In this week’s Knockout, Laura and Eoin go head to head to decide, if video game movie adaptions are good or not.
Laura : ‘Video Game Movies Suck’
Now, it would seem that arguing for this topic is already in my favour. After all I have heaps of evidence that video game movies suck ranging all the way from Super Mario Bros to the more recent Pixels. However, in order to keep things focused, lets look at the on-screen adaption of Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie. This movie was panned by critics, but somehow performed well enough commercially to warrant a sequel that was just as ridiculous as the first. But why was it so bad?
I’d place the blame solely on the fact that it was a video game first, and the creators of the movie focused on the wrong parts of the game to settle on. Tomb Raider is a series all about discovery and adventure and exploration of these glorious far-flung locations. Just about the only part of that the film makers included was the locations, and without a level progression system to break them up the movie just seems disjointed. It was like they decided on all these locations and then came up with Lara’s reason for being there. Furthermore, while Tomb Raider does contain a fair few shoot ’em up battles, they’re in a minority to the amount of climbing and puzzles you’ll do in the games. However, in the movie they take front and centre to the point that while Lara is casually performing acrobatics in her jimmy jams, a bunch of thugs come to shoot the place up and her butler, no longer the shambling weirdo old guy, straps on a bullet proof vest.
The sad part is, I can barely fault Tomb Raider for packing in so many fight scenes, because that’s what every single video game movie does. Film makers can’t tell the story the same way game developers can, they can’t make you feel the rush of exploration or the triumph of a puzzle as effectively, because you’re not experiencing it so much as watching it second-hand. If you were to watch 2 hours of Lara hopping about aimlessly in some exotic location, you’d probably wonder why nothing was happening, but that’s exactly what a full level of the game would be. So in an effort to save you from watching Lara fumble about pushing boxes onto floor switches for any longer than you should, they just have goons burst in to shoot the boxes.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to limit film making in any way. I’m sure that some day, with the right story, the right director and the right circumstance, we could get a film that’s halfway decent at capturing the same experiences brought on by a controller, but as of right now, I’m going to take video game movies with an entire silo of salt.
Eoin: Loves Video Game Movies
My love for video game movies come from a place of ironic appreciation and genuine fascination; They’re usually incorrect to the source material, poorly written and acting only a voice actor for House of the Dead could love. Most of the movies have plots about as thin as a lot of actual games and when a director has to get creative with character motivations and the story caveats that we’ve come to expect in a film it’s interesting to see their take on things, even if it’s as ludicrous as the leaps of logic the makers of the Super Mario adaption made.
When you think about how someone would make a Super Mario movie, the elements there don’t have a lot of coherence until an unfortunate soul has to take the pieces and cobble together something that resembles a story. Regardless of quality I’ve always had an interest with understanding the process to adapt an interactive piece of content into a detached format of media; It rarely works, which is why most of these kind of movies are garbage. However there are cases where the moviemakers understand the format that the game’s world fits into; I give you: Mortal Kombat.
A very straightforward game in which the main character (In this case, Liu Kang) fights their way from the bottom to face the ultimate challenge and that’s something that lends itself well to film since we’re familiar to the idea of victory in the face of adversity, it just so happens that Mortal Kombat is full of characters with ridiculous personalities in a very ridiculous world. The appreciation for it stems from not just the ironic love for the bad CG and campy acting, but the faithfulness to the source material that gives fans winks and nods while still managing to breathe a bit more life into the iconic characters they know.
Adapting video games to film is a textbook situation of the phrase “Your mileage may vary” when applied to the source material. It’s why Mortal Kombat is a great example of an adaptation while we as a nation, nay as a species, do not remember nor acknowledge the Hitman movie. Mortal Kombat and Hitman are such different yet great games in their own regard but one can fit well to a feature film format and the other literally just stuck Timothy Olyphant in a baldcap and told him to shoot guys without understanding what it is people love about Hitman in the first place.
The lack of understanding can also be accompanied with a point I brought up previously – How do you tie something that has sparse and limited story elements to a cohesive plotline? Hitman isn’t known for its deep narrative nor its high-octane action; It’s known for its sandbox puzzle mechanics in which large areas of NPCs interact and play out scenarios. How you manipulate these environments to your advantage in order to assassinate your mark is up to you and that adds a personal touch that simply can’t translate to film. But the fact that it misses the point entirely doesn’t affect our enjoyment of the Hitman games and to a bigger extent most games after they’ve gotten a bad movie adaptation written by Skip Woods. Whether that’s blind loyalty to the franchise or some kind of severe Stockholm syndrome isn’t my call to make, but we’re getting off point.
In closing video game adaptions are harmless; They’ve never affected the medium we came from to watch them, so watching them succeed or fail can be fun if you go in knowing it’s someone else’s own interpretation of a story you might watch them nail or nail to a cross.
Do you agree with Eoin, or are you siding with Laura? Let us know in the comments below!