When we hear of video games being adapted into films, we usually approach with caution. Who could blame us? We had the duo of Mortal Kombat films to plague us in the mid-90’s. Though spectacularly mediocre, the first made over $122 million on its $18 million budget. That garnered it a $30 million budget for a sequel, failing to make half as much in revenues. Since then, filmmakers have been attracted to video games for source material. It makes sense to produce a film connected to a gaming franchise. It guarantees some sales. The problem is gaming culture is still seeking out credibility as art. No film connected to a game will get an Oscar anytime soon. It’d be surprising to see one even win an award on MTV. Serious veterans, ones capable of making the highest caliber films, simply like pulling material from “mature” sources, not games or comics. There are a few gems out there, like Christopher Gans or perhaps Paul W.S. Anderson (sometimes), just no one anyone takes too seriously. With Anderson making $296 million on Resident Evil: Afterlife’s $60 million budget, why wouldn't someone even more prestigious be attracted to films based on games? That’s damn near a blockbuster and a big return on the investment for movies that rarely cut a 6/10 on IMDb. It may be half of what Gravity made, but most Hollywood films would be lucky to get half that. Once some more solid adaptations are made, Hollywood is likely to try and get some big directors involved. After all, money talks. Flicks like Resident Evil and Silent Hill are paving a road into the future by doing their source content a justice.
Financials and easy marketing aside, most games provide amazing backdrops for films. Yes, there’s always backlash from forming an adaptation, but that hasn’t stopped many from making books into films. Games provide a benefit books rarely can: little content needs to be cut. A standard novel, with nothing trimmed, could make a 6-hour movie. With games, what's usually provided is a backdrop, a core story, then a mix of puzzles and action filmmakers can fill in loosely. It’s easier to be creative within the framework without betraying the original content (though avid gamers can be defensive pricks about said additions). That’s what’s allowed titles like Sonic, Mega Man and Super Mario Brothers to have television shows. The more gaming gets cultural respect, the better the filmmakers we’ll get to produce the adaptations. It will happen with time, but we’ll have to be patient for now, as the gaming medium is still young, seeking refinement and gaining credibility across demographics.
In short - a few more solid adaptations will raise the bar by attracting better talent.
By the way, Uwe Boll can go play in traffic on the 405 for what he’s been doing to the reputations of games-made-movies…excluding Postal.
Which has been the best game-to-movie adaptation?
Matthew Scott Surprenant’s blog and bookstore can be found at http://matthewscottauthor.wordpress.com.