Films are one of the main things that differentiate American entertainment from everywhere else in the world. There is something magical about Hollywood. American actors and actresses are larger than life. They have more sway than any politician. Suffice it to say, movies are huge here in the States. Of course, not every movie is going to be a hit. Even big budget films can flop. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Even more unfortunately, it happens more often than not to movies based on video games. Funny enough, games based on movies are for the most part an awful lot as well.
Why do things turn out this way? Will it ever be possible for these mediums to complement each other?
One of the best examples of a great video game gone wrong in Hollywood is Super Mario Bros.: The Movie. I am not going to even try and defend this travesty of a film. The only thing this movie got right was that Mario and Luigi were plumbers from Brooklyn. Everything else was wrong. King Koopa was a human played by Dennis Hopper and not a fire-breathing reptile. The Mushroom Kingdom was turned into a futuristic city that looked more like New York on crack than a kingdom. Everything the movie could get wrong about the game, it did. Before he died, Mr. Hopper was asked what movie he regretted the most. Not surprisingly, he named this film. The sooner this movie is forgotten, the better off we’ll all be.
Another game-to-film translation that went horribly wrong was House of the Dead. Actually, it’s not fair to single that movie out. Practically everything Uwe Boll touches is pure brown gold. Honestly, I don’t get why he’s allowed to direct anything other than traffic. Unfortunately, he isn’t the only “visionary” to screw up a video game movie. Paul W.S. Anderson also had his way with a great gaming franchise: Resident Evil. And to think, George Romero was the original director. To be fair, Anderson’s movies aren’t all bad. Mortal Kombat was entertaining (we’ll ignore Annihilation). And I don’t understand why he feels the need to cast his wife in all of his movies. Milla Jovovich is easy on the eyes, but, well, she’s easy on the eyes.
For the most part, these movies based on video games turn out to be mediocre. I think the problem stems from the director trying to make the movie their own. The Resident Evil movies wouldn’t be bad movies if they didn’t carry that title. People have certain expectations of these video game franchises and when the director changes things, like adding a character that has nothing to do with the story (Alice) or making another a tool (Chris Redfield), gamers get offended. Really, all we want is for them to take the game we’re playing and put it up exactly that way, or close enough to it, on the big screen.
When I found out someone was planning on making a movie based on Uncharted I thought “there is no possible way for them to screw it up.” Then the director went and changed the storyline, making the Drake family a family of thieves. That’s when I knew the movie would bomb immediately. And Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake? Really? You could cast a dummy made entirely out of straw and it would have more acting talent than Marky Mark. So, not only was the premise screwed up, the casting of the lead character was done wrong. This would have spelled definite disaster.
There are some examples of movies based on games that are done well enough to give me hope. The web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy by director Kevin Tancharoen is one of them. He may not have followed the entire series by the book, but he gave it the respect it deserved. Actually collaborating with the creator of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, showed that he wasn’t in for a quick cash-in. The series captured the grittiness and violence of the game. And it was entertaining. I’m excited to see what the future brings.
Two other movies that actually did justice to their respective games were Resident Evil: Degeneration and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Both of these movies stayed true to the games, only adding to the lore instead of trying to change it.
Hollywood should really take note from the good examples I mentioned instead of trying to shove what they think we like down our throats. One prerequisite I would have is that the major players working on the movie (producers, director, actors) should at least play the game before filming the movie. If Robert DeNiro can spend time as a cab driver before filming Taxi, why can’t the people working on these movies based on games take a little time out to do their own research? Also, the company who made the game should have at least some control over their IP.
Like I said before, gamers don’t want some Hollywood hot shot’s interpretation of Resident Evil or other games. We want a mansion. We want zombies and hunters. We want Jill and Chris. And Barry. Where’s Barry?
Just In Bailey –an homage to the secret code from Metriod, which allowed you to play as Samus Aran without her suit– is an editorial column at Vagary.TV brought to you by Joey Alesia. Each week Joey will challenge you to look at a different perspective of the characters, gameplay, and/or plot in your favorite games. Chat up your thoughts below, or send Joey an e-mail at Joey.Alesia@vagary.tv and remember to follow him on Twitter @wrkngclsswrtr.