Written by Luke Riley
“There have been valiant attempts (Mortal Kombat, Hitman) and there are upcoming releases that should do the trick (Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed) but the inherent problem is translating an interactive medium to a passive one. What makes games fun is playing them not just watching them. A ‘Gears of War’ movie would rock though…”
I was fortunate enough to be able to contact Carlos Ferro – voice of Dom from ‘Gears of War’ and Da Vinci from ‘Assassin’s Creed’ – who raised a very good point. He highlights the obvious thing that Hollywood seems to forget. The objective is for two different mediums to tell the same story or evoke the same feelings to remind you why you’re a fan.
The easy example – for it is one of the very few good examples – is ‘Mortal Kombat’. Released in 1995, this wasn’t made to be a fighting video game with real actors but a fighting movie based on a video game. As an eight year old in 1995, this movie was the dream. Endless fighting, four armed warriors and a final fight above a floor of spikes. Also let us not forget the amazing theme tune, which is the perfect accompaniment to any gym session. If we’re counting animated movies then ‘Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within’ and ‘Final Fantasy: Advent Children’ can also be counted among the well made adaptions from video games.
What these movies have done well was to be a movie, not just a video game thrown onto the silver screen. Not to discredit video games, as I am a huge fan of gaming, but certain things quite simply don’t translate effectively. Video games are notorious for badly scripted dialogue, cliche male characters and female characters who don’t represent women very well. Actually, a lot of movies, particularly action movies, do these things as well, but there’s a reason games have the reputation they do. ‘Lara Croft’ was originally little more than a 90s pin-up, sprawled over countless magazines in various poses. She wasn’t the strong survivor of the recent ‘Tomb Raider’ video game reboots. This is the reason we get movies like ‘Resident Evil’, another series of bad adaptions. A movie franchise in which the female lead is very often scantily-clad and objectified is a clear sign that Hollywood presumed that their target audience was teenage virgins who live in their parents basement who’ve never seen a woman in real life.
This article is discussing why video games have rarely enjoyed successful adaptions into films, and the answer is simple; it’s because the creators have not understood or respected their audience. I have played video games for nearly 30 years now, and while the confused teen-in-denial version of myself may have enjoyed Angelina Jolie as ‘Lara Croft’, the adult me does not. It’s just a poorly made film, and if you count the even more dreadful sequel, then you have a double whammy of awful game to film translations. The reason is almost solely down to misunderstanding the audience. We have played the games, we know them, so what we want is a faithful adaption of that.
‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’, while these were adaptions of books, they were movies adapted from another medium and are evidence of just how successful and accomplished an adaptation can be. Video games deserve that same talent and passion behind their silver screen counterparts.
However, all is not lost, and to quote Gandalf, “Hope is kindled”. This being in the form of the upcoming ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and ‘Warcraft’ films. With stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard at the fore – actors who seem to attach themselves exclusively to movies of merit – ‘Assassin’s Creed’ should be a success. It’s also written by Bill Collage and Adam Cooper, who have previously worked on ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’.
This humble writer enjoyed ‘Exodus’ quite a lot, and these writers seem like a good fit for me. Justin Kurzel is the director of the critically acclaimed ‘Macbeth’, which also stars Fassbender and Cotillard, so with this collaboration there seems to be a level of trust and all things point to a positive movie going experience. There is also news that the film will rely more on practical effects rather than CGI, which will give ‘Assassin’s Creed’ a level of authenticity rarely seen in historically-based movies.
Then there is ‘Warcraft’, a movie that looks as epic as the video game and it seems nothing is being held back in order to recreate this. Duncan Jones is directing, and with credits including ‘Source Code’ and ‘Moon’, we know he understands action and more importantly characters. While the movie is CGI-laden, it looks like it will be character focused and give meaning behind their motives. It also looks like an adaption of a video game, which is the most important thing. As previously said, it’s not just a video game thrown onto the silver screen. Check out the trailer for ‘Warcraft’ here.
The future looks good for video game adaptions, but we’ll have to see how ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and ‘Warcraft’ fare. It feels like all hope hinges on these two adaptions of beloved franchises. Can anyone unlock the secret to successfully adapting a video game onto the big screen? Only time will tell…