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Why video game movies will never, ever work

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After years of terrible video game-to-movie adaptations, it seems video games just don’t transfer over to the big screen.

Video games are the new black, and they have been for a while. It’s cool to be a nerdy shut-in, living out the increasingly violent lives of virtual characters. It’s the best-selling form of media today, and with the seemingly endless commercial success of Call of Duty and co, the stream of money isn’t likely to end any time soon. But gaming still has a stigma attached. A pointless hobby, some would say, a waste of money and a waste of time (for those people, you think we don’t know that? Stop pretending you’re not in love, and get yourself a console). So to please the fanboys and girls, and draw in the haters, there are the film adaptations.

Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy; future generations will assume the reanimated corpse of Ed Wood was the director

Forever on the horizon is the promise of a new video game movie, adapted from one successful game or another. The floodgates open, and out comes the waterfall of rumours about everything from the main star, all the way down to which game in the franchise they will choose to adapt. “Will it be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Modern Warfare 2?” OK, that would be the same film. Not a good example. But it happens, and hordes of fans get their freak on for something that’s either never going to happen, or, as we’ve come to expect, is terrible. You pay for the DVD, you sit back, and you die a little inside.

Of course then, these films scare the non-gamers away. They scuttle back to books and music and things social people enjoy. But wait, (fill in blank) is coming out soon, and the game is brilliant! Come back, watch it with us! It’s not happening. Ever. To the nerds and the obsessives like me, take a moment to absorb that. The evidence is there to see. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy. Future generations will only assume they used the same director: the reanimated corpse of Ed Wood, drooling about and pointing at what he thinks might be Kylie Minogue or Christopher Lambert.

mortal kombat movie

Move on into the 00s and you have a whole new selection of video game movies. Movies like Tomb Raider, Hitman and Far Cry. Two hours of action-packed, high octane shit, repackaged with modern faces and more violence. Angelina Jolie can’t even save the genre. The only one that’s worth mentioning is Silent Hill, a film that did what Resident Evil tried in vain to do, and turned out to actually be a horror film people should watch. But sequels sprout up and ruin the franchise in one blow, as Silent Hill: Revelation spectacularly did. I don’t know who gave Sean Bean that American accent, but can they please take it back off him?

Now there’s a new generation of video game movies, headed by a Spielberg-directed Halo series and a Fassbendered Assassin’s Creed. Well, I say new generation, when really the likelihood is that the same mistakes will be made, and no matter how much money is thrown at it, the film, TV series, cartoon, they’ll all fall short of critical success.

And on the off chance that Michael Fassbender can work with one shoddy director or another and make something of the Assassin’s Creed movie – so what? A one-off, a spike in the genre that will most likely drop back into obscurity, where the fans can discuss their excited rumours in backwater forums. The genre needs what Christopher Nolan gave the superheroes: something that stays true to its source while bringing something new. Not that I know what that ‘something’ might be. Probably nobody does – video games just don’t transfer well over to the big screen.

The video game movie needs what Christopher Nolan gave the superhero genre: something both new and true to the source

So directors, producers, writers and actors: leave the games alone. They were made to be played on consoles, not for us to watch the action second hand, while various stars complete a campaign on-screen. Games like Bioshock, The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V are proof that video games are just as viable a media platform as TV or cinema. True, they take up a lot more hours of your life, and getting to the end credits can be a spree of angry rants rather than a relaxing night in, but movies and video games are separate entities. Watching a video game film is like watching a film’s video game: it’s like a marriage that should have ended years ago, but nobody wants to be the first to move back in with their parents and take the ring off. And there’s always another disappointing kid on the way.

 

Featured image: TriStar Pictures

Inset image: New Line Cinema

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