Games Based on Movies
The 21st century has witnessed a multitude of technological innovations in movie-making, from realistic CGI animation to amazing transformations through makeup artistry. Not all innovations, however, have been successful. It is becoming commonplace for video games to be made into movies. At this point, the list is starting to get long, but I wish you luck finding any games made into movies that have received positive reviews from critics or fans.
There have been two approaches to adapting video games to the big screen. One is to stay true to the story of the game, only adding plot where plot is needed. The other approach is to take the characters and setting of the game and create an entirely new story from it. Unfortunately, neither has had much success.
There are others, most of them with even worse ratings. Still, many of us who loved the video games continued to go to the movies, rent the DVDs, and hope that somehow, some way, the movies would not suck, but time and gain, we have been met with disappointing writing, mediocre acting, and bitter taste in our mouths.
Games Based on Movies
|Game||IMDB Rating (out of 10)|
|Super Mario Bros.||3.8|
|Mortal Kombat||5.4 (3.1 for sequel)|
|Lara Croft: Tomb Raider||5.3 (5.2 for sequel)|
|Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within||6.4|
|Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li||3.9|
The Awful Truth
There is really only one question that needs to be addressed. Why have movies based on video games generally not done well on the big screen? The answer lies in the way video games are made versus the way movies are produced.
A game like Doom, for example, is not about the story. It is about shooting, gaining powers, and ultimately gloating about your domination. While there may be a back story, most users are not concerned with that. On the other hand, games like Max Payne or Final Fantasy have very in-depth stories, sometimes even well written.
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The problem with the first occurs when screen writers attempt to create plot, conflict, and character development around a flimsy story. Trying to make Double Dragon into a good story takes more than just filling in the blanks. Since there really is no story, the writers must create one rather than letting the movie write itself based on the game.
The problem with the second is that games like Max Payne already had fantastic stories, and like good books, they would probably make good movies, if the writers basically left the stories alone, only adding details when necessary. Instead, the writers cannot resist making it different, changing the order of events, adding or deleting characters, or even coming up with a completely new story. The result is usually disaster.
Probably the best way to assess whether a video game would make a good movie is to watch someone play it. If you find yourself daydreaming because all you are seeing are explosions and body parts flying all over the screen, there is probably not much of a story to tell. If you are engaged in the storyline, even while just watching the other player progress through it, then it might make a good movie. But those games require the delicate touch of experienced writers.
If the screenplay is good, then the recipe for success is just like any other movie: a good director, good actors, and a reasonable budget. While Tomb Raider and Resident Evil have enjoyed more commercial success than the others, they still did not reach the level of excellence one would hope. On the other hand, movies like Dead or Alive, Alone in the Dark, and Hitman were doomed from the beginning. Just because a video game is successful does not mean that it will actually make a good movie.
Hope for the Future
In the coming months, we will see another Resident Evil, another Silent Hill, and another Mortal Kombat. While all three will probably be fair, do not expect much to change from the formulas that made the others fairly decent B movies. They will probably not reach a 7/10 rating, but they will enjoy marginal success.
There is, however, one movie due to be released this month that has many gamers hopeful for a brighter future. That movie is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It is a Disney production, and even if the gamers who actually played the game hate it, children all over the world will probably watch it and love it.
The first part of the formula was already in place. Prince of Persia, in its many incarnations, had a great video game storyline. How that translates into the big screen will depend on the writers, directors, and actors involved. The cast includes bigger names than many of the other movies on the list, but that is no guarantee that the movie will not be as painful.
Despite my misgivings about Disney in general and the track record of movies like it, I am hoping that Prince of Persia is enjoyable, somewhat deep, and does not fall into pitfalls of stereotyping people of Middle-Eastern descent. If they can pull it off, perhaps it can serve as a template for future games that are made into movies. Rather than being instant cash cows with paper-thin plots, they will be enjoyable experiences that will leave us wanting more, rather than wishing they would just end as soon as possible. Perhaps there is still hope, fellow gamers.