“Seeing Assassin’s Creed in Jan 1st, please say the first ever good video game movie is upon us after waiting 23 odd years since Super Mario Bros. lol”
Wittered one of my helper Gremlins.
After smiling indulgently at him, noting his strange silence on the subject since watching the film and rewarding his optimism by making him defend Fantastic Four I’ve decided to state why I believe that there will never be a good video game movie. Not now, not in the future, not ever.
That’s not to say that I don’t think that video game movies won’t make money because that would be silly. However, just because something makes money that doesn’t mean that it’s good. Otherwise a barely functioning toy advert like The Secret Life of Pets wouldn’t have become the 49th highest grossing film of all time whilst the absolutely sublime Kubo and the Two Strings barely makes back it’s production budget.
And with that distinction made, I feel that the first issue with video game films is time.
Let me explain.
People tend to feel that films should be no shorter than 90 minutes and no longer than 2.5 hours or in extreme cases 3 hours (so called bladder busters)
Compare that to video games, where first person shooters such as Call of Duty last for roughly eight hours to Role Playing Games such as Assassins Creed which last for roughly 40 hours to Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft which can be played for hundreds or even thousands of hours.
I mean converting a play to a film and vice versa is tough enough and those are roughly similar lengths. Trimming a video game down to a suitable length for a film means losing a significant amount of time which in a video game relates to information, relationships with characters and the lore of whatever universe I’m currently depopulating at a rate of knots.
And speaking of the lore…
A video game movie is in an impossible situation, it has to maintain it’s lore so that the fans don’t get too upset but make it accessible enough to newcomers and traditionally this takes the place of a 30 second scroll which makes little to no sense or by using news broadcasts which are also confusing and tend to leave out vast amounts of useful information. Not to mention video games love having secrets and collectibles which greatly flesh out that games lore.
And even assuming that you get a scroll that makes sense and a cast that features actual actors who are putting in an actual performance and aren’t say either permanently drunk (As in Super Mario Brothers) or trying to see how much set they can eat( as happened in Street Fighter), they still have to speak and dialogue in video games lurches from ‘medicore’ to ‘you can’t make people say that stuff. You can only type it.’
But lets assume you’ve gotten the lore past the shredder, dialogue that actually makes sense and is coming out of actors who are actually acting, you have to create characters for them.
So do you create new characters and base them in the world of the video game which will upset the fans or do you take currently existing ones and then try to have them in your films narrative acting according to the way you want them to act and upset the fans because you will make them do something that they would never do, or do or mess up their origin story or, leave their favorite character out in the cold. Or, horror of horrors cast the ‘wrong’ actor for that character.
But then, one you’ve done all of that AND gotten past the critics who traditionally use video movies as a chance to try out some new material regarding the current location/status of bottom of the barrel.
I’m exhausted already. but these films, wretched as they are, should at least be cash cows for studios. I mean they come with built in fan bases! And if these fans can drop £60 for a game and then more for DLC, they can drop £10 for the chance to see their video game hero’s on the big screen! Right? Yeah, that doesn’t really work very often. Video games films are notorious for flopping.
Side note: Warcraft made so much money in China and little in the US, that the inevitable sequel might not even get a US cinematic release!
But back to the topic, even though Assassins Creed currently has a rating of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes it did make 212.8 million back from a budget of 125 million and there is still some talk of a sequel I guess video game movies will still be as inevitable and enjoyable as taxes.
Up next is Splinter Cell starring Tom Hardy who is still licking his wounds after Taboo flopped on the BBC and cost him £2 million pounds. Lets see what producer Basil Iwanyk has to say about this directorless film.
“They’re separate kind of things. The story of the financial success of Assassin’s Creed is yet to be told because we do live in an international world; it’s still rolling out. Assassin’s Creed had a very specific world to it and a very specific storyline, character, all that stuff. Splinter Cell really is a first-person shooter game. And so the challenge of making Splinter Cell interesting was we didn’t have this IP with a very specific backstory. That allowed us to make up our own world and really augment and fill out the characters. I don’t think one applies to the other because I don’t think our movie will feel like a movie that came out of a video game, I think it’ll feel like a badass, Tom Hardy action movie, which is what we wanted.”
Give me a second whilst I go all CinemaSins.
- Splinter Cell is not a “First-Person shooter game” in any way, shape or !”!£! form. Splinter Cell is a series of third person STEALTH games.
- There is actually quite an established backstory and a central character that is very fleshed out. The games follow a man named Sam Fisher and the stories have built a lot on his character, relationships, and have placed him firmly in the modern world. So, unless the script is totally ignoring what is already established, there is a lot to dig into.
And, inevitably this film about an shadowy assassin is going for a 12a rating. Yay!
Hell, even if your franchise does start up pretty close to the source material, it will soon drift off into terrible CGI monsters/explosions, no plot to speak of and existing merely to show off that the director married Mila Jovavitch.
Summing up,video game films are, were and always will be incomprehensible, bloated, expensive mostly flops that only have the slightest link possible to the source material.
“Now hold up Daniel!”
Cries my helper Gremlin smugly from under his rock.
“What about The Angry Birds Movie? It grossed $107.5 million in North America and $242.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $349.7 million! Worldwide, it is the second highest-grossing video game film of all-time, behind Warcraft ($433.5 million). It’s also became the most successful Finnish film of all time.”
And after making him state that Val Kilmer is the ultimate Dark Knight, I feel I should respond. Yes, Angry Birds made more money that it had any right to but it it had a 51% drop in its second weekend and with a rating of 43% on Rotten Tomatoes it wasn’t exactly beloved by critics. And as I never tire of saying, that something makes a lot of money, that does not make that thing good. And that’s not including the fact that most gamers tend to get really upset if you describe mobile apps as ‘games’
But what do you guys think?