Why We Don’t Have Excellent Movies Based on Video Games

Even since Marvel made Iron Man films, it appears the general public can’t get enough of superheroes. Although there have been movies based on comic book characters for a long time, it took a really, really long time for a really great superhero film to get the ball rolling. Oh, sure, there are the sporadic genuine good films like Richard Donner’s Superman, Tim Burton’s Batman and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman. But a good movie based on comic book heroes was a rarity.

Nowadays, we get mega-blockbuster films based on superheroes on a yearly basis. We even get, of all things, live-action television programs based on them as well! And, generally, they’re, at the least, decent.

Geez, Mr. Photographer. Add in some more light, will ya?

Except Gotham. Man, that show still sucks!

So, that got me thinking: if it turns out Hollywood can make excellent movies and television shows based on comics, why can’t they do the same for video games? Both of them have a lot of similarities in this modern age. They both have great and iconic characters. A lot of video games nowadays have overarching storylines as well a some grand tale to tell just like a lot of comics. And both of them are loved by a lot of fans. So, why can’t we get any good, halfway decent movies based on video games?

Well, the problem in a nutshell is movie companies still don’t take video games seriously. They look at them as childish games for children up to now, even though the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. They can’t comprehend that, for fans, it’s a lot more than that! Much in the same way comic book fans take the stories from the “funny pages” seriously.

True. How true.

True. How true.

Hollywood just loves messing around with the established universes that video games have created. Take a look at the butchering they did with Super Mario Bros way back in 1993! It’s like they couldn’t envision people going to watch a movie based on a plumber who gets sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom to save a Princess from a giant dragon-like creature! Well, I don’t think they would under normal circumstances. But this is Super Mario Bros! It’s one of the biggest and most popular video game franchises of all time! They didn’t have to change the bright and colorful world of the video game into the dark, gritty city setting as shown in the film!

Most of the time, it’s like the movie studios just so happened to have a film script on hand (that has nothing to do with the video game, by the way) and then just replace the names on the script to match the ones in the video game. And, voila!, they have their new film “based on the hit video game.” This is the general impression I got when watching the Van Damme Street Fighter film! If you strip away the character names, the first live action Street Fighter film won’t look like a game based on the video game! The only thing that was good about the film was Raul Julia’s over-the-top performance as M. Bison!

It certainly doesn’t help that they insist of making video game film low-budget schlock fests! We all know about Street Fighter, Resident Evil and the Super Mario Bros as those films will live on in infamy. But what about the lesser known ones? What about the films based on the Tekken franchise? Or the really bad Wing Commander live action movie? How about Alone In The Dark, King of Fighters and Bloodrayne? We hardly mention them because they’re not as widely known because they never received a wide release! Most video game films have been regulated to direct-to-video releases only!

So, what can be done to make a good flick based on a video game? Well, having the video game developer doesn’t seem to be the answer; Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is proof of that. Or is it? I mean, Marvel made their own movies and they seem to be doing an incredible job of showing the general public what great superheroes films look like. If they get their act together like they did with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (crappy plot but great action sequences), game developers can create decent movies!

But the thing necessary to make a good video game film is actually giving it a chance to become a good film! Movie studios have to get the charm that made these video games popular in the first place. Prime examples are the first Mortal Kombat movie and the first Silent Hill film. While these two are definitely not masterpieces, they’re still remembered fondly by a good number of people who loved the games.

We don’t have to look very far, actually, to see how to make a good live action film. All we have to do is set our sights on Japan! Look at the live-action Ace Attorney film. That movie closely mirrors the cases, look and storyline of the first Phoenix Wright game. And guess what? Nobody batted an eyelash at the outlandish plot! The costumes and the hair (oh, God, the hair!) was pitch perfect! It gets the atmosphere perfectly and that’ll make fans want to watch it!

Yes, there is a lot of quirky and off-beat comedy that a lot of them won’t get. But that’s not the point! They made a movie that fans would appreciate it. And fans will get the word out that Ace Attorney, the movie based on the Phoenix Wright game, is a good film! And a small portion of people that were told that will actually go watch it. And another group of people that watched it will say it’s good and spread the word even further!

So, it is possible to make a good live-action video game movie. All that’s needed is to be true to the source material. After all, there’s a reason why people loved those video games in the first place. These should be your target audience. Why alienate them?

Are there any more good films based on video games that I failed to mention? Let me know what they are in the comments section below!

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4 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Have Excellent Movies Based on Video Games

  1. How do you feel about the recent web series’ (series’s? serieses?) we’ve had? I enjoyed both seasons of Mortal Kombat Legacy, and Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist looks great!

    • Both of them were really good and they do get the tone right for the most part. But both series (according to Google, “series” is both singular and plural) were made independently with virtually no input from Hollywood bigwigs. That’s probably why they’re fun.

  2. Very good blog, I agree with your point of view. Silent Hill was loved by fans of the game because it followed the game’s plot. Although the first two Resident Evil films looesly followed the games the focus of the film is based on a character which didn’t even exist in those games and I think the films would have benefited much more had they followed the already great storyline. I would think Hollywood would seee a great opportunity to make money from these games which already have a fan base but as you’ve touched on they just don’t have the confidence.

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