Opinion: How To Ensure Great Movies Based On Games

With Hollywood continuing to show zero respect for its video game source material, Jacques Voller argues there’s an easy way to ensure better movies based on games.

Over the years, Hollywood and the games industry haven’t exactly been on the best of terms. The games industry rarely seems able to translate movies into a video game format, and Hollywood doesn’t respect the source material that it uses for its adaptations.

Case in point: recently, famed director David O. Russell was hired to adapt best-selling game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the big screen. There was just one problem: the plot that Russell had devised for the movie was so far away from what was in the game, it seemed like it was going to be an Uncharted movie in name only. Russell had the idea of Nathan Drake as some sort of international art and intiquities policeman who “deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice”. The story also called for Nate’s father and uncle to be involved. With no mention of Elena or Sully or anything closely resembling the plot of the first game, many wondered whether or not Russell had actually heard of the series, let alone played the game that this was supposed to be based on.

Fans of the series were also left with a sour taste in the mouth when they heard who was going to be playing Nathan. Mark Wahlberg, whose previous appearance in a video game adaptation had been in the feeble adaptation of the Max Payne series. This left fanboys with no other option than to flock to the message boards and demand that Nathan Fillion be cast in the role.

Now, David O. Russell has rightly stepped down from the director’s chair. And little known director Neil Burger has taken his place.

David O Russell has stepped down following uproar from Uncharted fans

This, however, isn’t the first time that Hollywood has treated video game adaptations with little or no respect, the most famous example probably being the dreadful Super Mario Bros. film. But surely the question here is why? Why can’t Hollywood make a decent game adaptation for once?

Well for one, games and film are two entirely different mediums. One game can last as long as an entire trilogy of films, and often many times more. So, what is Hollywood meant to do? Break down a game’s story into different parts so we have, for example, Uncharted Part 1, Uncharted part 2 and so on? What about games that have over 100 hours worth of gameplay packed into one game, like the Fallout or Elder Scrolls series?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that it is impossible to make a good adaptation of a video game by including all the different events and elements. If a studio did, then a a decent adaptation would take far longer to produce than an average film. No, what writers and directors have to do is pick out what they think are the best and most cinematic parts of a video game and translate that onto the silver screen, and in games that have a seemingly endless amount of content and different tangents in which the plot can go, this would seem like a difficult choice. Plus, people’s views on the best parts of a game are completely subjective; somebody’s idea of their favourite part of a game is completely different to the next person’s. There is simply no way to please everybody.

Now, that’s not to say that video games haven’t had a certain impact on Hollywood. Films such as Avatar probably never would have been made if it weren’t for the technological and presentational influences of video games.

And there have been some exceptions to the rule that you don’t get good movies based on games. There have been some which have simply taken certain elements of a video game, such as settings, characters, or villains, and focused these into films.

Focused, developer-led movies like Assassin's Creed Lineage have proven successful

The films I’m talking about are the Mortal Kombat Legacy short series that debuted earlier this year,  the two Dead Space films and the Assassin’s Creed Lineage film. Now, what makes these films different to the crap that is generally put out by Hollywood, is that these were commisioned or produced by the developers themselves, allowing more control over the creative process. By doing this, it allows the films to have more quality-control and therefore we end up with a superior product.

Maybe this is the way forward: perhaps the studios and developers should be the ones putting out big screen adaptations of their games. If they did, we’d probably end up with a better film as result. I mean, the Uncharted series already look like films themselves, why can’t Naughty Dog just make a film with the technology they already have? Would it be so difficult?

Maybe someday, all movie adaptations of games will come from the developers themselves. We can only pray…



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