It’s no secret. Doom, Hitman, Silent Hill, Max Payne, Street Fighter(both of them), Dead or Alive, the list goes on. There may be exceptions to the “game movies suck” rule, but the majority of gaming movies were in theaters for a painful few weeks, only to then be banished to the bargain bin. So why do amazing games turn into crap movies? Movies based on games have many roadblocks to overcome if they want to go from great game to good movie.
Lots of games have great plots. Bioshock’s story grabbed my full attention from the start and didn’t let go till the very end. Metal Gear Solid 4’s plot, though about as confusing as string theory, made me care about the characters and their world. Unfortunately, other game’s plots are simply a tool for the gameplay. No one playing Doom cared about why the people were killing the monsters, they just wanted to get in there and start blowing things away. When I pick Ryu in Street Fighter, it’s not because of his engaging back story or why he’s fighting, it’s because I like his fireball and dragon punch. Some games don’t need a great plot. I would say that the majority of games today do not have a brilliant story or plot. That’s OK because gameplay is the reigning king of quality for video games.
Now, take a game that relies on its great gameplay over plot, take away the gameplay, and what do you get? If you said a horrible movie then you are correct! Someone decided that since Street Fighter is so popular, they should make a movie out of it, completely forgetting that it’s popular because of its tight controls, deep gameplay, and diverse characters. It’s not popular because people want to know about Chun-Li’s early life. The problem is compounded because the big movie companies seemingly think that the name is enough to sell tickets and don’t bother to write a compelling story about the characters.
What’s worse is when a movie takes the name of a game and decides to throw away everything compelling about the game itself. Since they start with a sparse plot, they think they can do whatever they want with the story. If video game movies want to start being good, the people making them are going to have to find the fine line between staying true to the source material and making a story that’s worth watching. I am not saying it is an easy thing to do, but movie makers will hopefully find a way to do it successfully.
Video game movies also almost never have great, or even good, actors in them either. Many people in the main stream still view games as something only kids are into. That means proven actors are probably not going to be jumping to sign up for a video game movie. This fact is slowly changing though. Gaming is becoming more and more mainstream and more and more people are gamers. Hopefully one day it will even become cool to have a favorite Final Fantasy summon. This could and should make more actors less hesitant about getting onboard for upcoming video game movies.
Comic book movies have recently gone from complete crap to amazing money makers. Spider-Man proved that a comic book movie could please both hardcore fans and normal movie goers. Iron Man had the tremendous Robert Downey Jr. and was one of the best movies to come out that year. The Dark Knight broke records and had flocks of non-comic fans running to the theater to see Batman and Joker battle over Gotham. Video game movies will hopefully follow in comic book movie’s footsteps. Who knows, maybe the God of War movie or Resident Evil 17 will win Oscars (don’t hold your breath). Video game movies blow, but they don’t have to and wont always.