With video games being a multi-billion dollar per year industry, it’s no wonder Hollywood keeps chasing that carrot. So why do they keep coming up short?
It can be argued that video games have been around since 1958. That’s over forty years to figure out a way to bridge the gap between films and games. There have been mild success stories (see Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider), but there has yet to be a film that critics and fans can universally point to as an example of how to do game adaptations correctly. Some put forth that it’s near-impossible to create a game-based film that stands on it’s own because most stories contained in games are paper-thin, with characters that border on translucent when it comes to depth and dimension. After a lot of deep thought and research, I think I finally have a rebuttal to that argument: Blade and Clue.
Let me back up, as the great bard Oswalt would say.
Regarding Blade. It’s generally accepted that both the first X-Men and Spiderman films kick-started the current-going-on-ten-years-now superhero trend in film. While that may be true, people seem to be forgetting that what got execs and studios looking at comics again in the first place after such harsh entries as Steel and Batman and Robin, was the reinterpretation, and surprise success, of Blade. Here was a character that no one outside of the comic readership (and even some within) was aware of. He was a character with great promise and little follow-through. Suddenly, he’s reinvented and fleshed out not on the page, but up on the screen. I argue that Blade is the best example of taking a limited character and building a brand (yeah, it petered out in it’s later days, but still…).
Regarding Clue. What kills me about the “paper-thin stories” argument with video game movies is there’s NO story at all in the Clue board game. None. It’s randomly generated every time it’s played. And yet, here’s a film that’s garnered a cult following (of which I include myself) on the strengths of it’s script, pacing, and comedic timing. AND, it’s completely faithful to its source material. It can be done.
Come on, all you screenplay writers and game publishers out there- are you really gonna let a BOARD GAME show you up?
It’s all in how you approach the material. If you treat games as juvenile and limited before setting out to make a film based on one of them, it’s going to show. I can think of no better example of Hollywood shooting itself in the foot than video game movies.
What they’ve been shoveling out for almost two decades now (with very few exceptions), is inexcusable.