Just In Bailey: Let’s All Go to the Movies

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.


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Author: Joey Alesia View all posts by
Joey's adventure into the realm of video games began at 3 when Nintendo first hit the West. He grew up a Nintendo fan and ended up branching out to Playstation when FF7 hit and XBox when Oblivion hit the 360. He's not huge on first person shooters or sports games but definitely enjoys a good RPG or survival horror game. His all-time favorite series is definitely The Legend of Zelda, followed extremely closely by Metal Gear. Joey has a firm belief that games should be treated with respect when they are made and that the classics should never be overlooked.
  • Chris Scott

    “You could cast a dummy made entirely out of straw and it would have more acting talent than Marky Mark.”

    You don’t watch many movies do you? While it is certainly fair to question how well Wahlberg would have done as Nathan Drake, it is a pretty egregious offense to suggest that a dummy made of straw has more acting talent than someone that was nominated for an Academy Award in an acting role. In the proper role and under the proper direction, Wahlberg is actually quite a solid actor and his filmography has some outstanding movies with outstanding performances by him scattered throughout it.

    And really? Resident Evil: Degeneration and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children are good examples of video game films? Seriously? You aren’t being facetious there? Advent Children is basically a 100 minute cut scene, and as much as I love Square’s animation, the plot and acting in the film is atrocious. The same could be said about Degeneration, with slightly lower quality animation.

    Aside from that I disagree with pretty much every point you’ve made here, although I do agree that people making game movies should at least have an idea of what makes the games worthy of turning into a film.

    I think the problem with video game movies is that the filmmakers are trying to please everyone. Instead of just setting out to make a good movie they are trying to please fans of the game and appeal to a mass market audience. Are there good stories to tell in the film medium that originated as video games? Sure there are. But a lot of what makes games great as a storytelling medium is the interactivity and films don’t have that. It is going to take better writers, better actors and better directors to coax those stories into actually good films. It is not just a matter of giving video game fans what they want, because what we want isn’t a good movie, its a good game. A movie needs to appeal to more than just those fans and it needs to do so via well thought out adaptation.

  • Schchrh

    Joe, I have to disagree with the Mark W. comment. He has been doing well in his recent roles. That said, I am best suited for that role. I appreciate that you pointed out RE Degeneration. I would agree that this was an attempt to appease the gamers however, it lacked the reality that actors and great CGI can bring to a movie experience, i.e. Avatar, Immortals, 300, and so on. (Not that I am judging the movies for being great or not, but the quality of the CGI incorporated with real actors was amazing and necessary to please gamers)

    I recently came across an article that made me look into the RE movies. The article was about the delay/cancellation of the Bioshock Movie. The article was about the disagreement between the creators of the game and the movie producers. Hollywood, as they are most of the time, were looking for the biggest financial return and not to make great art. They wanted a PG13 rating or the movie was off. The reason for this is the fact that a whole additional demographic of people could then go buy tickets and experience the movie. Notice I didn’t write “enjoy the movie”.

    I believe the producers of the game said something along the lines of (Bioshock deserves the freedom that comes along with an R rating and PG13 is not acceptable). This is when I looked into the RE movies. I thought “surely these movies must be PG13, how could these pieces of crap get made, and cleared, by Hollywood without the additional revenue from those under 16. (is it 16? it has been so long since I have had to worry about that). Guess what, rated R! So how is it that Bioshock doesn’t get the go ahead? I feel like that would have a huge turnout.

    OK, back from my tangent. Great article! I agree that something has to be done with games to movies and even movies to games. I am encouraged that the creators of Bioshock are looking to make great art and not necessarily great profits. (though, if it is done corretly, they will make both).

    Your buddy


  • Joey Alesia

    There’s a lot of love out there Marky Mark it seems. My problem with him is most films he’s in that are lauded as great movies have other actors carrying him. I never saw The Fighter, but I do recall Christian Bale winning an award. And The Departed, well I don’t won’t to get into how many other stars are in that movie. And I don’t want to go into my opinion of the Academy and who they nominate. That’s not the point of the article. My reason behind citing FF VII: AC and RE: Degeneration as great examples of movies based on games was because that is exactly what they were. I don’t think they’re award worthy at all. I think they did what any movie based on a video game should do. They respected the core material and didn’t try to change what it was. If you recall from my previous article, I don’t think FFVII’s story is that good to begin with. And Resident Evil is campy horror. Why Hollywood would feel the need to change that is what I disagree with. That is when things become a disaster (i.e. Super Mario Bros.). And I do have to ask, how many sites and petitions out there wanted to rid the world of Mark Wahlberg playing Nathan Drake? It’s cool that there’s disagreement. That’s the beauty of opinions. But I think my point was kind of missed.

  • Hey now. I for one enjoyed the SMB movie! Well, I was 8 years old or something at the time, so it was Mario and that’s all that mattered. =p

    As for Mark Wahlberg…I like his movies, I do. But as Nathan Drake? No thanks! I prefer Nathan Fillion for that role personally.

    Overall, though, I agree that Hollywood needs to allow game movies to stand on their own instead of trying so hard to butcher what makes the game so great.