Hello Screeners, in case you read my last blog you know that I'm trying to encourage our community here to come up with more of our own regular features in order to keep the site we know and love alive. So I'd like to welcome you to my latest attempt at this, "It Can Be Done!" a new series of articles where I try to take the most difficult task in the film industry and prove that there is no such word as "Can't" in Hollywood's dictionary. I constantly hear people say that there are certain concepts or certain ideas in movies that just can't work, and I'm here to tell you that if something is done right then everything can work. Hell, last year we had a silent movie be released, something you would have to be crazy to try, and it was amazing. So I don't believe anything in Hollywood is impossible, and to start this off I'm going to tackle a subject I always hear people saying you can't do, which is "Making a Good Video Game Movie."
Let's get started (almost put a "press start" joke in here, but better taste prevailed... which is rare). First we have to define the major complaints with the genre and the arguments against the idea of making a video game movie.
I could keep going but let's address what's already on our plate. First off, the "never been a good one before" argument always kind of bothered me. Not because I do think we've gotten a good video game movie so far, I mean I'll admit I kind of like the first Mortal Kombat movie, but just on a campy popcorn flick kind of level, aside from that I'll gladly admit that all Video Game movies are mediocre to flat out awful at best. But is this the fault of the stories and elements of the game? Well let's see, what's the process that goes into making a video game movie? Because as far as I can tell, as soon as the studio gets the rights to a game, they hire Uwe Boll and give him whatever money they found in their couch and trust him to do the rest. When you look at the talent behind most video game movies and then say "you can't make a good video game movie," that to me is kind of like hearing someone say, "You can't make good pie. Pie is just one of those deserts that can't taste good no matter what." "Oh really? Well how do you make your pie?" "Well I take a cardboard crust and fill it with mud and styrofoam balls, then I step on it till it's ready. Why? How do you make pie?" And that brings me to our first step.
Think about all the super hero movies we have out there right now, and think about how before X-Men and Spider-Man, we had a few decades where comic book movies were kind of in the same boat as video game movies right now. Sure every now and again we got a gem, but for every Batman we got Batman and Robin. And the reason why is because Hollywood back then was treating comic book movies the same way they treat video game movies now. However when X-Men and Spider-Man came around it created a new playing field, not because now studios were taking this seriously, but because now we actually had filmmakers out there who actually loved the source material and were very passionate about it. Think about Tim Burton's Batman versus Christopher Nolan's Batman. Tim Burton said that he read one issue of Batman and he figured he got it from there, but Christopher Nolan actually had familiarity and respect for the character and his story, and the difference really shows. This same rule can be applied to video game movies, you need talented people who are passionate about the material. Heck, even if they're not that talented, you should never underestimate how much just having a passion for the subject counts. Just watch the Street Fighter movie from the nineties, which could not have been more of a cash in, just an excuse to make money, and then go on youtube and look up any of the dozen or so Street Fighter fan movies people have made for almost no money and just using their friends.
I'm not saying these little fan films are great, but they do at least get the feel of the series far better than the actual big budget movies we've been given. So imagine if a filmmaker who has been out there in the film trenches for years, proven their metal, and has a love of these games was given the budget they need, then I think we'd change our tune on game movies pretty quick. And I know some people might throw out some examples like "Well what about that guy who directed the Resident Evil Movies? He's a fan of those games and yet those movies are terrible." Very true, he has said that he is a fan of the series, and he has said that Resident Evil 5 is his favorite. Now RE5 is a fine game, but that was the point in the game's franchise where they basically went "hey these Resident Evil movies are selling pretty well, why not make the games more like them." So basically what he said was "Yes I love the Resident Evil series, my favorite being the game they made just like the movies I had made." So I call BS on Paul WS and all his RE films, he's not a true fan,he's just a guy who wants to force his wife down our throats any way possible. Now you might be saying "What was the point of that paragraph?" None really, I just wanted to point out that we need real lovers of these games working on them and also point out how horrible Paul WS Anderson's movies are.
But I understand if people still have some complaints, after all adapting a game isn't quite like adapting a book. Games aren't just stories, they're a medium created entirely with human interaction in mind. Because of this specific gameplay elements can't be adapted to the big screen... or can they?
Not only is it possible to adapt specific gameplay elements into a movie, we've already seen it done multiple times, you just have to be clever about it. Let me give you an example of what I mean by taking a look at one of my favorite sequels of all time, Rec 2. This movie is about a group of special forces soldiers who go into an apartment complex filled with zombies. First off, with a concept like that this movie could have been based on a video game and nobody would have been surprised. But there is a sequence in there that made me realize the creators behind this were huge gamers. The sequence I'm talking about is when the team finds the abandoned lab of the man who had been studying these creatures, and they find a set of documents that talks about a special breed of zombie children that he had been experimenting on, and two minutes later those zombie children burst onto the scene and attack. Okay, that's video games 101, every survival horror game we've ever played uses the same formula to introduce new enemies. Throw in the fact that they actually have to solve a puzzle at the end to find a hidden door, and I'd easily say that Rec 2 is the best Video Game movie that's not actually based on any game.
Still don't believe we can adapt these gameplay mechanics? Want another example? Good because I had one lined up and didn't want it to go to waist. A few weeks back I saw The Raid: Redemption, one of the better martial arts films I've seen in a long time, which is about a man who has to stop a crime boss who is holed up in an apartment complex that is full of criminals (you know judging by these two films it looks like apartment complexes in foreign countries are just full of evil). So he has to run through each floor of this building and fight off every criminal that comes at him. Just think about that, he has to run through each floor, which is numbered, each enemy getting tougher... you see what I'm saying here? It's the same thing as levels in a video game. Hell there was even a boss fight at the end of it all.
But what if you don't want to think of a clever way to adapt the gameplay mechanics? Well then why not just go the opposite direction, why not just go full blown nuts with these concepts. Look at Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, a movie about what if the real world was like a video game, and it accomplishes this by using little video game icons and sound effects and even threw the gameplay elements right into the movie, having enemies turn into coins or extra lives. Now I'm not saying you could go that far with it, because Scott Pilgrim was a one time thing, now that they've done it nobody else really can go quite to the level that they did. But hey, what's wrong with adapting a fighting game and actually showing a hit counter in the corner, it would probably help to keep a light-hearted mood to the whole thing that would allow the audience to go along with anything you wanted to try.
But there's one gameplay element that is going to be particularly hard to get around, and that's the length. Most video games these days last for about twenty times what your average movie is, so how are you going to plan on adapting that?
Going back to the comic book metaphor, I remember when the X-Men movie was first coming out, and I had a friend who was a huge fan of the X-Men comics, and he could not have been more pissed at that movie (before he saw it, afterwards he loved it). And the reason he was mad was because he saw who would be in the movie, and he was glad those characters made it, but he just kept asking "Why is Cable not in there? And Bishop? And Gambit and Beast and Colossus and..." that went on for weeks, he turned into the Bubba Gump of X-Men characters. Eventually I had to tell him "they're not in there because they're not telling a twelve part miniseries where each part is four hours long." They didn't have time to explain all the insane stories that they'd have to come up with to tie all those characters together, and the same rule goes for video game movies. Yes when you do the adaptation you're going to have to lose a lot of characters and a couple scenes (or levels I should say) of the storyline and find a way to tighten it up, in other words you have to do exactly what all adaptations have to do (except for Twilight where you can stretch the movie out as much as you want because people will buy a ticket just to watch a woman stare for two hours).
But here's something you can do with video games that you can't really do with other adaptations. You can choose to just ignore the story completely. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about, because I realize it made no sense at all. When you adapt a book, well you kind of have to adapt the story because that's the whole point of buying the rights to a book, and if you adapt a television show or a comic book, then basically you have to retell the story, reintroducing the characters and giving the origin story so the audiences who don't know about them can figure out what they're watching. But video games have so many different installments that put the characters in new settings, who's to say you can't just take the characters and put them in a new adventure?
Here's what I'm talking about, for the past few years people have been attempting to make an Uncharted movie, and I'll admit I was one of those guys who kept yelling "We don't need an Uncharted movie, we have an Uncharted movie, it's called Uncharted." Uncharted is a game about Nathan Drake, a world traveling treasure hunter and each game is basically designed to be a playable big summer blockbuster film, so because of that I saw no real reason that it needed to be adapted, it would feel redundant. But then I thought, "Wait, why do they have to adapt one of the games? Why can't the Uncharted movie just be a two hour brand new adventure with the characters I love?" And that's the point I'm trying to make and for some reason it took me half an hour to get to it. There are many games out there that feature characters we love, so why not just take them and write a new adventure, one that would be well suited for the screen.
And before any of you out there get all smart with me and say "Oh yeah? What about that Chun-Li movie they made, it was a new adventure with a game character and it was awful." Yes, yes it was, and to you I would like to point you back to the comment I made earlier about how the creators behind these movies have to be talented and they also have to have a love for the product, as opposed to some writer who thought M Bison was a blonde drug lord and Rose was his daughter and Gen was Chun-Li's master who was only two years older than her and... you know what I can't think about that movie anymore or else it will make me sad. Let's just move onto the next problem.
A question that every Hollywood producer has to ask themselves when they decide to flush all their money down a toilet, I mean, invest in a new game based movie. And to those producers I'd just like to say... why do you have to tell them? Seriously, who cares if the general audience knows it was based on a video game? Going back to the comic book metaphor, think about Road to Perdition, a very touching movie about a man and his son in a world of 1920s gangsters, it was a movie that really pulled in a ton of older audience members... but do you think they would have shown up if you kept telling them over and over that it was based on a comic book? Heck no, they don't care about those funny books, they wanted real drama, not something with super heroes. So when you make a video game movie, the gaming community will know it's coming out, and nobody who isn't a gamer will care that its based on a game, hell it might even hurt your movie if they found out because for some reason these types of movies have a bad reputation. So yeah... seriously I have nothing else to add to this part, it's just that simple. Don't put "based on the best selling game" in your trailers, if someone asks you about it being based on a game just say "yeah but-" and then change the subject, throw a smoke bomb, run out of the room, whatever, just get people's minds off it.
So after all this, can we now say that it is possible to make a good video game movie? Yes, yes it is. Is it going to happen anytime soon? Probably not. I know I should probably end this by recommending some directors or writers who would be great for a video game movie, but the last time I did that I said Zack Snyder would be great for a Street Fighter movie... but then he made Sucker Punch and that made me forget why I thought he was qualified to do anything at all (good luck Superman). So I don't want to jinx it again (even though I would love to see Jaume Balaguero reboot the Resident Evil franchise) so instead I'll just say that we have to wait for this current generation of gamers to grow and mature to the point where they are capable filmmakers. When will that happen? Who knows. Maybe we should all bum rush Giantbomb and tell all the users to put down the controllers and come over here to Screened, but I don't think it would accomplish much (might be fun though...).