Everyone who has ever played a game has at one stage or an another said,”This would make a great movie”. Hitman, MetalGear solid, and Final Fantasy, the list goes on. Attempts at these have been made but never to any measurable success. When there is an existing fan base a proven story and characters that inspire franchises, I ask you how they mess it up time and time again.
This might sound obvious to anyone who has seen a film or played a game but actors make or break films. This is why films sometimes never get made because the director can’t get the star he wants. This may have to do with the theatrical range of the actor or the feel his specific talent brings to the role. Unfortunately for us directors only seem to make sure that the actor looks similar enough to the character and sufficiently cool so that a fake hype can be built up before the film’s release.
Going by the success rate these translations you would assume that no good actors have ever stared in any game to film swap. You would be wrong as Timothy Olyphant, Angelina Jolie and even Dennis Hopper have all shared a hand in stealing hours of our life we will never get back.
What some directors seem to be unable to understand is that while actors and characters are fundamentally linked to each other the actor is meant to take after the character and not the other way around. While Timothy Olyphant is somewhat of a tough and stern looking man, Agent 47 on the other hand is a cold-blooded killer who has no want nor need of human warmth.
Artistic direction is key to a the audience being impressed in the fantasy world. This is fortunately one of the aspects that these platform jumps do well. Silent Hill was possibly one of the best examples of this. A world that genuinely felt as disturbing as the game but was let down by characters inane dialogue. From Pyramid head to the zombie nurses, the creatures in this film and the environments they inhabited all felt right but unfortunately the almost alien presence of the protagonists seemed to constantly ruin any chance of holding the creepy atmosphere from one scene to the next.
My main problem with most attempts at video game translations is the need to reinvent the game on the silver screen. If you were handed a machine that printed money would you open it up and fiddle around with the complex inner working of something you didn’t even have a hand in making? If you answered yes then you’re either greedy or an idiot.
Take resident evil, a series that has captured the decomposed hearts of horror and zombie fanatics alike. It has some of the best rated games of all time and yet when a film was to be made the writers thought it a brilliant idea to scrap the entire original characters, plot and atmosphere that made this series a benchmark of the survival horror genre.
I understand that directors and writers don’t want to just copy the game. That they want to make their own film and not one that’s constricted by a cannon or genre but they shouldn’t really be attempting the adaptation should they.
While it may seem hopeless there has been note worthy attempts. Mortal Kombat is still one of my favorite films because it sticks close to the essence of the original game. Bloody Fights, Cheesy one liners and let’s face it the best dance song ever written. The film has been portrayed as a failure but I would consider it to be the closest adaptations we have ever had.
I believe it is not an impossible task to make a good film based on a game. If a director stays close and true to a game’s story, characters and chooses his actors based on the role opposed to their facial features then he should have no problem making these films. If we can do it with comic books novels and for Christ sake a film about Facebook then we can do it with games.