There was a saying in the 90′s. Dont make a game based on a movie. Ok, not really a saying, more just a statement of fact. The 16 bit consoles of the time really struggled to recreate film moments and turn them into decent games, apart from one or two notable exceptions such as Batman Returns, Alien 3 and Goldeneye. The tech at the time just wasn’t able to turn cinematic experiences into fun, playable games. Thankfully, things have changed. Flip that around though and you’ll find that studios are still struggling to make decent game movies…
Movies based on games looked like it might turn into a huge cash cow for Hollywood. There were so many franchises, worlds and characters that could be plundered and all of which would bring a dedicated and growing fan base with them. The first ‘big budget’, live action game movie was of course, Mario Bros. And from there, the decline immediatley started. Films such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat followed dismally, Tomb Raider showed a glimmer of hope and stumbled epically in its sequel, and then Uwe Boll arrived with films so bad, I wont be mentioning their names here, as they make me want to just be Alone in the Dark, going Postal in a House of the Dead (darn). So why has what was once a potential marriage made in heaven turned into such a gamble for movie studios.
A lot seems to be down to the poor choices of games used to turn into movies. At the time choices seem to have been made based purely on the highest selling games of the time, which to a certain degree, you can understand. Games such as Mario, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were all massive franchises and brought, that previously mentioned fan base. The fact that the games and their characters did not lend themselves to be in anything other than games, seemed not to matter. The most common feature with these early films though, was the studios, directors and actors had little grasp of the games they were recreating. Its questionable as to whether director Rocky Morton had ever actually seen a Mario game, so far removed was the final film from anything even remotely Mario Bros related. Mortal Kombat at least provided a few decent fight scenes and distanced itself from anything as absurd as a plot.
Jumping forward 20 years and game movies still have yet to really take off. Prince of Persia was a likeable film, as was Dead or Alive in a cheesy straight to video, sorry DVD, way. Somehow Resident Evil has spawned 4 movies with decreasing quality. Although flunking at the box office, the best and possibly most faithful film is Silent Hill. The amount of games to film ideas being pitched is very high, but very few actually see anything past draft scripts floating around studios, who now, see comic book adap’s as less of a risk. Possibly the most hyped pitch surrounded the Peter Jackson backed, Neill Blomkampt directed Halo movie. 5 months of preparation work went into the Halo film before it was canned, which is a shame as on paper it could have been huge.
Theres no doubt seeing a epic battle scenes between humanities saviour and the Covenant would have made for a huge spectacle but would Master Chief as an on screen character really cut it in a three hour movie? Again, the idea of the film on paper sounds great, but in practical terms, which studio would invest so much cash into a movie, in which the main character and star never takes his helmet off and rarely utters a sentence…If game to movie adaps are to work, then it really boils down to choosing the right characters, and not the right games.
The current gen consoles are now so powerful, there are times when certain games such as Modern Warfare and Gears of War, surpass movies in scale and epicness. There is more of an emphasis on game characters, their movements, voice acting and back stories. And its now when game movies should be getting back on track. Heres a few of my choices for studios to consider….
Uncharted – The Uncharted game trilogy is heavily inspired by cinema. All three (and the Vita game), have excellent stories, stunning locales and jaw dropping set pieces. But most importantly, its characters have depth, and are likable. An Uncharted movie should be a no brainer and the idea has been pitched with shockingly, Mark Wahlberg attached. Put into the hands of a Joe Johnston or even Steven Speilberg, it could out do adventure king Indiana Jones, or at least be better than Sahara. But Nathan Fillion has to be Drake…otherwise they may as well let Boll direct it.
God of War - Another game that relies on spectacle and scale to wow gamers, the potential for a big screen outing for angry god Kratos is huge. The depth of Kratos could be questionable, is he a tortured soul looking for redemption or just someone who just hacks, slashes and has sex a lot. The Greek mythology is there to be plundered and needs to be used far more wisely than it was in the two ‘Of the Titans movies.
Metal Gear Solid – There is a chance that we have all already seen more cinematic Metal Gear than we have played, but the sheer wealth of characters and story that could be taken from Kojimas opus, would surely be worth another 3 hour film. War, mechs, ninjas, robots, ninja robots and gadgets are all parts which could be taken and used. The only foreseeable problem could be adapting it for the mass western market, as the series insane plot twists and turns would probably confuse and alienate non fans of the game.
Mass Effect – Another series which seems to be heading to the big screen, but has been caught in limbo a bit. Again, the series main ace is its characters. Shepherd, Garrus, Miranda and Joker are already there waiting to be used and fleshed out, and the scale and size of a Mass Effect movie lends itself to a massive sci fi franchise, of which there is a gap in the market. And who wouldn’t want to see the the Normandy mentioned in the same breath as the Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon or the Rodger Young…
These are merely the top of the pile though, theres plenty more out there that could be done that are also suitable to be made into films. With the increased spectacle that games bring now, it is questionable if gamers actually want them to happen, but it would be nice to see the look on non gamers faces as they witness for the first time the destruction of the Reapers, the friendship of Drake and Sulley, or even the beauty of a fully realised and pre-researched Donut Plains…