Game Over? The Curse of the Video Game Movie!

Looking towards the present and the future, 2016 was supposed to be the year we ushered in a new era for video game movies. 2016 had 4 big-screen movies ready to roar. We’ve already seen the release of two, and while it looks like Angry Birds will be a financial success, it and the Ratchet and Clank movie join the ever-expanding list of critical bombs.angrybirdsmovie

The next one down the pipe is Warcraft. Now personally, I’m not a Warcraft fan, but I figured with Duncan Jones in charge, we had the opportunity to finally get a decent video game movie. While the verdict hasn’t been finalized yet, it isn’t looking too good for the film. And unlike many of the previous films this had all the trappings that you would want. It had a pretty damn qualified director with his previous films, Moon and Source Code, winning much acclaim amongst critics and fans. Jones is a self-confessed fan of the franchise so you know it’s someone who is looking to give it the love and care that is needed. It has that high-fantasy scale that has made things like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones household names. And yet, it seems to somehow miss the mark.

And here we are back to my prolonged question: Why? What is it about video games that make them so difficult to adapt? One theory I have is that for the most part, video games are all rising action. Games tend to lack proper build-up and instead  throw the player into the action and continue to ramp up the action as the player progresses through the game. Usually only peaking at the end with the climatic, over-the-top boss encounter/set-piece.

Another theory, and this one is a bit easier to prove, is that no one has been able to figure out what to do with video games. With comic books for the most part, the movies are cobbled together from various arcs over decades. With books, they are condensed versions of the story. With video games, we haven’t determined if it’s best to attempt an accurate 1:1 translation (such as the recent Ratchet and Clank movie), engage in the spirit of the franchise (such as Tomb Raider) or just use the name for something grander (such as Super Mario Bros). I believe once a film comes out that is successful, we’ll see a bunch more imitators aping that format.Uncharted4

Then there is the “depends on who you ask” theory. As in, depending on who you ask video games are either too dense or too basic to be properly adapted into movies. I can understand the logic from both parties especially as video games attempt to be more “cinematic.” What’s the point in trying to adapt something that already pretends to be like the film industry? At the same time, as we’ve seen earlier with franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, the correct creative team can turn anything into a compelling and fun film.

I think one element we never really touch on is the visual language of video games. Since the industry has spent the better part of two decades borrowing liberally from cinema, there doesn’t seem to exist much in the way of unique visuals. Camera angles and staging are all fairly cinematic in nature. Contrast this to something like comic books with its heavy focus on static imagery which in the right hand translates beautifully to the big screen. Or on the other hand consider novels. Since they tend to lack a visual component, directors are able to create the visual language they feel best suit the property.

Ultimately, I don’t know what it will take to get a truly great video game movie, but I do believe we are closer than ever to it. With Assassin’s Creed looking somewhat promising, and Nintendo looking to take a more hands on approach to development of their IPs, something seems ready to click within the next 5 years. Let’s just hope we don’t have to suffer through more endless drudge before we get there.


Earl Rufus

The owner of this little chunk of the internet. Enjoys having a good time and being rather snarky!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *