Video game movies, why do most of them suck?

Hitman: Agent 47 video game moviesVideo game movies aren’t exactly a huge hit. Hitman: Agent 47, the latest in a long list of video game movies made in an attempt for this medium to cross the barrier that is the big screen, is also the latest of various attempts that end up flopping either critically, financially or both. For some reason, video games and movies don’t seem to get along very well.

However, despite all of this, companies haven’t given up, and in fact, they may have started to make an effort, with movies based on games like Warcraft, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed or even Sonic the Hedgehog in the works.

Now, whenever those movies will break the curse or continue it remains to be seen, but for now let’s discuss a certain interrogative, “Why do most video game movies suck”? As I said above, video games and movies don’t really seem to get along very well, most video games based on existing movies are usually made as merchandise for the film, and tend to be of low quality (However, in recent times the focus has shifted from  retail-priced games to smaller budget apps for iPhone and Android devices), there are exceptions to the rule, most notably Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64, or even the Chronicles of Riddick games.

Most video game movies also tend to suck, mostly because they throw the source material out of the window (Like the Resident Evil movies or Final Fantasy: Spirits Within) or because they ignore what made the games great in the first place (Hitman for example) or because they’re just plain awful (Super Mario Bros). Another party to blame is often the directors or producers because they don’t really seem to know about the game series the movie is based on, or because they just suck at making movies (I’m talking to you Uwe Boll!). There are a few movies based on games that actually follow more or less the source material, but these are often direct-to-video releases.

These are some of the common reasons why most video game movies aren’t exactly successful, but I also want to add another reason to that list: They’re adapting the wrong games. Video games are different from movies or literature in the way that while they do tell stories, a big part of them is that the player, unlike someone watching a movie or reading a novel, can interact with the world. Another important aspect to take into account is that many of the games being adapted focus on providing a gameplay experience rather than a storytelling one. An example of this is the Need for Speed movie starring  Aaron Paul. The main problem I saw with that movie, was that it’s trying to be a movie about Need for Speed. Need for Speed is not something you can really make a movie about, because Need for Speed games aren’t about the people you talk with between races. It’s about the races, and people play these games because they want to drive these sports cars and win these races. Need for Speed is about the gameplay, not about the story.

Need for Speed

Now let’s take a look at the upcoming Warcraft movie. Warcraft, unlike Need for Speed, has an established lore, story and characters introduced across four games. You can make a movie based on Warcraft, and tell the story of the origin between the conflict between the humans and the orcs. How Arthas became the Lich king, the fight against the burning legion. You can also adapt characters such as Sylvanas, Thrall, Illidan, and many others.

The same can be said about games like The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed or Sly Cooper. They’re games that -focusing or not on story – still have a world and characters with enough personality to make a 2 hour movie out of them.

Now, I’m cautiously looking forward to what results of Warcraft or that PG-13 Sonic the Hedgehog movie, not because they’re based on video games, but because they’re based on video games with story and characters. They have the potential to tell a great story with them, and maybe even introduce the series to a larger audience, as long as they get a competent cast and director of course.

What do you think 4-One community, are you looking forward to any upcoming video game movies? Is there a video game movie adaptation that you actually enjoyed? Is there a game with story or characters that you’re interested in seeing made into a movie or TV series? Fire away in the comments!

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