Video Game Movies Just Don’t Work– Why Hollywood Should Stop Trying
Hollywood is constantly looking to other mediums in search of properties to adapt for the big screen and become franchises. This is by no means a new trend and has been tried time and again for decades, but common missteps seem to keep on recurring. The overwhelming majority of these adaptations ultimately prove to be underwhelming and a shadow of the games they try so desperately to emulate.
Despite huge budgets and the cutting-edge special effects, these video game adaptations continue to disappoint. With this in mind here are 10 common mistakes that all video game movies make, and perhaps Hollywood should give up altogether.
10 The Wrong Games Get Adapted
When choosing a video game to adapt, moviemakers have to consider their choices carefully and bring to life a game that not only has an established fan base but is still a part of popular culture. But this is not always the case, just look at the not awful, but not great, Dwayne Johnson vehicle Rampage as a prime example.
Based upon the 1980’s game of the same name, Rampage has no doubt got its die-hard fans but for younger viewers, the title will mean almost nothing. This not only limits the audience of the film, but it also means that any easter eggs or funny callbacks to the source material will go right over the head of anyone watching your movie, making gestures like this relatively futile.
9 They Don’t Understand What Makes Them Work
Despite their huge budgets and talented actors many video game adaptations continue to underwhelmed and the people behind the scenes seemingly never understood what made these games appealing in the first place. Michael Fassbender starred in the big-screen adaptation of Assassin’s Creed, which seems like a no brainer when it comes to video games which should be made into movies. However, the film opened to poor reviews and underperformed, before being quickly forgotten about. But why? All the elements seem to be there to make a great movie.
Well, the thrills of stealthy assassin action were there, but the movie opted to place a larger emphasis on the dull and convoluted adventures of the assassin’s ancestor in the future. This element is universally disliked, and tolerated, with the video game series opting to include as less and less of this with each entry in the franchise. But the movie opted to embrace this element, resulting in a far poorer story.
8 Bizzare Changes Are Made
While some adaptations opt to focus on the wrong elements, others choose to change things or introduce new elements that only serve to make the adaptation worse. The Resident Evil movies proved to be one of the most successful adaptations of any video game franchise with six entries, however, when comparing them to their video game counterparts, there is more that is different between them, that they share.
The movie series is known for its camp B-movie thrills and there’s no doubt that it had embraced more elements from the games it was based upon it would have been better and satisfied more fans.
7 A Bad Story Become A Terrible Story
When it comes to choosing which properties should be adapted for the big screen, time and again a game without a focus on story is chosen. The paper-thin story is bad, and by no means the reason so many people were hooked on the game in the first place. This then gives the filmmakers the unenviable task of stretching and expanding this narrative to fill at least an hour and a half.
While this can be creatively freeing and essentially gives them a blank page to fill with their unique ideas, the result bears so little similarity to the source material that it leaves us scratching our heads as to why they even bothered in the first place.
6 A Great Story Becomes A Mediocre One
On the flip side, another common mistake that Hollywood big-wigs commit repeatedly is to take a video game with a huge, sprawling, downright epic story and then strip away so much that many of the unique and fan-favorite elements never stand a chance of making it into the final cut of the film. While this is understandable, the results continue to be underwhelming.
These huge stories can prove to be as difficult to adapt as properties with nearly none existent paper-thin stories, and films such as Warcraft struggled to do justice and realize the epic stories featured in the games.
5 Time Restraints
The majority of video games take dozens of hours to witness their entire stories unfold, and so reducing this to a mere couple of hours is a thankless and almost impossible task.
Stripping away so many story points and ideas makes the results feel so far removed from the source material that the filmmaker’s final cut feels unrecognizable. While this is true of all adaptation of anything, the spawling and lengthy nature of many video game stories make this task especially difficult.
4 They Aim For A Different Audience
Video games can bring to life any concept imaginable, from alien worlds to terrifying monsters and everything in between. Of course, movies can do this, but to translate these things into live-action costs a vast amount of money. Not a problem as big-budgets are commonplace in Hollywood, and movies with vast budgets of more than $200 million make their money back with relative ease. But having such a big budget forces the production to market their movie to the largest possible audience, resulting in the film being given a PG-13 rating.
This rating drastically changes the tone of the film and removes many of the elements that made these violent and often destructive video games work so well. Mortal Kombat continues to be one of the most violent video games around, with devastation and gruesome fatalities that are one of its most defining features. But when looking at its movie counterpart these violent traits have been stripped away in favor of a movie that will appeal to more people.
3 Games Are Already Cinematic
Video game graphics have come along way over the decades, and continue to improve at a rapid pace. This results in video games looking more photorealistic than ever before, enabling them to tell more complex stories and deliver more emotion. Because of this video games have become more cinematic than ever before, favoring complex stories and characters that simple arcade high score based fun.
With cinematic action to rival the biggest Hollywood blockbusters and gorgeously rendered (and long) cutscenes that effectively turn these games into movies already. Some games go a step further and ditch many traditional gameplay elements, to focus on the story. Just look at the critically acclaimed Life is Strange and The Wolf Among Us games, which featured an interactive story with very little gameplay. These titles offer something movies cannot, and should not be adapted.
2 They Were Games For A Reason
This really is a simple and self-explanatory point, these stories were games for a reason. While adaptation is by no means unique to video games, with comics and books continually receiving big-screen adaptations, video games are a little different. The story is essential to other mediums, and they simply wouldn’t work without it.
Imagine a book without a story – that’s just blank paper, but for video games, this isn’t the case. The interactive and often sandbox nature of many video games means that players can create their own fun and their own stories. Without this interaction, and if the story was simply allowed to play out these video games wouldn’t be half as fun.
1 They’d Work Better As A Series
The rise of high-quality television shows in the last decade or so has seen several properties skip the cinema in favor of television adaptions. This in addition to televisions’ ability to offer almost movie quality special effects, means that many video game properties would be far better suited to the small screen.
Just look at Netflix’s recent The Witcher adaptation on how to do it right; only a few years ago it would have been impossible to adapt into a series, and if it was, the results would have no doubt been inferior. And a film adaptation would have all been a lesser experience, cutting a lot of the story and the unique fantasy world would have been lost in translation.
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