The Inquisitive Blogger 24/31: Whatever Happened to the Video-Game Movie? - Tim Gruver Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Inquisitive Blogger 24/31: Whatever Happened to the Video-Game Movie?

 

 

It's clear that video-game movies haver suffered their own amount of trials and tribulations. All the same, is there no hope for games on the silver screen? The recent option buy out's studios have made on game franchises helps support this fact. Why they fail? It's usually 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. To make better video game adaptations we need to think outside the box. Gamers hardly need a game to be literally adapted, but the concepts and themes behind them.

As a huge film buff myself, I've been enthralled by movies maybe even before video-games, whether that was from everything from Home Alone [the first two], Star Wars, or the last decade's great superhero epics. It's strange to me why two of my favorite mediums aren't better friends. 

Note: I clarify some of the "absolute statements made in the following paragraphs thanks to reader comments. 

We all know that Hollywood often ignores gamers, which is why the games writing has gotten better in recent years. More Hollywood writers like Uncharted's Amy Hennig and similarly talented writers like Kevin Levine and Corey May have jumped ship from the big screen to the living room one and contributed much of the cinematic talent that's been invaluable to this generation's games. 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 that studio executives often exhibit can cause filmmakers to lose faith in their undertaking 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, Jerry Bruckheimer's high-budget though shallow Prince of Persia attempt, and the cancelations of the long forgotten Bioshock and Shadow of the Colossus adaptations. While the fist is a tolerable option, it's disappointing not to see the bolder attempts. As writers are bogged down by the constraints of a game's events, there's less room for creative freedom and proper story development.

` (Is it Just My Perspective?) 

In light of video game writing's improvement, the idea to simply translate a game into a movie seems the most practical way. 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 a game's story over again, why not just play the game? If you look at other adaptations like books and comics, you can hardly see a direct recreation of their events. There are varying differences to both mediums so the translation process works better. Books are often written to the reader 1st person, we know a character's thoughts and feelings directly. All a character's visuals, the look and the design of their world is left up to the reader's imagination. If anyone has ever read a script you understand what I'm saying. Still, things are opted out of a book because it doesn't tell a cohesive story for film. Movies are all about visuals, 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. By contrast, comics are a combination of 3rd and 1st person. We're sometimes told what a character is thinking, and we can see what they're thinking without words. We are given a visual to a character and the world they inhabit. Just like film, video games though can be and may be often told in 3rd 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 isn't much left for us to interpret or imagine. We merely see events played out for us.

(Do we take ALL of that, or just the important parts?)

Another significant difference between novel and comic book movie is the source material involved. The best comic movies have adapted the themes and mythos of various stories while novels simply draw from their one, single source. Look at The Dark Knight for instance, a film takes many elements of dual Batman stories like Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and, to some extent, the Killing Joke, and compiles them into one story. Each Harry Potter film simply drew from one book. Just like books movies only draw from one source, comic movies have the ability to draw from many sources games don't. There's the further issue with an established character's look and voice. We know from this year's voice-actor shuffle that characters such as Sam Fisher and Solid Snake have a look and voice that are distinct to their fan-base. For some it is hard to see an actor who does not only not sound, but doesn't quite look the part. Then we have Commander Shepard. With Bioware finally giving a voice and image to a FemShep, who does the film cast? Is the Commander a male or female? There's also the inherent issue of what choice-making's obvious absence. It's difficult to produce a film built on a game that's solely around player choice and input.

Where does this put 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 of that universe. An original Assassin's Creed story following a new Assassin, whether it be Michael Fassbender's film or otherwise, or even a stand-alone Uncharted with a new adventure for Drake, would be examples of that. There's also the low budget Assassin's Creed movie "Lineage", that takes place before the games and revolves around Ezio's father Giovanni that already taps into that potential. The last Street Fighter movie was on the right path, that flop was due to both poor character direction and sloppy story-telling. Then there are the Resident Evil movies. While the first movie might've been on the right track in opting to tell a different story, it was the subsequent action-heavy, story light 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 aren't trapped by a game's story and events. We need to look beyond the game characters and look to the worlds they live in. Use the games we play as inspiration, not a lazy blue-print. Expand on the franchise to give veteran fans something to look for along with newcomers. Most importantly, we need more filmmakers that take the material seriously. It wasn't until we got actual comic fans that fans got better comic book movies. The generation of directors, writers, and producers we've received in the last decade got it. Joss Whedon, Bryan Singer, Sam Raimi, and Jonathan Nolan 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 maybe it can be possible to finally receive the cinematic respect that video-games deserve. . . maybe. . .

Have a video-game movie that you still liked or hated the most, or maybe a blogging suggestion? I guess I'll see ya tomorrow! Only a week left of this puppy and it's down to the wire. See ya then!

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