You may have noticed a trend beginning somewhere in the mid-years of the naught decade. No, it was not giving Shia LaBeouf more work nor was it the ravenous hunger of TV executives to create more "reality" shows. It involved movies, and it involved video games. Yes, that coupling spawned a slew of terrible movies based on video games.
With stinkers like Alone in the Dark
(or basically any video game movie directed by Uwe Boll), and Doom
, it's no wonder why Hollywood tends to look down at video games as a medium to adapt stories from. However, the mild success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
and the rumor of Brad Pitt getting involved in a supposed upcoming movie adaptation of Red Dead Redemption
, it looks like *synergistic novels (a.k.a. video games) are at least on the right path to being good, right? Well...no.
The first problem when transferring video games to the silver screen involves something that no possible movie can offer that video games can - immersion. James Cameron can have sweeping tracking shots of Avatar's
Pandora for an hour and a half, but that won't get you even 1/4 of becoming engrossed in the world like a five minute trip into Super Mario World's
Mushroom Kingdom. Films cannot linger when an audience member wants them to. They cannot turn the camera to see the skyline, or look at a specific detail that could perhaps flesh out the world even more. Movies work within the confines of limited sight where the filmmakers can cheat human perception. However, this slight of film techniques comes at a price of disconnecting the audience who cannot see the entirety of the location for themselves. Video games breach that barrier by allowing the audience members to, through an appropriate avatar, interact with the game's world. When you move in the game world, it's because it's your command that is changing the world you see, not an outside party. The world only advances when you do.
The reason why I bring that point is simple: when you take a video game's world and implant it into a fixed sense of what the filmmaker wants you to see, you have freedom stripped away and instead are given a sense of being cheated a world to interact within at your desire. How can a film version of Red Dead Redemption
copy the same feelings one gets of isolation and freedom that you can experience in the game at one's own leisure? Movies merely throw the stories and characters onto the silver screen without any added depth to compensate for hacking off half of why people love the universe in a video game.
Speaking of exploring at one's discretion, allow me to present my next point -- Time. When you're in a video game, you can explore the world for as long as your heart desires. Want to hear what the NPC's have on their mind in a first person shooter? Go ahead and listen to them jaw on. Want to hear more about the detailed history of the fall of Rapture in BioShock
? Grab an audio diary and listen in on everyone's littlest secrets. Within a video game space, the best developers have their characters reveal their personalities over a long time as you journey with them rather than being treated to just a small snapshot of who they are as individuals on the silver screen where you must also juggle plot into the allotted time of the medium.
While this next one seems like a no-brainer, but it has to be said. Movies and video games have different markets in terms of how they sell. For the most part, the big successes in the movie industry are movies that are rated PG-13 where the content refrains from going too far in terms of adult content (which can be a good or bad aspect) while the bigger selling video games in this day and age tend be M-rated games. Will producers want to keep the content for a movie version when they can easily water-down the M-rated material to fit a PG-13 rating for a larger profit? You bet. After all, it has already happened with the movie Mortal Kombat
, which was based on a video game that was focused on over-the-top violence and gore.
Neil Blomkamp. Oh boy, would he have made a great director for a Halo movie! However, that plan petered out and we were instead given the amazing District 9
. However, even if the South African director had taken up the job of crafting a movie about Halo, there would have had to have been significant changes. In an interview
, Bungie writer Joe Staten revealed that Master Chief was going to be reduced to a supporting role should the film have been made. To some, this is heresy as Master Chief is arguably the centerpiece of the entire Halo
saga. No matter how skilled a director/writer is at crafting a film, such disregard for a relatively critical part of the story seems like they still don't understand what people love about the story in video games in the first place. Admittedly, maybe it's a problem with the medium of video games to not usually have characters as easily characterized as they are in films, but it appears that it's an issue that movie makers have not been able compromise on.
Overall, video game movies HAVE been getting better over the years, but there's still a long way to go, and with movie adaptations of BioShock
and Red Dead Redemption
looming on the horizon, it's with a sense of caution and cynicism that this video game player/movie watcher sees Hollywood continue to adapt material that is near and dear to my heart for films.
I never want to see this happen to humanity ever again:
*...What? If comic books can get a bullshit synonym (graphic novels) to cover up what they really are, then we should get one too.