I know, I know, all video game movies suck, but hear me out.
I’ll agree that nearly all film adaptations of video games have been campy, cheesy, poorly written excuses for cinema. That generally accepted perception is why the major studios have steered clear of that deep well of fresh material; each time someone gives it a go we end up with Street Fighter or Tekken. Few have had any commercial success: Mortal Combat, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, but most of that is coming from overseas and let’s not act like they’re worthy of any critical acclaim.
The problem, as one screenwriter has shared with me is that:
“Video games are engaging. We get so involved with our main character that when we ask an audience to sit back and disassociate with what’s going on the big screen, it just doesn’t work.”
That very reason, association, is where I think video game adaptations have gone wrong, and where these few titles can get it right in the future.
5. Heavy Rain
Quantic Dream’s psychological thriller is practically a movie turned into a video game. Heavy Rain‘s story is a dramatic thriller modelled after film noir, featuring four protagonists involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims. This works because we have a clearly defined antagonist (lacking in most video game adaptations) with a driving force that would move our main character forward through the story.
4. Grand Theft Auto
Some may disagree with me here, but I think we’ve already seen that Grand Theft Auto could work, we saw it with Drive. A man of little words who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and drives like Mario Andretti through city streets; that’s your basic premise for almost every Grand Theft Auto storyline. Just avoid going overboard on the corny one liners and resist the urge to add in a scene of a car shaking back and forth on the beach and you’re alright.
3. The Last of Us
This post apocalyptic story of survival was created after the team at Naughty Dog saw BBC’s Planet Earth. A particular segment about a cordyceps fungus which enters an insects brain, slowly driving them mad until growths cover their body, spawned the concept for the devastation of earth. The genre has typically done well critically, and Naughty Dog admits to using The Road, I Am Legend, The Walking Dead, and 28 Days Later as sources for inspiration. Stay with that formula for the screen adaptation and you’re in good hands.
2. Dead Space (live action)
A fantastic addition to the survival-horror genre, what some complained about with Dead Space actually works on film. The incessant jump-outs and eerie music, tied in with eccentric religious backstory, all wrapped up in space. Perfect right? The animated films were done well, and I know there has been talks about green-lighting a live action project, but that’s been going off and on due to script problems, which baffles me to be honest. I feel this one is really going to happen eventually, I’m just terrified someone is going to screw it up.
It’s a giant box office trilogy waiting to happen. It’s part Indiana Jones, part Pirates of the Carribean, and two parts amazing. Like Dead Space, Uncharted has gone through the Hollywood vines of getting green-lit, but something keeps derailing the project. David O. Russell was first set to direct with mark Wahlberg set to star as Nathan Drake, but that got booted when Russell said he wanted to focus on a family dynamic. So now it’s in the hands of Neil Burger (Illusionist, Limitless) who is rewriting the script from scratch, which is a lengthy and often problematic situation. I’m hoping the project gets lift off, but if it doesn’t happen this go-around, I’d suggest Sony sits on it for a little while so they don’t risk rushing out something like, say, Prince of Persia.
GAMES HOLLYWOOD SHOULD NEVER TOUCH
- Metal Gear Solid – no one will ever be good enough as Snake.
- Halo – name the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Halo – Master Chief. Name the second thing that comes to mind – Master Chief. Just don’t do it.
- Portal – conceptually interesting, plus Wheatley and Cave Johnson have some of the best dialogue in any game you’ll ever play, but it’s a puzzle game, that goes back to our association dilemma.
- Zelda series – too nostalgic at this point and no amount of CGI will make a live action version feel real enough.
- Call of Duty – I’m sure some exec is sitting somewhere saying, “Why aren’t we going after one of the biggest franchises in video games?”
Feel free to name any others you think belong on either list.