Video game movies are terrible. This is known; it’s not something I’m going to waste your time debating.
If you’re one of those individuals who happens to think video game movies are “pretty good” or “not bad”, there’s plenty of psychiatrists who can help you with that.
Today I’m going to focus my negative energy on the why, why these movies make me weep blood every single time they’re released (why I still go to see them is a different brand of psychosis I won’t go into today).
So then, crack your knuckles, loosen your collar, hit read more and get a little mad with me.
Not every great game is a great movie
This is a mistake the studios seem to make over and over again. There’s this idea that one can simply take any popular game and adapt it into a film, which is a bit like the old adage that anything goes with ice cream. Samplers of the fish paste sundae can tell you that that simply isn’t true.
Here’s how it goes – some hack writes a script for a popular game, some Hollywood exec picks it up, a few million dollars are thrown around and next thing you know you’re a grown-ass man weeping uncontrollably in the theatre, watching parents nervously escort their children outside.
A good rule of thumb for adapting a game into a film is that the game should have a plot of some description – you know, something to actually adapt.
This, I’m quite sure, is why the Super Mario Bros. movie was awful (or at least, one of many reasons). Two plumbers collecting physics-defying coins, throwing fireballs and attempting to save a princess from a sentient reptile works fine in a game, because none of it really matters.
The only thing Super Mario needed to be a success was its gameplay; the fact that the rest of it looked like a bad acid trip was irrelevant.
Movies don’t have gameplay. A game can have crappy characters, a nonsensical setting and a non-existent story but a film can’t. Trying to make a movie out of Super Mario Bros or Doom is pointless, unless you actually have some talented people hammer out a proper script.
Which is a problem because…
Studios are banking on the title, and not much else
Video game movies aren’t good largely because they aren’t really designed to be good. They come pre-packaged with a standard audience, and that’s exactly who the target market is.
The suits know that we’re all dumb enough to go watch these movies regardless of how bad they are, so why waste money trying to craft a masterpiece?
Once the rights are acquired, the movie is generally rushed out and made on the cheap, with enough references in the trailer to get the nerd-army frothing at the mouth – myself included.
Of course, it’s pretty hard to make a good video game movie now, because…
There’s a certain stink about them
We know video game movies suck, but there’s the thing – everybody else does too.
There’s a noxious cloud surrounding video game movies, and it seems nobody really wants to come near them.
We hear rumour after rumour of big budget adaptations with talented directors and actors that are in the works, but invariably we’re met with further news that directors have been replaced, leads have dropped out and the cycle repeats itself until the film set becomes the deck of the Titanic – the only people left are the band.
This used to be the case with comic book movies as well, back when comic book movies were terrible. No self-respecting actor could wear shoulder pads and his underpants on the outside, reciting corny lines in front of a green screen. It’s embarrassing.
Now Heath Ledger dons a purple suit and clown make-up and wins an Oscar. Comic book movies are cool now, and a big part of that is that they’re actually really, really good. We haven’t seen a Daredevil or a Batman and Robin in quite some time – people have wisely stopped allowing Joel Schumacher to make movies.
Unfortunately, the video game renaissance has not happened yet, and likely won’t while Uwe Boll is still squatting out 35mm turds on an annual basis.
I think what we’re going to need is Chris Nolan to direct a Half-Life trilogy; hopefully he’ll start replying to my e-mails soon.
Nobody actually played the game
Now I know this sounds preposterous, but I honestly believe 80% of the people on a video game movie set’s preparation involved looking at the box cover, and reading the back if they had time.
The Super Mario Bros cartridge didn’t feature Goombas in the artwork, which is probably why the enemies with tiny bodies and large heads ended up with enormous bodies and tiny heads.
Max Payne was a narrative-driven shooter that hinged far more on the story than the action, but Hollywood sold it as a Mark Wahlberg shoot-face special that had just enough story in it to justify the gratuitous use of automatic weapons.
Street Fighter was one of the worst offenders, with Jean Claude Van Damme inexplicably taking the part of All-American character Guile, complete with a thick, Belgian, not-at-all-American accent.
These movies are made specifically to attract fans of the game, and then the people making them proceed to shit all over source material.
It’d be like if the Harry Potter movies were about warring gangs in the Bronx, or a Moby Dick adaptation took place on the Starship f**king Enterprise.
The worst part is that none of this is going to stop me from buying a ticket for the next 90 minutes of urine-soaked shame that ends up at Ster-Kinekor.
Maybe I’ll go on a Tuesday so I can get my misery at half-price.