Is There Any Hope for the Future of Video Game Movies?

Illustration for article titled Is There Any Hope for the Future of Video Game Movies?

Yes, video game movies by and large suck, but that doesn't mean there isn't a chance that one bright day we might see another game-based film that does our beloved titles justice. Commenter PrinceLUDA21 spouts hot and cold running hope in today's Speak Up on Kotaku.


Let's just get this out the way now and be clear video game movies suck. Period. There is not much anyone can say at this moment to convince me otherwise. The recent option buy out's studios have made on game franchises helps support this fact. 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 the gamers serious or the material. In order to make better video game adaptations we need to think outside the box. We do not need to adapt the actual game, but the 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. Which is part of the reason. I am going to try avoid beating that horse in the head but it needed to be said. We all know Hollywood has become more about making money and less about telling stories. By that I mean the top brass. It's why we get sequel after reboot, after remake, after prequel. There is no getting around the top brass, they sign the checks so it is their call. Which is why we get the films we get. That lack of faith from the top can cause filmmakers to no longer believe in the project they are working on so they take the easy route of trying to translate the game into film form, or they can forgo the source material and tell a different story. 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. As writers are bottlenecked by the constraints of a game's events. There is less room for creative freedom and proper story development.

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 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? When you look at other adaptations (books, comics) you hardly see a direct recreation of those events. There are varying differences to both mediums so the translation process works better. Books are written in first person, we know what a character is thinking and how they feel. All visuals of a characters look and the design of the world is left up to the reader to imagine. If anyone has ever read a script you understand what I'm saying. Even still things are opted out of a book because it does not tell a cohesive story for film. Movies are all about the visual, exposition is not told but shown, what may take a chapter to get across in a book might only need 2 mins of screen time. Comics on the other hand, are told in a combination of third and first person. We sometimes are told what a character is thinking, and we also can see what they thinking without words. We are given a visual to a character and the world they inhabit. Just like a film, video games though are told in third person. We are not told what a character is thinking we are shown, the visual look of the world and character are also given to us. There is not much left for us to interpret or imagine. We simply see events played out before us.

The other difference between a novel and comic book movie is the source material. The best comic movies are adapting the themes and mythos of various stories while novels simply draw from the one source. If you look at The Dark Knight, that film takes many elements of three Batman stories and compiles them into one story. When each Harry Potter movie simply drew from one book. Just like books games are only drawing from one source, where comic movies have the ability to draw from many sources games don't. There comes the issue with the look and voice of an 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 an actor who does not only not sound, but hardly looks the part. Then we have Commander Shepard. With Bioware finally giving a voice and image to a FemShep, who 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 composes a film built on a game solely around player choice and 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 game world and try to expand upon the myths and themes in that universe. 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 "Lineage", 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 are the Resident Evil movies. Which the first movie was on the right track opting to tell a different story, it was the subsequent sequels that failed. Let's look to the themes and universe to adapt not the actual game itself. Just as comics have done, and even the movies based off a novel. Utilize the material so that writers are not trapped by a games story and its events. We need, to look beyond the game characters and look to the worlds they inhabit. Use the games we play as an inspiration. Expand upon the franchise to give fans something to look for as well as new comers. Most importantly 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. Filmmakers that understand not only the medium, but who grew up on gaming. When that happens I can bet you video game movies won't much

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.



Game stories tend to suck. Making Bioshock a film would be impossible, Shadow of the Colossus would be seen for what it really is (shit—because the only redeeming traits of the game are the fact that you, the player, play it), and then countless narratives, like Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, and any JRPG ever, would require a really good writer to elevate them from their C-movie status.

95% of the game stories seen as excellent are shitty stories that would make terrible movies.

3% of the game stories that are seen as excellent are unfilmable (like Bioshock), or don't have stories (SOTC) to film.

2% of them are excellent.