It’s no secret that there’s an outcry when Hollywood announces plans for a movie based on a popular video game. The usual questions are “what the hell?” and “Why?!” Fans of said game are usually going to be on the offensive, making arguments that Hollywood is just trying to make ‘quick’ money and will, in the process, tarnish a good brand. People on the defensive side are slightly hopeful that Hollywood may finally get it right, but don’t speak up as much because they’re familiar with the “quality” of movies Hollywood has already provided in this department.
Several people have tried to answer the question “what exactly is needed to make a good video game movie?” I believe the question actually becomes, “what exactly do you want from a video game movie?”
There’s no question a good movie, especially one based off a video game, needs a good script and good actors. Depending on the game, it also may need stellar special effects. But setting aside the obvious, video game movies can take two routes.
Route One: The movie can be an alternate story based on the world and context of the video game in question. An example of this is the “needs to stay dead” Resident Evil series.
If you go for this option, directors are allowed to be as creative as possible with the material (characters, setting) already established. That tends to backfire, with examples such as Doom, Street Fighter, Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li (worst money decision I ever made), Wing Commander, BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark.
Note: If you don’t know Uwe Boll’s name by now, you have been sparred the atrocity that are his films. Which he continues to make because video game licenses are cheaper than others and he can write off the losses thanks to a German tax shelter loophole. He is a plague that just doesn’t go away and he’ll continue to make money off his crap.
Route Two: The movie can be a close-to-exact copy of what the game actually is, something like what Mortal Kombat tried to do.
If you go for the second option, the director has less room for creativity, but has a storyline they can follow. This is the trickier one to go with, because the director has to do “right by the fans” who are the initial target for the film. It can work, such as the Silent Hill movie proved.
The first option leaves the film open to everyone; the second is more to make video game sales equal movie ticket sales.
You also have to always ask yourself: Does a game deserves to even become a movie? The Super Mario Bros. movie, for example, in my opinion, should have never been made. The story was so out there; something about meteorites, a water supply and King Koopa being half human. The games are just too simple to really make a grand story out of it. Even for as long as Mario has been present in the gaming world, Mario still has a basic story of “save the princess and beat overgrown bosses along the way.” Sometimes he’ll play golf, or race cars. Sometimes, you’ll ride a cute dinosaur (which Yoshi in the live-action movie was not!) and throw fireballs. Not complicated, not worthy of a movie adaption.
The same can be said for the movie House of the Dead, one of Uwe Boll’s “masterpieces.” It could have been just another (badly made) zombie movie, but no, it had to carry a recognizable brand name that people now shake their head at.
There are just some games that should remain games.
Gore Verbinski, one time director for the planned Bioshock movie, had it right regarding video game movies. In this clip, he talks about how he was willing to stay true to the content and actually knew what he was working with:
Taking a look at the recently announced Uncharted movie, the director seems to be going for route one. The context will be based off the Uncharted games, but the story will be quite different. Nathan Drake is apparently part of a family “that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice.” Director David O. Russel assures Uncharted fans he will stay true to the game, but it’s not looking like something gamers want.
Maybe route one is just a doomed path to follow?
And just to recap, here is a list of the worst video game movies out there. Maybe you can make it a marathon one night and drink yourself silly!
- Resident Evil series (2002 – 2010)
- Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
- Hitman (2007)
- DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
- BloodRayne (2006)
- Alone in the Dark (2005)
- Doom (2005)
- House of the Dead (2003)
- Wing Commander (1999)
- Double Dragon (1994)
- Street Fighter (1994)
- Super Mario Bros. (1993)