How many times have gamers wished Hollywood would make a movie of their favorite video games? I know I have. Making a video game to a movie doesn’t always work. I will address the problems with the transition from video game to a movie later.
It was so cool to watch “Callum ”Cal” Lynch morph into Aguilar de Nerha as thes badass assassin hero in “Assassin’s Creed”. I have most of the “Assassin’s Creed” video games. When the movie “Assassin’s Creed” hit the big screen, this was a must-see for me. I love the “Assassin’s Creed” gaming franchise.
Also, watching the characters of “Warcraft” come to life in a movie was amazing. I loved the film. Even though I have never played the online game, it sparked my interest to check the game out in the future. There must be a reason it is one of the most popular internet games in the world and I want to find out why after watching the movie.
The “Pokémon” series took both the movie and video game industry by storm. Millions have played and watched these adorable creatures from the world of “Pokémon”. They are so cute.
I loved the movie, “Pixels” starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. It is based on some all-time classic arcade games from my youth. Seeing “Pac-Man”, “Donkey Kong”, “Space Invaders”, and my favorite, “Galaga” on the big screen was a lot of fun.
Please join me on a journey from a video game to a movie – Game time to Showtime.
Sounds like a good idea, but does it work:
There have been about 35 major Hollywood live-action movies based on video games. They very rarely rate higher than 50% on the “Rotten Tomatoes” review list.
“Big screen video game adaptations have had perhaps the most checkered box office past of any genre, and there has yet to be a consistent string of hits to qualify it as a true blockbuster genre,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Few have had box office success on the big screen as “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “The Angry Birds Movie”. “Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie was one of the most successful video game to a movie attempt in the US. But there have been numerous big-budget flops. “Super Mario Bros” produced in 1993 was a major disappointment.
Most studios clearly feel that the international box office returns are enough to justify the investment. The 2016 adaption of “World of Warcraft” wasn’t a big hit in the US, but in China, it grossed over $430 million. So, studios keep hoping for that breakout blockbuster video movie in the US.
Problems with adaption from video game to a movie:
Creating a storyline from a video game into a 2-hour movie can be difficult. Good video game tales can rival any film story created for TV or the theater, but they don’t seem to adapt well to a movie.
The problem is that the strengths of video game narratives – control, choice, immersion in the point of view of the character you play – do not translate well to film. Instead, video game adaptations tend to get caught up in tedious backstory.
It is impossible to stuff hours of the game into a 120-minute film. Some games have 100s of hours of gameplay.
“The kinds of games people want to put on film are often not very good examples of stories that have dramatic tension,” says Cara Ellison, a video game narrative designer who has also written for TV and comics. “A good film script is concise, and big games stories are not”.
“The issue with adapting video games for films is that there’s a lot of well-known gameplay features that just don’t translate into film-making,” says Lauren O’Callaghan, entertainment editor at video game and entertainment site Gamesradar.
“Playing a video game and watching a movie are different experiences,” says O’Callaghan. One requires an active role while the other is passive.
Introducing key elements of a video game may be recognized by game players, but regular moviegoers would not get the connection. For example, the recurring flying eagle (a symbol in the game’s mythology) in “Assassin’s Creed” would make sense to gamers, but a traditional moviegoer would think it is too random.
“Most video game movie scripts try to find a balance for people who know the game and people who don’t know the game. Filmmakers get trapped trying to please both but miss the mark on for both audiences”, says O’Callaghan.
The storyline can’t veer off too much for gamers, but it must attract people who don’t play the game. If this is not done it creates dissatisfaction for both gamers and moviegoers and at best a mediocre movie.
Another issue is video game movies can be too much action-based and not enough story. The main characters lack personalities. People at the movies want to be drawn into the story. We want to feel the experience of the journey while we escape our daily lives for a couple of hours. This is what makes movies so appealing.
How can the problem be fixed?
- First: Do not try to adapt the stories from the games, and if you do, be loose with the treatment. The stories in video games tend to be simply because it is the gameplay. That is the focus of video games, not the story. Two of the highest-rated video game movies are “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” and “The Angry Birds Movie”. What is interesting about these two movies, they have little resemblance to the games on which they were based. “The Spirits Within” was a completely original story in the “Final Fantasy” universe with characters who have never appeared in the games, and “Angry Birds” was based on a smartphone app. So, a certain amount of creative license is expected when adapting video games to film. Video game films need to have more freedom to explore the inner lives of the characters and the vastness of a fictional universe. The “Star Wars” movies are not all based on Luke Skywalker. There are endless stories within the “Star Wars Universe”.
- Second: Don’t constrain the main character to the traits and personalities in the video game. Enhance the hero with new dimensions and remove unlikable qualities. Make the video game character into a movie character like Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker.
- Third: Make redesigns if necessary and possible. For example, in the recently released “Sonic the Hedgehog”. In the game, his eyes looked like a windshield. Making his eyes like Mickey Mouse’s would be more appealing to moviegoers.
- Finally, don’t hire writers and directors to make the movie if they do not have a clear vision for what it should be. The thought and effort should be the same that went into making “The Godfather” or “Legends of the Fall”. All movies need heart, an interesting concept, characters who remind us of ourselves, and a central reason for existing. Video game movies are no exception to these core facts of movie-making. It can be done, but it needs to be done right.
Twenty best movies based on video games ranked:
- 20. “Super Mario Bros”. (1993) Worldwide box office: $35,378,316. Even though this was not a hit, it is still a must-see for anybody who has played any of the Mario video games.
- 19. “Street Fighter” (1994) Worldwide box office: $99,423,521. This movie has one of my favorite martial artists of all-time, Jean Claude Van Damme. Boy, can he fight.
- 18. “Doom” (2005) Worldwide box office: $55,987,321. The game is scary, and the movie is too.
- 17. “Max Payne” (2008) Worldwide box office: $85,416,905. The game is spooky and about vengeance, a good combo for a movie.
- 16. “Wing Commander” (1999) Worldwide box office: $11,578,059. Not a big hit. The idea of flying spaceships is a fun idea though.
- 15. “Warcraft” (2016) Worldwide box office: $439,048,914. It may not have been a blockbuster in the US, but it made a lot of money, especially in China.
- 14. “Bloodrayne”(2005) Worldwide box office: $3,650,275. A game and a movie about sexy vampires didn’t quite make it.
- 13. “Assassin’s Creed” (2016) Worldwide box office: $240,558,621. This game franchise is one of the best I have ever played. I liked the movie too.
- 12. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (2010) Worldwide box office: $336,365,676. I enjoyed the movie very much. The Prince was the Ninja warrior of the desert.
- 11. “Ace Attorney” (2012) Worldwide box office: Yen 540,000,000. The games are a staple on Nintendo systems and have Japanese subtitles.
- 10. “Far Cry” (2008) Worldwide box office: $743,634. The movie is like an Indiana Jones adventure. Far Cry games are fun to play.
- 9. “Rampage” (2018) Worldwide box office: $428,028,233. “Do you smell what the Rock is cooking”. Well, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson cooked up some awesome action-packed adventure in this movie. I love it. He also starred in “Doom”.
- 8. “Silent Hill” (2006) Worldwide box office: $97,607,453. If you watch the movie or play the game in the dark late at night be prepared to be frightened to the bone.
- 7. “Hitman” (2007) Worldwide box office: $101,276,318. Who knew sneaking around as a trained assassin could be fun, watching it, and playing it?
- 6. “Mortal Kombat” (1995) Worldwide box office: $122,195,920. Awesome fight scenes in the movie and the game.
- 5. “Need for Speed” (2014) Worldwide box office: $203,277,636. It is always an adrenal rush in car racing for me. The movie and game both deliver.
- 4. “Tron” (1982) Worldwide box office: $50,000,000. “Tron” is the video game movie equivalent of the chicken and the egg dilemma. It’s a movie based on a game that only existed in the movie until the movie came out, at which point the game was created.
- 3. “Final Fantasy: Kingsglaive” (2016) Worldwide box office: $6,550,000. There are several “Final Fantasy” movies and games, but this one takes top honor by telling the important backstory and superb voice acting talent.
- 2. “Resident Evil” (2002) Worldwide box office: $102, 984,862. There are several other Resident Evil movies as well like “Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Extinction, Afterlife, Retribution, and The Final Chapter”. The total gross worldwide for all the movies was $1,233,229,454. That is over a billion dollars with a B. Wow, no wonder they kept making them. Plus, the movies are good. My wife enjoyed them as well.
- 1. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001) Worldwide box office: $274,703,340. The ultimate female warrior. The movie was great, and the games are a blast to play. Angeline Jolie was made for this and she even looked like the game character.
This list is not comprehensive and it is not based on just box office receipts. You can see a complete list at Wikipedia.com, I have provided a link below for the list I used ranked by Maxim magazine.
Well, there you have it. My adventure in researching a video game to movie. I hope you will enjoy it and maybe learn something along the way.
I had a lot of fun putting this post together. I also have a post “How video are games created. It must Magic”. I think you would enjoy it. It is very interesting to see everything that goes into creating a video game from start to finish. I have also created links to each movie in the list. You can watch a short clip on each one. They are provided by https://www.imdb.com/
I realize taking a video game and creating a good movie has its challenges. Most of the time it doesn’t work, I get there are flaws in the process. But I hope studios don’t stop trying to fine-tune the difficulties in making the transition from video game to the big screen.
Playing video games and movie watching are some of our best forms of entertainment. That will never change. I hope gamers will enjoy video game-based movies without being too critical because the movie is not exactly like the game. Also, I hope moviegoers won’t dismiss a movie because it is based on a video game.
Maybe one day the movie and video game industry will find the right balance to satisfy both gamers and moviegoers. We can hope.
As always, my fellow gamers, you know my motto, “Let’s Game”. But when you put the controller down, “Let’s Go to the Movies”.
Thank you for reading my post. If you have any comments or thoughts, I would deeply appreciate them. Just contact me at my email link below.
johnny, the Grey Wolf, Watcher of the Woods.