Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The path of video game movies. Where are we going?


5 Movies Later and Still Shooting "Infected".
Did you know that the Super Mario Bros. movie came out in 1993? Yeah. We’re just that old. Nearly 20 years ago did Hollywood grace us with the idea that video games could be movies and charm our hearts.

We’re still waiting on that magic to happen.

Video game movies just haven’t had the spark that people had anticipated. We look to our favorites as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat as shells of the games they were inspired from. But really, we know that they are fabulously crappy movies. That’s why we keep watching them and give them the cult status.

You could argue that Resident Evil has been doing quite well, that another movie is in pre-production before this most recent release is out (Resident Evil: Retribution). But what connection do the movies have to the games other then names? Stores are completely inconsistent and throw the entire RE universe out of whack. (Not to mention, have you seen how crappy Jill Valentine’s battle suit looks in the new movie? I did a better job at 1/500th of the budget.)

Gamers, for lack of a better phrase, are being cheated. So is the general movie-attending audience. The interpretation they’re being presented on screen doesn’t reflect what the game feels like.

Lizard People. Lizard People.
Look like lizards. Talk like people.
And maybe that’s the problem. There is no easy way to translate a video game into a movie. With books at least there is some wiggle room to determine a character’s look and voice. We can have general pictures in our head, sure, but we don’t know visually who they are. You can’t fudge it on a game movie. We all know what Mario and Luigi look like. When you alter their image to fit within the movie’s parameters, it doesn’t work. The actors in the Super Mario Bros. movie are great actors. They were put in a crappy script with a really bad setting. We wanted the Mushroom Kingdom and we got…lizard people.

I feel that it’s completely possible to have a video game movie exist that works within the context of “this is a movie” and still syncs up with the video game it’s trying to recreate.

And I have to go to the stand-by of the Ace Attorney movie. I realize I give this movie a lot of praise, but it’s done the video game “genre” justice. It stuck with its guns and kept the ridiculousness of the AA games alive and well while still throwing it its own flair for drama that is “the movies”. Some things were left out of course. They had to be else the movie would have dragged on for 3.5 hours. No one wants that. But in its absence we were able to see more of back story to some of the characters in the game. Yani Yogi is a perfect example of this. I felt so much sympathy for the character after the movie that I never experienced in the game. Those moments were powerful, gripping even, and made up for the loss of connection in the game.

Here is the problem that we keep running into: Hollywood.

The AA movie worked because Hollywood wasn’t allowed anywhere near it. Even Capcom was hands off, which was surprising to me considering how protective they are of their proper…ok I can’t type that with a straight face. The Resident Evil movies totally got away from their power and look what happened to them. Not to dismiss them entirely. They are entertaining films for what they are, but they have nothing to do with RE.

I think what made a difference with AA is that they brought together a group of people that actually gave a damn about the games. The director, the writers, the cast, all of the crew, everyone played the games. They knew the content and materials and wanted to bring life to these characters.

That’s probably why the RE movies continue to keep on going. It’s silly, but when you see Milla J. talk about her role and her preparation for the films, you can tell that she gives a damn. That’s kind of cool. Versus Doom or Double Dragon. Pretty sure none of those guys really cared. They did it for the money.

Hollywood is about making a profit. Plain and simple. You wonder why you get the same 10 movies every year and the handful of sequels? They don’t want to gamble on new ideas. They want to make sure they can get their money back 10 fold. People are guaranteed to go see this type of movie every year, so they are more than happy to oblige. As a result, those making the movies stop caring about the outcome. They get a paycheck one way or the other and they know they’ll have a job next year so why does it matter?

I know that sounds callous and very matter-of-fact, but it’s the sad truth. Talking to those that I know who work in the industry, this is how their world is. That’s pretty sucky. They love what they do, sure, they dislike the products that they’re making. But they know that’s what the studios want to produce, so they make it happen so there will be food on the table at the end of the day.

I think we’re overlooking the obvious. That people in Hollywood just don’t care about the outcome other then “will this make us money.”

That’s why we’re not seeing the content that we want in video games, and I want Hollywood to have 0 involvement in Halo or Assassin’s Creed or whatever they choose to make next. There’s too much worry about property rights and how to make money, what stays and what goes. We need to see movies that are by fans, for fans. That’s when we’ll start to see the shift towards quality video game movies.

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