Heyyy there Screened community. I've been thinking of this topic for a LONG time, partially because I, and pretty much everyone else out there, has been extremely disappointed when a video game franchise decides to make the jump to the big screen. In my opinion the only successful one (yep, one) that has actually been capable of replicating the feel of a video game was the original Mortal Kombat movie from 1995. There have been other "decent" video game movies such as the Lara Croft films, the recent Prince of Persia movie, and even the Silent Hill film has some promise. Some might go so far as to say that the first Resident Evil movie and parts of the others in the series had some redeeming qualities. I do not believe this is true but I am more than willing to bend to these opinions compared to that of other films where their original sources are video games. Oh and don't forget the Super Mario Brothers movie.
So what is it that's preventing movies from successfully capturing a video game's feel or adapting it well enough to the big screen? In my opinion it's who the director and the producer want to appeal to that ends up killing the experience for everyone. With many of the movies I have linked above there is one core audience that these films were aiming for; video game players. Not just any specific video game players mind you, the fans of particular game that is being produced. So what's wrong with that you might ask? If you're going to make a movie about the Doom franchise you might as well appeal to the people who've actually played the dang thing! Plus, you will supposedly reel in a heck of a lot of First Person Shooter fans, as well as a bunch of video game fans out there who just want to see if it's any good.
The direction of some of the movies today seem to be the other extreme of the pendulum. This is where we get movies that are trying to be movies but have a light coating of the original material plastered on purely for name recognition. This is where we find our Lara Croft type films. Yes there's Lara Croft and yes she's a famous archaeologist looking for treasure. Beyond that however, how were these movies "video game" movies? They catered to the fans with having an actress who's probably the closest proportionally to the titular character and it followed the basic premise of the games but beyond that did they really have a video game feel? Is one even needed to make a movie? Economically speaking these films were a success. They were even put together fairly well and enough detail and time was put behind them to the point where they could be passed off as a basic Hollywood summer blockbuster.
Here's my example: A way to do this is to expand on an element within the game that's frankly underdeveloped. Perhaps some characters simply go missing for a few games and pop up at a later date with huge ass muscles and/or blonde. I'm looking at you Resident Evil 5's Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Or perhaps you focus on minor characters who don't have a huge impact on the story in the game but play an integral role in the story as a whole. This lack of information is like an open doorway of opportunity, a place to fill in the gaps and delve into. What this creates is a sense of freedom for directors; there's sparse information to work with in these instances but you have the major points taken care of, you merely have to hit those and fill in the rest and you have the potential for a story that draws in the fanbase very easily. The promise of "secrets revealed" make us nerds squeal in anticipation.
SO what about the movie audiences out there? What do they get out of this? From this point it kind of feels as if I'm only catering to one crowd right now. Well that open doorway works both ways. In one sense a director is catering to the fans of the game by filling in these blank pages, but at the same time the pages are still blank. This is an ample opportunity to create a well developed storyline that can work in a movie time period. There is no need to have a billion fan references when the movie itself is the reference. This should take a huge weight off the writer and the director's shoulders so they can focus on important things like character and plot development, proper mis-en-scene, and whatever else they can come up with in order to create an experience for the movie goers.
I feel that this is a direction thats rarely taken with films in this genre and would be very interesting to see played out if it ever comes to fruition. What do you guys think of this position? Do you have any ideas of your own to fix this problem with video game movies?