Video Game to Movie Transitions
Wednesday, January 11th, 2006
The video game entertainment industry is now the highest grossing medium of entertainment in the world (Yi). Even so, the motion picture industry is still considered to be vastly superior by the majority of the population. Very popular and well-made video games and video game series, like the Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, and Tomb Raider, have been adapted into the motion picture format. You would think that since those video games were so popular, that those movies would have done very well and be considered a great success. You would be dead wrong. In the past, many movies based on video games have done either very poorly or mediocre, and did not entertain many fans very much. Now, I have played many of the video games that were warped into movies, and seen the films that have resulted from those games. I have a few theories on why video game movies have performed as they have in the past, and have hopes and apprehension for the video game industry in any more ventures onto the giant silver screen.
In movies, you are a spectator. You cant control what happens, you can only watch and witness as the characters interact and proceed on with the story. I think video games that become movies are considered bad because it is a step backward in interactivity. In the games, you have control. You control some actions that may be simple like walking from one point to another, but you control it. How long the character takes is all under the gamers control. You can sometimes lose yourself in the game that way. In video games, you feel more a part of what is happening. In a movie and in a game, a character may come to door. You know that door has something bad behind it. In a movie, you may not want the character to open the door, but the character will because you cant control him. In a video game, you are the character and you can leave the door alone. You have the choice to leave the door alone in the game, but then you probably wont be able to continue on with the story if you dont open that door. Youll continue on in the game because you want to beat the game and get you moneys worth.
Most video games are rather expensive. As a result, most people buying them want a lot for what they paid. So generally, games are meant to be played for hours and hours on end, placing you in a world you can get lost in. Movies contrarily are less expensive experience and are generally expected to be a short distraction of life. Now many popular game stories and quests are ment to last for twenty hours or over, and most movies are around two hours. At this point, you can see that abbreviating the story is a necessity, but by shortening it by such a large amount, the story loses a lot of what made it so wonderful in the first place. A video game movie suffering from warped stories due to a time constraint is another cause for such bad movie ventures. However, sometimes video games just seem to come up with an entirely new plot leaving the fans to wonder what just happened.
Poor choice in video game to movie format would be my following dispute. Many popular and excellent games are the ones that are transformed, and that is sometimes the problem. For instance, the Super Mario Brothers is one of the greatest games and game series of all time, but the earlier games story as they were would not translate very well into in interesting movie. Watching a silent guy run and jump isnt very exciting, if you are not controlling the man. That was the basic premise of the games. The first Super Mario Brothers game was basically the hero Mario running, jumping, attacking, and dodging enemies in an effort to save Princess Toadstool from the evil King Koopa (Miyamoto). So the screenwriters came up with some weird dinosaur alternate dimension story with names from the Mario gaming series thrown on different characters that werent much like the video game series counterparts (King Koopa is a freaky fire breathing lizard turtle bent on capturing Princess Toadstool, not Dennis Hopper as some smarmy politician type bent on taking over New York city) (Lynch). Now if they were to try and do another Super Mario Brothers movie, they have the option to incorporate one of the more recent story driven games of the series. However, the issue of time compression arises again, and thus squashes that idea.
An additional weak choice of video game was Street Fighter. The movie was going to be based primarily from the Street Fighter II game. The game has a rich ensemble of characters with interesting back-stories and special fighting moves. Since the game was a fighting game, you would select one character out of about a dozen or so. Each character had a different story and goal, which would be achieved by fighting the other characters (Capcom). The movie never told any of their unique stories and complex backgrounds really well. Instead, the movie told little of each of their stories. A credit to the movie though is that they did correctly translate the back-stories and personalities for the characters. General Bison was the bad guy, and Colonel Guile was the good guy (Wolvie). Another part of the game that was left out of the movie were the attractive special fighting moves, which really wouldnt be functional in a live action movie or be able to explained very well, but it is still a problem fans of the games have stated.
The Double Dragon movie has absolutely nothing to do with Double Dragon the game, other than the fact that it has two brothers as the main characters. The games main objective was saving a girlfriend or something. The games were never really story driven.The game was known for its game play which was mostly one, or both brothers depending if you had a friend to play with you, senselessly fighting hordes of bad guys that got progressively more challenging (Technos). The movie however tried to make create a story about a talisman that would give people like super powers, a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, and weird street gangs that would take over the city at night (Rocher). The movie was so bad I think people would have preferred to be senselessly beaten. I think the problem was that they tried to get something more interesting out of something that really wasnt. They did not succeed in their goal. Another reason for failure could be that the Double Dragon series was known, but only semi popular and its main characters werent really that interesting.
Sometimes a movie about video game was just made because the main character was popular. I am speaking, of course, of none other than Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The games stories were fairly clichéd. It was mainly just having female adventurer/archeologist Lara Croft going on adventures. The first game was critically acclaimed, but now the series is critically lame. The game was mostly popular and to become adapted into a movie because Lara had a large fan base due to her large base. Other than the allure of Laras natural endowment, the movie was rather boring. The main fun of Tomb Raider was controlling Lara Croft through all the interesting areas of the world, not really watching Lara Croft. Well, maybe watching Lara also had some appeal in the games, too. With such past choices and disappointment, will there ever be a good choice?
I suppose one endeavor can become the first widely prasied video game to movie translation, and that movie is the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The purpose of the video game was to control an acrobatic prince fight sand creatures that resulted from a magical hourglass, when the prince opened it with the dagger of time. However, there was an interesting twist to the game. An effect of the dagger of time let the prince rewind some moments. As the game progressed, you would gain a few more powers over time, like an ability to speed up the Prince and make everything else slower. The main reason I believe it can be transformed successfully is that the game does not follow the flaws of the past adverse adaptations. I believe it will be extremely successful. The main reason I speculate this notion is because the game had a very good story that had humor, action, romance, and magnificence. Those traits are what make a good game, and a good movie. The game is pretty short, which means less for the writers to condense. The story is also very fluidly told and most of the story is told from either from narration of the main character, the Prince, or from the dialogue between the Prince and a girl Farah. There are also few cut scenes in the game. Most of the dialogue is said while you play so action and movement doesnt have to stop. I have faith that this will help immensely when the issue of the movies running time comes into play. While the prince is solving the puzzle he would be thinking and chatting with Farah. Another supporting basis for my belief of success is that the stunts and effects done by the Prince could be done very easily. The rewind effect could be done without problems by simply rewinding a scene then putting in the next scene, so there is the awesome dagger of time effect of rewinding time. Furthermore, the stunts that the Prince does, like running on walls, large leaps, and vaulting during combat, could straightforwardly be choreographed with wires. I look forward to this movies production and future release, if it is handled correctly. I do hope that the movie does go into production and the game is adapted into a film because this game, unlike some other games, could be fashioned marvelously into a movie (Ubisoft Montreal).
One such video game to movie adaptation that I have a feeling is not a good idea is the Metroid movie. Now dont get me wrong Im a pretty big Metroid fan and I love the games, but I dont understand why anybody thinks this could be made into a great movie. The games are generally bounty hunter Samus Aran alone on a planet fighting with little interaction with any life that speaks. My main reason for apprehension is that you never see the main characters face, and that there is very little, if any at all, dialogue or talking. The story in the games is also not very well defined which I believe would make many movie patrons confused at what is going on, and why Samus Aran, the heroine of the Metroid games, is doing what she is doing. My next source of concern is from the fact that most of the game is just jumping and shooting. Now thats fun to do and control, but generally not very fun to watch. Now to remedy these problems, you would have to compromise what people like most about the games, which would make many fans of the series extremely angry (Nintendo).
As things stand, video games may never become great movies. The movies could do poorly because the gamer watching it yearns to be a participant rather than a spectator. The story could be large to be acceptably condensed. The choice of video game to be made into a movie could be a poor one. Does this mean that video games will never become great movies? Maybe, but many video games are now becoming more cinematic and I prefer them greatly to some movies. So as long as good video games are being made, I can stand to wait for a good video game being made into a movie.
Capcom. Street Fighter II. Capcom, 1991.
Lynch, Robert. Plot Summary for Super Mario Bros. IMDb. 4 Mar. 2005.
Miyamoto, Shigeru. Super Mario Brothers. Nintendo, October 1985.
Nintendo. Metroid. Nintendo, 1986.
Rocher, Jean-Marc. Plot Summary for Double Dragon. IMDb. 4 Mar. 2005.
Technos. Double Dragon. Technos, June 1988.
Ubisoft Montreal. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Ubisoft 18 Nov. 2003.
Wolvie, Chris. Plot Summary for Street Fighter. IMDb. 4 Mar. 2005.
Yi, Matthew. They got Game. SFGATE.com 18 Dec. 2004. 4 Mar. 2005.