With several console-to-screen adaptations announced, Joe casts his mind back to the movies that insulted their video game legacies. Is there fresh hope for the genre?
Have you been a victim of VGMAD during your lifetime? That’s Video Game Movie Adaptation Disappointment. I certainly have. Video games are known for their clumsy and often heavy-handed exposition, and it is now universally accepted that they do not translate well onto the big screen. So, has an adaptation ever worked?
Well, the video games I grew up playing were Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Doom, Tekken and Mortal Kombat, but most of all Resident Evil. All of which have been adapted into films with varying degrees of success. When I first heard of a planned Resident Evil movie adaptation in 2002, I felt it was ripe for the big screen. Its compelling story, centred on a scientific corporation determined to harbour bio-organic weapons for military purposes, struck parallels with the Alien franchise’s Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Its mansion setting gave the story a unique aesthetic within the zombie sub-genre. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I discovered that they had done away with much of the game’s narrative, beloved characters and grand setting, creating a sub-standard and predictable zombie flick. From that day on, my anticipation in all forthcoming game adaptations soured.
Doom, as I vaguely remember it, was a horribly CGI’d, snore-inducingly bad sci-fi shooter; so forgettable that all I can recall of it is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stalking spaceship corridors wielding a big gun. Silent Hill managed to capture the eerie aesthetic of its fog-filled deserted town setting, yet was ultimately boring. As arcade combat games, Mortal Kombat and Tekken lacked any form of narrative, but rather than do something imaginative, their big screen counterparts were essentially poor Enter the Dragon rip-offs without Bruce Lee. All in all, my childhood memories had been well and truly shattered.
And I haven’t even mentioned the infamous Uwe Boll, who has incensed countless gamers for the wretched blots that are House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark and BloodRayne. Oh, and In the Name of the Father: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Far Cry, too. Why do developers keep giving him permission to butcher their titles?
It has been suggested that the transition from movie to video game can also be a problematic one. Some of the greatest games I played as a teenager were Alien Trilogy, Die Hard Trilogy and Goldeneye. All of which are proof that, if handled with care, great films can become great games. However, recent attempts included The Amazing Spider-Man, which plays like a botched attempt to be Arkham City, and most likely rushed out to accompany the release of its big screen tie-in. Perhaps the two forms of media should not mix after all?
Yet there are films that do fill me with a glimmer of hope, one of which is Tomb Raider. Sure, it had Angelina Jolie doing a laughably non-distinct British accent, but the globe-trotting romp was entertaining enough to keep the fans happy. It was also the first time many of us took notice of Daniel Craig. Having never played Max Payne, I was able to enjoy the bonkers elements of that film’s narrative without heightened expectations clouding my judgement. Finally, Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time was a fun mythological action-adventure in the same vein as The Mummy back in 1999. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll enjoy seeing Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton bicker whilst Ben Kingsley pulls off yet another caricature villain. Some reason for optimism perhaps?
The critical acclaim merited to video games over the last few years has increased tenfold. You simply have to look at something like L.A. Noire to see that they now rival cinema in scale, budget and even cast. The 2011 Rockstar Games release is certainly cinematic in the way it captures its film noir aesthetic. Begin to crunch the numbers and it becomes clear that video games are also more than a match for cinema when it comes to sales. Call of Duty: Black Ops II recently smashed sales records by taking $614 million dollars in its first 24 hours of release. To put that into perspective, it took two weeks for the highest grossing movie of the year, Avengers Assemble, to break the $600 million mark. The latest Call of Duty game is also partially the work of scribe David S. Goyer, the man entrusted with kick-starting the first phase of Warner Bros’ DC Universe (and co-writer of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy). So, with video games becoming more and more cinematic in style, can we expect a happy and fruitful marriage between the two mediums in the near future?
With more big name adaptations currently in the works, and some of Hollywood’s brightest stars rumoured to be attached, a make or break era could be on the horizon. The biggest title is undoubtedly the proposed Assassin’s Creed movie, set to star Shame’s Michael Fassbender, who has rarely put a foot wrong in his career choices so far. The fact that the franchise appears to be in safe hands will please the droves of fans who recently purchased the third instalment in the video game series, shifting over 3.5 million copies in its first week.
Other big name stars contributing to the current video game hype are Tom Hardy and Aaron Paul. The Dark Knight Rises star has reportedly signed on to star in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and Breaking Bad’s Paul is said to be involved with an upcoming adaptation of the street-racer Need for Speed. One would hope that screenwriters have learnt valuable lessons when it comes to translating video games, and with big name stars getting involved, perhaps there is hope yet.