.
#6- LACK OF RESPECT
The reason why I feel like comic book movies are flourishing, and video games have haven’t had a decent adaption, is because those movies stay true to the spirit of the comic books. Comic films respect the source material. Look at Iron Man, Batman, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk to name a few. Yes, they are different, have updated looks, and changes here and there, but they’ve stayed true to the initial design and the back story that they were created with. There isn’t a need to make them different, or reinvent them, because there’s literally years of continuity to draw from! And from that continuity also comes billions of loyal fans.
Are their stories, these crazy, over top heroes with powers, and villains that can rip holes in the fabric of reality, destroy planets, and stand against entire armies, really that different from the video game realm? The lack of respect for video games, perhaps as a medium, damages the integrity of what the film could be.
More often than not, video game movies try to throw everything out the window. The only thing you’re left with are characters that have the same names, and look similar to what most would remember, but the world, the scenarios, and the overall tone are completely different. The flagrant disregard for the source material is why they fail. I’m looking at you Resident Evil, and yes, especially you Super Mario Brothers. Although, I have to admit, I loved it as a kid. There are actually quite a few video game movies that I still love, but that doesn’t mean they’re the movie that the games deserves.
Now while I have spent the whole article harping about the need to stick to the story, I also don’t mean that a movie cannot be it’s own stand alone film. A new story. A different take. An alternate direction or another side. By all means, expand the universe! But make sure it stays true to the original game, and could live within that world, in another time or moment. If it doesn’t, don’t say it’s a film about that specific game. Cause if it’s the same only in name, what’s the point?
In closing, directors and studios need to stop trying to turn video games into something they’re not, or something that fits their ideal vision of what they think it should be. Yes, you can’t shoe horn the entire 80 hours of gameplay, but there are segments you can use. Just leave it as it is! They have a following for a reason. Give them the respect they deserve, and stop treating them like they’re broken.