Is there no hope?
With the upcoming release of many big game to film movies, let’s examine the dilemma that seems to haunt these adaptations.
What happens when two of the most profitable entertainment businesses combine their efforts to produce a hybrid baby? One would think, based on the success that both the film and video games industries are enjoying, that creating such a combination piece of art would be special. If this is so, then why are the adaptations of video games to film so poor?
To better understand this question, one should first examine the films released to date. For the purposes of this article, I will begin with the most recent adaptations and work back. Also, I will not be examining every entry; this will reference films I have seen and am capable of judging.
Hitman: Agent 47
As of this writing, Hitman: Agent 47 is the most recent video game to film adaptation. Critics and viewers alike have given the thumbs down on director Aleksander Bach’s adaptation of the Eidos’ fabled Hitman series. Earning a 28/100 of Metacritic and a 5.8/10 by users on IMDB, Hitman: Agent 47 can be considered a numerical flop.
Perhaps the game is to blame on this one. If you think of Hitman, plot isn’t necessarily the first aspect that comes to mind. No, Hitman was about the strategical and creative methods Agent 47 employs to off his targets. Sure, the most recent entry into the series added some more depth to the story and character of Agent 47, but it’s not your game of the year material narrative. So then, when putting Hitman to film (and for a second time, as the original was also a complete bummer), perhaps the writer and director felt the need to focus on the action and espionage over the story? I couldn’t say.
One theory I can pose – and it’s one that I’ve heard before, too – is that perhaps Hollywood tries too hard to keep the film too faithful to the game. In other words, they attempt to emulate the game in a different form of fiction, and, generally, it’s done so by non-gamers. What works for a game may not work for the big screen… and vice versa.
Resident Evil is a beloved Capcom franchise with a rabid fan base. Split however they may be with the arrival of newer entries into the series (6 or Raccoon City), fans still adore Resident Evil. Paul W.S. Anderson has done his best to milk the franchise through 15 years of films (by the time the final piece is release, due 2017). Generally averaging below 40/100 on Metacritic and split between 5.5/7 out of 10 based on fan votes on IMDB, Resident Evil can be called a failure in the eyes of critics and many fans.
I personally enjoy the films (well, excluding the first and, perhaps the third). But the second film was pretty cool. Paul W.S. Anderson has tried to create a split between original narrative and holding true to lore with a combination of success and failure. The series has allegedly grossed enough profit to last for 15 years and seven iterations, so it’s hard to particularly argue against it. But from a standpoint of a fan and a critic, I am not wholly thrilled with the series.
I think its grandiose arch is partly to blame.
Silent Hill. The first film, starring Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean, was certainly an homage to the game. It garnered poor critic reviews, as it earned a 30/100 on Metacritic. Fans on IMDB, however, gave it a 6.6/10. It was original enough to create a compelling narrative and its atmosphere hummed Silent Hill. Unfortunately, when writer Roger Avary was imprisoned for vehicular manslaughter and could not write the script for Silent Hill: Revelations.
This was a problem because Avary’s original Silent Hill script was so cryptic that I’m not sure any new writer, regardless of skill, could continue with success. As a result, Revelations attempted to thrive on gamers’ love of Silent Hill 3 with little success. Revelations earned a 15/100 on Metacritic, and a 5.5/10 from users on IMDB. This last one seems to be a case of the “too faithful”.
House of the Dead
I added House of the Dead for fun. Uwe Boll has attempted to make a myriad of bad video game films (and, really, just bad films in general). He’s brilliant when it comes to profiting from his paltry movies, but we – and he, regardless of his personal defenses – know they are sincerely lacking any substance. If you don’t believe me, view House of the Dead or Blood Rayne, where he somehow convinced legitimate actors to perform. House of the Dead earned a 15/100 on Metacritic and a solid 2/10 from the sane users of IMDB.
Boll’s other game adaptations include Postal, Dungeon Siege, Far Cry, and Alone in the Dark. If I’ve forgotten to add any here, that’s a wonderful thing. Honestly, perhaps the negative views of video game adaptations to film are fully fueled by Uwe Boll’s movies.
There are adaptations and games that I’ve left out, as I noted at the beginning of the article. This list is brief, but it’s a glimpse into the failed attempts of game adaptations. With The Last of Us and, perhaps, Uncharted looking to grace the big screen, as well as Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft films debuting in the near future, there will always be hope and attempts to create that special flick.
Activision has already pledged, per the New York Times, to create a television series and films based on Call of Duty and other franchises.
We’ll have to take each as they come. The beauty of entertainment and art is that it truly is in the eye of the beholder. What I love, you may hate; what you enjoy, I may dislike. The business is intriguing, however, and it’s something that I’d love to explore further.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the game-to-film adaptations of the past and future. I’d love to hear them.