And why they will never get made
We all get a shiver down our spine when someone utters the doomed phrase ‘video-game movie’. When the worlds of filmmaking and gaming collide, the result has often been some of the worst pieces of cinema ever made. Let’s consider the gems that have somehow propelled themselves to the silver screen; Paul W.S Anderson’s Resident Evil, Doom by Andrzej Bartkowiak, and, dare I speak the name, Uwe Bolls’ Alone in the Dark. Now, these three directors don’t have the most impressive track records, but what if we introduced a successful, accomplished director to some of the truly great source material available in the gaming verse?
There are many exciting possibilities. Imagine a Halo flick helmed by Alfonso Cuaron; his guerrilla filmmaking from Children of Men coupled with his astounding space scopes from Gravity would meld seamlessly to bring us a beautiful and brutal film. Or Ridley Scott’s Assassins Creed, a master of multiple landscapes and centuries, his films visually and culturally potent with a nice splash of gripping violence would successfully bring Altair to the spot light. How about Martin Scorsese’s Grand Theft Auto V, sharp, snappy dialogue with his penchant for satire of the American dream. David Fincher’s Heavy Rain; the dreary atmosphere sucking you into a disturbing vice, twisting your perception of the contemporary world. Some of these projects could be extremely progressive and it begs the question why the hell none of them have been put into production yet.
Elysium is known as the Halo film that “could have been”
If we look into films of a similar genre, style and demographic, it’s even more maddening that these ideas aren’t being made. Regarding Halo, consider Elysium. Halo in most imaginations would be extremely similar, especially if you were to consider the short film which was made by Neill Blomkamp, who has been attached to two failed Halo projects. Elysium made a decent profit, and that’s with a relatively new director and limited star power, so Halo, with its already humungous fan base, is a no brainer. Grand Theft Auto could evoke The Departed and Heavy Rain is along the lines of The Bone Collector. These films have made at least $20 million in profit, which, although unlikely to tempt the big Hollywood studios, proves that games-to-films at least have some potential.
So why do we keep getting poor imitations of fantastic games? Is it the source material, that most games put emphasis on gameplay over story and character? Or the fact that games and films are two very different story-telling platforms and adapting them is just too difficult? Well, it is usually all of the above. Resident Evil’s eerie atmosphere was lost in the films, Doom faced a complete mutation in its move from game to screen and Alone in the Dark, well, I don’t it ever had a chance. Just retire, Uwe.
Then, is there any hope? Could Hollywood pull it off if they stopped throwing around copyrights and hiring unfit directors, pulled their heads out of their profit-driven asses and made a sure connection? Probably not. Production on the Halo film collapsed because of money problems and studio executive’s egos. Jamie Russell, author ofGeneration Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood, explained that the demands and suggestions from Bungie and Microsoft were ignored, or ‘forgotten,’ as they liked to say. It’s the old tale, the one where omnipotent studios try crafting the reception over the film, where non-gaming executives and producers don’t listen and get heaps of flop sweat over their investments. They’ll be back to getting Spielberg to do another historical biopic in no time.
Perhaps we should look at the other end of the court, where game developers tackle films. Cinema may never be able to capture just what makes a game great, but games themselves have been quite successful in emulating the attraction of the big screen. Alan Wake by Remedy Entertainment is a wonderfully cinematic game, as is the narrative master stroke of The Walking Dead series. Hell, half the time I’m playing these hybrids I’m directing the film versions in my head. As we’ve seen gaming grow in the last 20 or 30 years, the effect that films have on games is huge, so much so that “cinematic” tends to be a promotional quote on the back of the box.
So while all we can do is hope that Hollywood doesn’t completely butcher the games that we all know and love (Please God don’t ruin the Mass Effect films too much), we can at least take some solace that gaming is able to take a hint or two.
Images; Sony Computer Entertainment, TriStar Pictures, Ubisoft, Getty Images