So why are video game film adaptions uniformly crap?

Good films based on video games are pretty much the exception. The obvious and general answers are usually;

  • That they’re being adapted implies popularity exists already, so they don’t need to make a good film.
  • With even the most well-plotted games, the plot sections are usually broken up with the action, which can’t be replicated entirely and can easily be one of the best parts of the game.
  • A lot of video games are pretty shit in terms of actual plot.
  • Uwe Boll.

These are pretty good explanations (IMHO, anyway). But I would still expect more good films than there are. Is there something inherent about video games that makes them more difficult to adapt than books or plays or so on? The main difference I can think of is the interactivity, but i’m not sure that fully accounts for it. Game-based films aren’t often just bad as in not-like-the-game, they’re often bad in that they’re just… well, bad films.

I think you nailed the reasons. One thing I’ve noticed is that book adapations of videos games are much more likely to be good than movie versions. And that whomever chooses the authors seems able or willing to get authors who are actually fairly good at their jobs instead of a literary version of Uwe Boll.

There’s something about filmaking culture that seems to lack an interest in good or faithful adapations from other media. Not always, but for every LOTR there’s a dozen I,Robots or Starship Troopers.

There’s one more issue. A good movie has strong and interesting main characters who generally change through the course of the film.

However, in a video game, the main character is you. And you don’t particularly grow or change (other than learning the game, which is trivial, or deciding you’re finally bored with it).

So, ultimately, the main characters of a film made from a video game are one-dimensional. As such, it just becomes watching an adventure – and since it’s not you going along, bu rather actors on the screen, the action is unengaging.

I think a lot has to do with the most popular video games being the ones that appeal heavily to the teenage demographic. The games end up being made to appeal to teens, who generally have pretty poor taste. This may change now that the market is recognizing that the 35+ crowd plays games a lot and more mature games are being made, but a lot of the games that are made for older crowds are not the type to easily translate to a movie (i.e. Guitar Hero or Wii Sports).

I think it’s because video games and movies are both visual mediums and when an exceptional story has been told in an exceptional video game, what is to be gained by replacing the computer graphics with real life actors? Going from books to movies is different. The director could show you something that you never really thought of with his visuals. A great game like, for instance, Bioshock just does not need to be retold as a movie. It just doesn’t. But it will be, and probably poorly and star Fredie Prinze Junior as Big Daddy.

I thought Silent Hill was a pretty creepy and cool horror movie, except for the extraneous Sean Bean exposition scenes and the mess of an ending. But it had amazing visuals and a fantastic atmosphere. I’ve never played any of the games, but at least I know what they’re about. Apparently a second movie is in the works that will be a somewhat truer adaptation.

I’m also somewhat excited about Hitman, but because I love over-the-top gunplay action movies, and because Timothy Olyphant is badass. I’ve never played those games either.

If it’s faithful to the games, there wouldn’t be much “over-the-top” gunplay. Completing a level perfectly means that the only person you killed was the objective, that it was done without firing a shot, and nobody noticed your presence or raised the alarm. Of course, a movie with a guy who sneaks into a location, steals a disguise, and engineers an “accident” wouldn’t be very exciting.

In the Hitman games, if you start shooting it means you screwed up and you’ll probably want to do the level over.

The trailer indicates there is a love interest, and 47 seems way too emotional. 47 in the games is disturbed by physical intimacy and very emotionless.

Just wondering, but have you seen “Equilibrium”? It’s maybe the MOST over-the-top gunplay action movie of all time, and if you haven’t seen it I must strongly urge you to try it out.

Hitman was awful, though. There’s some spoilers that follow, so skip the next paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet.

The scene in the drug lord brother’s place was just bad. There was absolutely NO “awesome” gunplay involved at all, just angle after angle of him holding two guns and waving them back and forth. He hides behind a pillar for a second, then turns around and waves the guns back and forth a bit more. God damn, how disappointing.

I’d give that honor to Hard Boiled, but I have seen Equilibrium and liked it a lot. A bit slow-paced and especially slow to get started, but the action sequences were well worth the price of admission.

I asked myself this very question when watching Wing Commander. I mean, the later games already had real live actors (Mark Hamill! John Rhys-Davies!) playing very dynamic characters in great plot-lines that didn’t depend on action. Obviously the actors were willing to work cheap in those roles or the game company wouldn’t have hired them. So why the heck did they need to re-cast every part and write a terrible script? Just hire on the video game writers and actors!! My mind boggles at the lost potential.

small voice I liked the first Mortal Kombat movie…

It seems to me that these are ideas created by “the suits.”

Because Hollywood is a cancer which poisons everything it touches. They don’t stop to examine why a game is popular. They simply create a sallow, superficial mold to make a quick buck, only taking the surface fluff and transplanting it onto a totally different universe.

I’ve read some decently good books in the StarCraft and Diablo universe. One problem with attempting to convert them to movies is they assume the reader is a total dork who has bathed themselves in the game universe, which is a correct model. Why else would you read a book about Kerrigan? But for a movie it has to be a stand alone product.

You forget that the video game to movie transition is relatively new. While book to movie transitions are decades old.

It’s very very rare for a good book to be turned into a good movie it usually takes someone that knows and loves the original work (or in rare cases contempt for the original work) to write a good screenplay then team up with a good director with vision and get the whole thing approved by a bunch of suits who probably never heard of the original work to begin with to back the project. If this is so hard with popular books by well known authors imagine how much harder it is for video games where it’s far more likely to break down as one or more people involved probably never even played a video game.

Simple fact is we’ll have to wait at least a generation before you can go into a video game to movie and say anything more than “Well that didn’t suck as much as I thought it would”

In my opinion it’s largely because they’re picking the wrong games. They’re taking mostly FPS games-- shooters with a thin film of plot floating on top-- and turning them into the only things that can be logically made from them: action films with stories about as deep and engrossing as a half-assed fart.

Wake me up when they start building movies around Planescape: Torment, Fallout, Baldur’s Gate… then they’ll have so much plot they won’t have to “fill in the blanks”. Hell, even BioWare stuff’s got twice as much story as Resident Evil could ever hope to.

I don’t think it’s possible to take an interactive medium and change it to a non-interactive one successfully. The plot, such as it is, is deliberately written to accommodate for the interactivity; You take that out, and it doesn’t work; You adapt it, and it doesn’t feel like the game anymore. There’s very few instances where you could get success out of situations like that.

I’d love a GOOD Fallout movie. Despite Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, I think that there are several Final Fantasies that would make good movie material. 6j and 8, for instance, have a lot of backstory and character growth.

I really liked silent hill. It felt like the game.
As for hitman it loots pretty good. I’m glad they didn’t end up going with Vin Deisel.

I didn’t mind that. I also thought the series was ok.

Hitman’s a good example, in that it’s actually a reasonable film. It’s just a reasonable film that’s pretty considerably removed from the source, like SEP says. Mr. 47 with a love interest? Ha.

Yeah, after looking at the trailer, my interest in Hitman: The Movie is pretty much nil.