Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thoughts on Video Game Movies

A movie based on a video game should only be made if the game has a good story that stands on its own.  To think that a movie should be made out of a game because the game is fun and popular is so absurd it’s hard to understand how anyone could believe it.  Cashing in on name recognition is the motivation of Hollywood, but there’s no reason to think a good movie will result.

Of course, when the movie fails commercially and critically, fans of the game blame that failure on the movie’s lack of fidelity to the game.  That is about the most idiotic thing imaginable.  Super Mario Bros was a great game.  To be faithful to the game, the movie could have been a 90 minute sequence of Mario and Luigi stomping on mushrooms and turtles, jumping on bricks and clouds, sliding down flagpoles, and shooting fireballs.  There would be very little dialog.  That would be a great movie – right, video game fans?  (I ask that rhetorically, but the scary thing is that there are probably people who would think that would be great as long as the movie had great special effects and Megan Fox playing the princess.)

3295839344_43dce716fcSomeone could say, “okay, Super Mario Bros wouldn’t work, but something like Street Fighter would.  That game had a great premise and would have made an awesome movie if they would have stuck to it.”  Of course, even fans of SF2 games admit the game’s story is nonexistent and the endings for each of the characters are pointless wastes of time – even the endings of the latest game, Super Street Fighter 3.

Here’s what I think goes through the mind of some video game fans. “Video game have great stories, but non-gamers don’t appreciate them because they think video games are childish or something.  If a movie was made of out game x, people would see how profound its story is and maybe even change their attitudes about video games.”  It’s hard to articulate just how wrong that kind of thinking is.  Every video game movie so far has had the opposite effect – instead of changing anyone’s mind about video games, they’ve cemented people’s beliefs that games have juvenile, hackneyed stories.

The answer to why video game movies are bad is obvious – games are good for reasons other than their stories.  Games don’t necessarily have bad stories, but the bar is so low that a mediocre story in a video game can seem a lot better to the gamer than it actually is.  A good game can make a bad story tolerable.  But if a game is bad, even a great story won’t save it from being bad.

Ironically, for all the complaining about video game-based movies not being faithful to their source material, people are praising the recently-released Mortal Kombat short (“Mortal Kombat: Rebirth”), which is completely unfaithful to any Mortal Kombat game I’ve ever played.  I don’t recommend watching the video since it’s a tasteless, pretentious piece of drivel, but if you must watch if you can find it here.  Why are they praising it?  Because it’s full of the pseudo-dark elements that the juvenile-minded think make a movie serious and profound.  But as I’ve mentioned before, fans of this type of stuff aren’t interested in exploring real evil, only a fantasy world where serial killers are interested in competing in martial arts tournaments.

In any case, if a game has a great story (i.e. a story that would be great in another context), I’m open to the possibility of a good movie being made based on it.  But people need to discard the idea that a movie can be good if it’s just faithful to the game.

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