Gameover Man... For Video Game Movies
I wanted to revisit part of what I wrote a while back about video game movies. This is what I think what should be a good path fro the future. If you have any thoughts on the matter or ideas you would like to add please feel free to share. And if there is a movie out there you like let me know why. I'm doing this because this is the career path I am following. And hopefully one day I'll be in the drivers seat. Which means you are all my audience. So any input you have as to what you would like to see or if you think I'm a bit wrong in my assumption.
As a side note would also love to know what games you would love to see, what would work, and what wouldn't.
Lets just get this out the way now and be clear video game movies suck. Period. There is not much out there to disapprove that statement either. And you want to know why they suck? It is because somewhere out there people believe that simply adapting the game into movie form is the only way. Hollywood does not take gamers serious or the material. In order to make better video game movies (ADAPTATIONS) we need to think outside the box. We do not need to adapt the actual game or it's story, but maybe the core concepts and themes behind them.
We all know Hollywood does not take gamers seriously, which is why the games writing has gotten better in recent years. Yet Hollywood, the top brass, still does not see the real gold in video games. To some they are still childish things or second class. Which is partly why we end up with the types of films we get. That lack of faith from the top can cause filmmakers to no longer believe in the project they are working on. They may take a easy route of trying to translate the game into film form, or they they can forgo the source material and tell a different story. Sometimes it leads to them leaving a project. Both of which leads to movies like Street Fighter Legend of Chun Li, Doom, any of Uwe Boll’s movies, and the cancelations of Halo and the debunked Bioshock movie. While the latter is a better option the other is a bigger issue. You see when you don't care for a project you simply do just enough to keep your job. I also feel that writers are forced to placate to the events of a game just to appease both studios. Which I feel leads to less creative freedom and proper story (character) development. Those two are pretty much key in any good story.
Now that video game writing has gotten better the idea to simply take a game and translate that into a movie seems the way to go. While in theory it could/should work but what purpose would it serve the to revisit the events of a game that we already know? If you want to see the events of the game story over why not just play the game? Instead what if they (we) took some of the ideals and themes that went into the game. Use that as a backbone and build off it? When you look at other adaptations (books, comics) you hardly see a direct recreation of those events. They might follow along the same path laid out but for the most part they try to tell their own story. Which is what I assume happens in video game movies. To be honest I feel that they are missing on some of the points. It could be because the writers never played the game or they did a quick Google search to get and understanding. That's why I felt Prince of Persia was a hit/miss. It could also be the source material itself. Maybe the wrong games are being adapted to film. Or maybe, just maybe, they should look at other forms of cinema to tell the stories.
I have this theory that plays in my head. Now we all know there will be a Mass Effect movie at some point. It's being worked on, along with some others. But think about this for a second, Mass Effect is about a 30-hour game, and even in a speed run sticking to the main path it takes about 8 hours. How about instead of a two-hour movie, Bioware did a one hour drama. In the form of Stargate, BSG, Firefly, even a political drama like The West Wing. Think about that for a second.........
You see as a RPG or any RPG for that matter the time spent in a game runs from 40-100 hours. That is a lot of game time. Telvision is where I think we should be looking to take these games. It could give enough time to flesh out the world, expand upon things done in the game, let the game characters have their own world and show us new faces. Yet still retain the things that made the games story memorable. Gears of War and Halo could be done ala Band of Brothers. Skyrim? It could give Game of Thrones a run. Plus it has more Dragons. Last but not least Metal Gear Solid. No Snake Raiden or Otocon. Instead have it do with the inter turmoil’s of FoxHound. Full of scientist trying to do something, sciency?
They way comic book movies are adapting the source material video games should get the same treatment. Comic movies are adapting the themes and mthyos of various stories source. If you look at The Dark Knight, that film takes many elements of three Batman stories and compiles them into one story. There comes the issue with the look and voice of a already established character. Marcus Fenix, Nathan Drake, Kratos, and even Solid Snake all of these characters have a look and voice that are distinct to the fans. For some it is hard to see a actor who does not only not sound, but hardly looks the part. So why not leave them in the game world and lets look to the rest of the world. Which brings me back to Mass Effect Commander Shepard. With Bioware finally giving a voice and image to a FemShep, whom does the (now brewing) film cast? Is the Commander a male or female? There also lies the inherent issue of what choices will be made through out. I find it hard to compose a film on a game built around player input.
So where does this leave us? We need to think outside the box. Just as fan made films are looking to tell stories based in the games world and try to to expand upon the myths and themes set by the game. News for the new Mortal Kombat movie has the right concept behind it, it’s just not the right idea. When they should’ve just pick up where the web-series left off. There is also a low budget Assassin's Creed movie “Linage”, that takes place before the games and revolves around Ezio’s father Giovanni. The last Street Fighter movie was on the right path, that flop was due to a poor character choice. Then there is the Resident Evil movies. Which the first movie was on the right track, it was the subsequent sequels that failed. Which is the way things should be going. Look to the themes and universe to adapt. What are the messages the game developers are trying to get across? Sure it's all kill this and kill that, jump on this, but with the writing getting so much better, there are reasons for everything. Just as comics have done, and even the movies based off a novel. That is what we need, to look beyond the game characters and look to the worlds they inhabit. Use the games we play as a inspiration. Expand upon the franchise to give fans something to look for as well as new comers. Most importantly, I can't stress this enough, we need more filmmakers that take the material serious. It was not until we got actual comic fans that we better comic book movies. The generation of directors, writers, and producers we have now get it Joss Whedon, Bryan Singer, Jonathan Nolan, and Jon Favreau all grew up on comics and understood the medium. We need that more than ever. Those filmmakers that not only understand the medium but who also grew up on gaming. When that happens I can bet you video game movies wont suck.....as much.